Fighting Racism at UW:

This brief is summary information that follows the reports of two football fans at the UW-Madison stadium who displayed masks depicting, now president elect, Donald Trump holding a noose around the necks of President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton at the UW-Madison football stadium on October 29.

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Student athlete, Mr. Nigel Hayes (pictured above from:, authored this letter in response to the events, which was shared quickly among students, according to the Badger Herald.

While Chancellor Rebecca Blank issued her own statement, alumni mounted a series of letters that critiqued what they considered a flat response. Students, alumni and community members have called for more action to fight against racial injustice on campus and in the Madison community at large.

Symposium Report: Relations between Community and Police


A WUU Sponsored Symposium

On October 5th, 2016 WUU members gathered with a crowd of around eighty members of university faculty, staff, students and the public to discuss community and police relations.

We were generously supported by a panel of excellent speakers including:


Alix Shabaaz – Community Organizer & Freedom Fighter with Freedom Inc.


Michael Davis – MA Student Department of African American Studies, PhD Student in the School of Education & Community Organizer with Freedom Inc.


Ajani Carr – Youth Activist & Community Organizer


David C. Couper – Retired Madison Police Chief, Activist, Clergy, & Poet

We had a most welcome late addition to the program: a guest appearance from Dr. D. Sajnani (Also known as: Professor D., African Cultural Studies), who offered his commentary as well.



As WUU stands for equity in the work place and our work place is a public university, the issue of Community-Police relations impacts us all. Locally and nationally there have been serious questions raised around Community-Police relations in past years. In this symposium, our speakers directly addressed those questions. They raised concerns regarding the deplorable treatment of people of color in our communities, critiqued the institutions of policing in America, and addressed proposals on how community control over the police may benefit our society.

A most gracious, warm, thank you to all our speakers and all those folks in attendance!



With thanks to our colleagues at UFAS.

WUU is co-sponsor with AFSCME 2412 Executive Board, PROFS, the TAA Executive Board, & Wisconsin Student Power Alliance.


The program is:
WHAT: “Fund the Freeze” Teach-In
WHO: State Rep. Chris Taylor with students, staff, faculty, and Madison community members
WHEN: Monday, October 10, 2016, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Northwoods Room A, Union South, 1308 W. Dayton St.

Come one, come all!

Calling All Available to Attend: Forum on the UW System Budget

Moving Wisconsin Forward: Reinvesting in the UW System

“What can we do to keep the University of Wisconsin strong in a time of funding cuts and tuition freezes?

Sept. 21, 2016: 7:00 PM @ Madison Memorial High School

(201 S. Gammon Rd)

Speakers include:

Donald Moynihan (Director of La Follete School of Public Affairs, Opening Remarks)

President Ray Cross (UW System President)

Rep. Dianne Hesselbein

Former Sen. Dale Schultz

Nicholas Hillman (Associate Professor, UW-Madison)

Mariam Coker (Student, UW-Madison)

Gwyn Guenther, Wheeler Report (moderator)


Defending Faculty, Instructors & Historians

Dear WUU Members & Greater Wisconsin Community,

Senator Ron Johnson’s heart is in the right place. He wants to serve the state of Wisconsin. There seems to be a disconnect along the neurological pathways governing the relationships between his heart, brain, and mouth. Recent attacks on the state education system by Senator Ron Johnson have been deplorable. They are understandable, in the context that Senator Johnson as a degree in business, is a businessman and believes education is a business. Fortunately, this is not the position all business majors take. Unfortunately, one certain business major sees himself qualified to speak on what it takes to run public education systems.

By definition, “public education” cannot be treated as a business, even as improvements in the public education system are fundamentally a precursor to economic development. More than this, though, students should be contributors to an improved society, broadly construed. Perhaps we can get Senator Ron Johnson to agree on this later point. I wonder if the debate rests upon our definition of “improvement.” I see an improvement as the result of a designated action that makes a circumstance better than before. It is surely impossible, then, that slashing hundreds of millions of dollars from a state budget could do anything but maim public education. Nonetheless, let us grant the senator the respect to tackle his comments as they have been stated, and, for the time being, resist the urge to discount them as sheer idiocy.

  1. The senator blames a “higher ed cartel” for raising prices and making tuition not affordable.
  • This claim is very difficult to address. Senator Johnson actually opposes refinancing student loans, and, as it happens, student loans are one primary reason why costs have been driven up. Actually, that was pretty easy, wasn’t it? Let’s elaborate…
  • Student loans force students who are not wealthy to essentially bet on their careers. Here’s the catch. The federal reserve is literally betting against students and calling the system “financial aid.” The state claims that it is betting “for the students” on the premise that the individual student will not default on their loans. In reality, they are betting against the idea that students will be able to pay off the debt or get the debt forgiven before a significant amount of interest has accrued. 96% of students attending for-profit colleges take out student loans. Between 2008 and 2012 the number of students with loans at public institutions increased from 66% to 71%. Public institutions are beginning to follow a for-profit model. The rub is that colleges have been able to advertise “financial aid,” when in reality, they offer minimal or partial financial aid.
  • Loans and work-study are not true financial aid. A grant or a scholarship is true financial aid. The direct result of reliance on work-study and loans as “financial aid” is that far more than the majority of students, public and private, are forced into a contemporary form of indentured servitude at some point in their careers, allowing the federal government to profit billions of dollars off of accrued interest. The federal reserve has been correct about one thing for certain: Given the chance, a working class potential student would almost always bet that it is worth it to “go to college” on the chance that they may be able to become upper-middle class. In this scenario, which is what happened between the 1980s and the 2000s, the number of college students relative to the general population increases substantially.
  • Everybody wins right? Broader access to education, the students become richer and the federal government profits, right? Wrong. Students may or may not repay their loans. Most do eventually. That is not the problem. The problem is that institutions that began to follow the for-profit model began to raise tuition, which appears justifiable because they can argue that “the grand majority of students receive financial aid.” At the same time, the amount of true financial aid did not increase apace with the expanding size of college attendees relative to the general population and the rate of inflation.
  • What is happening here, now? Senator Ron Johnson readily accepts that “the tuition is too damn high!” as it were. But, he also refuses to accept reality: for-profit models for education are making the tuition “too damn high.” In other words, when he blames professors: he is scapegoating. He blames others for the negative results of his own financial model for education.
  • The solution: Refinance student loans with state subsidies. Ensure that greater state funding goes to students who will plan on taking out loans over the next four years. Ensure that financial aid expands apace with the expanding population of students.

2. The senator believes large class sizes, internet classrooms, and one solid lecturer are pedagogically sound.

  • Premise: we should not expect a senator with an expertise in business to understand the finer points of pedagogy. Fortunately, UW President Glenn Frank realized this in 1927, when he began plans for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education. The School of Education has since blossomed into the number one ranked public program focused on the theory and research of effective pedagogy in the country.
  • Almost all pedagogical studies agree that it is possible to have larger class sizes be productive learning environments. The same studies will also highlight that students learn well from peer-to-peer interaction in the classroom and one on one time with the instructor. Categorically, class sizes of more than 20 make this model difficult for instructors. Enter…Teaching Assistants. Thanks to the innovative, disciplined, driven work of graduate students, class sizes in the hundreds at UW-Madison are also frequently coupled with smaller discussions sections where students deepen their understanding of the pedagogical material.
  • Pedagogically it is impossible to run “one good lecturer” on video for thousands of students all the time. Being simply “receivers” will not allow students to become contributors in their chosen fields. To train students to become contributors, which we may aptly assume is a stated goal of Senator Ron Johnson, we need to ensure that lecturers have adequate time to complete research, as well as innovate pedagogically, while also mentoring. Students need time in smaller classes and discussion sections as well. Following Senator Johnson’s model would sink our programs, destroying public education in Wisconsin, and eventually, the state economy.
  • The senator’s model for education thinks of the university as comprised of single classrooms and woefully underestimates the need for academic staff to support student advising, the construction of majors and programs, research into the development of new academic programs, day to day support service, and even basic maintenance of our institutions. Following, and innovating upon the existing models that departments have already themselves developed will be the only way to ensure that our public university can improve upon already quite competitive rankings.

3. The senator believes Ken Burns documentaries can replace tens of thousands of history teachers.

  • Premise: Ken Burns has had an astounding career, producing twenty-seven documentaries, with additional three shorts, three more planned documentaries, and two as Executive Producer.
  • The senator loves the Civil War documentary. It is a great documentary, as long as you are not interested the role of women during the civil war. Historians near and far critiqued the Civil War documentary throughout the 1990s. In 1996 the criticisms culminated in an edited volume, where the reviewers were exceeding polite, and Burns was even invited to contribute toward his defense. Thousands of nuanced readings of Catherine Clinton’s essay “Noble Women as Well” from that volume are worth more than all of Burn’s works on the civil war combined. Professional historians will never be replaced by popular filmmakers. Filmmakers have the skills to speak to a broad popular audience. Some historians have these skills also. However, a highly educated filmmaker with the advanced research abilities of a professional research driven historian is indeed rare. Sadly, Ken Burns is not one of them.
  • Hypothetically, Ken Burns might be able to get his documentaries past a non-critical audience of high school students, making them great viewing material on nights and weekends for the American public, most of whom have not gone beyond a high school understanding of history as a discipline. For these individuals, this is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, it is an average level of understanding of historical knowledge. For individuals with a higher level of historical knowledge, they find his work to be something akin to popcorn. Don’t let us discount popcorn! Popcorn is delicious. Popcorn has the delicious appeal of butter and salt, but lacks robustness and is incredibly unhealthy when consumed in massive quantities.
  • The problem with Ken Burns is that most high school teachers are expected to have at least a college-level understanding of history, and many are required to have an MA in history as well. A student with an MA in history from a competitive public university, such as UW-Madison or UW-Stevens Point, is fully capable of educating high school students in the field. They can offer a full five-course intellectual meal with soup, salad, meat, potatoes and even your choice of profiterole for dessert, if that is your thing, five days a week, while Ken Burns can offer popcorn on the nights and weekends.
  • For historians and students, a major problem with Ken Burns’ documentaries is that they cover no history that is not American History. Even his approach to World War II is utterly rooted in Washington centered jingoism, with what could be labeled as “utter negligence” for much of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Say, hypothetically, in an average semester a department teaches 60 courses for undergraduates in history. Ken Burns has produced material that is directly relevant to less than one-third of these courses. I have full faith that the creative instructors in history departments and programs across the country could somehow make his material work in surprising cases. However, even in these cases, undergraduate students who are adept at critique and have refined skills as historians would be able to readily give “voice over” critiques of his documentaries while they play. In other cases, should students want to be informed about an understanding of, say, Asian History, African History, Latin American History, of History of the Islamic world, to give a few examples of topics that are introduced in World History curriculum, even at the high school level: Ken Burns offers nothing.
  • Finally, while instructors may use or recommend selected documentaries in their work at universities, they do so with the pedagogical understanding that documentary material may be used to prompt discussion, but is only apt for the study of history when combined with rigorous analysis of primary source materials, attempts to understand the diversity of source materials in a given field, foreign language study (used to provide richness to the historical record), and interdisciplinary collaboration, a staple of the public research university model of education.

Based on the evidence at hand, it is fully understandable that, professional historians, academics in general, and advanced students of history – including at the high school level – will want to critique the senator’s comments as ignorant, foolish, and short-sighted until he issues a public apology to the teachers, historians, university educators, students and families that he has insulted.

Senator Ron Johnson claims to have earned his chops on education working in the Oshkosh community. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh saw a near 15% budget reduction in the last round of cuts. Larger classes are just one impact of these budget cuts, the only one the senator seems to understand. According to UW-Oshkosh’s body of faculty governance, they also reduced the diversity of classes offered, including in language training, reducing the competency of future students as global citizens. They impact academic advising, reducing the ability of future students to have successful careers. They cut student support programs that impact the health and wellness of the student body. They even cut sports programs as well as support for the basic needs of maintenance and new construction.

The senator has failed to speak out against the Governor Scott Walker on these issues. Essentially, he has failed the higher education system in his own community, a higher education system that began as a teachers’ college and continues to train primary and secondary school educators. This translates into a failure on the issue of education at large for the State of Wisconsin. Put simply: Senator Ron Johnson has failed all Wisconsin students.

His comments at large and inability to understand the significance of a well-funded public education system, furthermore, makes him unfit to continue to serve the State of Wisconsin as a senator.

It is time to make public education public again.

William B Noseworthy is a Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies and Anthropology at UW-Oshkosh, and a Teaching Assistant in the Department of History at UW-Madison.

*The above statements were authored by Mr. Noseworthy in his capacity as a scholar of history and do not necessarily reflect the views of the majority members of WUU, the Executive Board, or the respective programs that he serves. Open discussion of them is encouraged.*

Budget Cuts Affect UW System’s Functioning


When budget cuts are imposed on public universities, everyone suffers. Students, faculty, and staff are directly and indirectly impacted in countless ways: more courses for each faculty member to instruct each semester, increased class sizes, lack of access to required courses which may delay graduation, and layoffs are among the tangible impacts of cuts to the UW system. See more of the impacts and risks created by cuts to the UW System schools here: CampusBudgetUpdate

WUU Supports Academic Freedom

It has come to the attention of the WUU Executive Board that Senator Nass has recently sent a message to President Cross and the Board of Regents in an effort to restrict academic freedom at UW-Madison. You may read more about the story here.

In response, the WUU Executive board has sent the attached letter to President Cross and the Board of Regents. We have attached that letter for your information.


An Open Letter to the Faculty Senate about Resolution of No Confidence in President Ray Cross and the Board of Regents


UW Faculty Member,

You may be wondering whether you should support the proposed Faculty Senate resolution on No Confidence in the UW Board of Regents and President Ray Cross. A copy is attached. FacultySenateResolution_20160502Mtg Below is a message from David Vanness citing examples from the last Board of Regent’s meeting to clarify why we should have no confidence in the Regents or the President to stand up for the welfare of the University, the students, the faculty and staff or the population of the State of Wisconsin as a whole. The Regents have facilitated the intrusion of Big Government into the management of the University.

There are no-confidence resolutions under consideration on at least seven other UW campuses. We, the faculty, have lost governance power but, according to the new governance policy, we have the responsibility to advise on matters affecting the mission of the University. This resolution is part of our responsibility: alerting the population of the cavalier attitude of the Regents towards their job of protecting the educational quality of the University. As the President’s office said, this is a matter for the Faculty.

For the Wisconsin University Union

Bruce Thomadsen



From: David Vanness <>

Dear Colleagues,


I am writing to you in my role as a fellow member of the UW-Madison faculty and not in my role as President of the local AAUP chapter. Our chapter is engaged in an ongoing, vigorous and respectful debate about the merits and risks of voting “No Confidence” in UW-System leadership. Eloquent and well-reasoned arguments have been made both for and against. However, two clear themes have emerged from our discussion, and I would like to share them with you.


First, not a single member expressed that they are confident in President Cross or the majority of the Board of Regents’ ability (or desire) to protect UW System from continued budget cuts, program closures and faculty layoffs for reasons unrelated to educational quality. In fact, nearly all of us agree that they are at best complicit with our current state government’s desire to redefine the Wisconsin Idea as primarily a workforce training mission, and at worst actively engaged.


I would encourage all of you to watch and listen to President Cross and the majority of Regents arguing strongly against faculty-endorsed amendments to UW System’s new layoff policy that would have included protective language similar to our strongest peers, such as the University of Michigan. Faculty amendments are introduced at 16:52. The relevant debate over faculty amendments begins at 1:03:48 and lasts for about an hour. I recommend listening to the debate in its entirety because it gives the opportunity to contrast the language of the five Regents who supported the faculty amendments (Evers, Bradley, Vasquez, Pruitt and Manydeeds) from the eleven who opposed them. If you are pressed for time, I would call your attention to the following timepoints:


1:04:33 Regent Vice-President Behling and System General Counsel Tomas Stafford on why requiring alternatives to layoff to be “pursued” (instead of merely “considered”) would deny chancellors the “flexibility” needed to deal with budget cuts.


1:21:58 Regent Vice-President Behling on how an amendment requiring program closures to focus primarily on educational considerations (language in University of Michigan’s layoff policy) would prevent chancellors from having the “flexibility, flexibility, flexibility” they need to “get through tough economic times.”


1:26:30 System President Ray Cross arguing that campuses will have flexibility in determining their own policy and that he hopes UW-Madison’s proposed policy (passed by the Senate in November) would pass. Of course, the Board of Regents went on to make significant amendments at its meeting last month, overruling the expressed sentiments of the Faculty Senate.


1:29:22 Regent Margaret Farrow comparing our activities to making “widgets” and at 1:30:44 proclaiming “Welcome to the 21stCentury!”


1:44:23 Regent President Regina Millner arguing that chancellors need flexibility to make certain “critical decisions” because faculty do not always understand the needs of the institution to have financial stability. Remember – this is a policy about program closure and layoff.


1:53:31 System President Ray Cross again emphasizing the broad nature of the policy to allow campuses the ability to draft their own policy. Also arguing that “financial issues” are inseparable from educational considerations.


This brings me to the second broad theme that has emerged. Despite near-unanimous inability to express confidence in our leadership, many of us are afraid that expressing that lack of confidence could bring harm to the university. State legislators have already publicly threatened us with further cuts and reforms after simply announcing the upcoming vote.


Taken together, these themes lead me to ask a very important question. If nearly all of us conclude that our leadership is failing, but we allow fear of reprisal to suppress our expression of that finding, then haven’t we already lost our academic freedom? If fear of the Board of Regents, the Legislature and the Governor stops us from exercising our responsibility in governance, then I am afraid we really have lost. What’s next? Will we allow fear to change what we teach or research or say in public?


I believe that the cumulative effects of austerity are really beginning to be felt deeply across the UW System. News articles are emerging from around the state that students aren’t able to get classes to graduate on time, that the classes they can get into are bigger and less personalized, that advising and other student services have been cut to the bone. President Cross, the Board of Regents and the State Legislature have made clear (no whining!) that they do not want that message out in the public. They do not want the citizens of the state to realize that the quality of our students’ education and our ability to attract and retain the highest caliber scholars and scientists has suffered under their policies.


I would simply ask you to engage in the debate on Monday and vote your conscience. Whether or not you are confident in President Cross and the Board of Regents, in the true spirit of sifting and winnowing, we need to hear your voice and have your honest vote. If at the conclusion of the debate, you find yourself lacking confidence in our leadership, I would ask only one thing: be fearless. That’s the way by which alone the truth can be found.




Dave Vanness

Associate Professor