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 <david.j.vanness@live.com>

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

WUU supports Safe Learning Environments:

In the interest of promoting a safe learning environment for students, WUU Executive Board would like to help share the attached statements by the Afro American Studies Department and the Executive Board of the Teaching Assistants Association (TAA). We believe that it is the shared job of faculty and other community members to facilitate a supportive environment free of hindrances to instruction and learning.

TAA Executive Board Statement on Invasive Arrest-page-001 TAA Executive Board Statement on Invasive Arrest-page-002

Afro-American Studies Open Letter April 20 (1)-page-001 Afro-American Studies Open Letter April 20 (1)-page-002


Afro-American Studies Open Letter to Minority Students April 20 

TAA Executive Board Statement on Racial Climate and Invasive Arrest


TAA is a graduate worker union that is the oldest of its kind in the world. Their executive board is responding to concerns about the safety of the classroom environment on campus. Find out more about TAA here

Higher Education at a Crossroads: AAUP Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015-16


According to The American Association of University Professors (AAUP):

Although inflation-adjusted full-time continuing faculty salaries increased by 2.7 percent between the 2014–15 and 2015–16 academic years, there are at least two reasons why this number may be misleading. The first is methodological: as a result of categorical revisions to the AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey, visiting faculty salaries are now being reported in the “instructor” category, and this change has had a one-time effect of making the salaries of full-time ranked faculty members (assistant, associate, and full professors) appear higher or lower than they otherwise would, depending on the institution. The second reason underlines a systemic threat to higher education: full-time ranked faculty positions are in decline.

Over the past four decades, the proportion of the academic labor force holding full-time tenured positions has declined by 26 percent and the share holding full-time tenure-track positions has dropped by 50 percent. The increasing reliance on faculty members in part-time positions has destabilized the faculty by creating an exploitative, two-tiered system; it has also eroded student retention and graduation rates at many institutions.

In many respects, higher education is at a crossroads. We can continue down the current path of increasing reliance on contingent faculty positions and accept the negative consequences, or we can take bold steps to rebuild the tenure system that made American colleges and universities the best in the world. There are clear economic benefits to expanding academic tenure. Greater job security allows faculty members to mentor students and junior colleagues more effectively. It also enables them to take greater risks in instruction and research, which often yield improved educational experiences and outcomes. Breakthroughs in research benefit the broader society as well. These claims are supported by the results of a survey conducted by the AAUP Research Office and by interviews conducted with tenured faculty members across the nation, including a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant and a Nobel Prize winner.

If institutions of higher education are to excel over the coming decade, colleges and universities must develop plans to convert part-time non-tenure-track positions to full-time tenure-track positions. The AAUP hopes to lead the way in helping institutions develop these plans, which can be undertaken at an additional average cost of 2 percent of institutional expenditures per year.

The decline of the tenure system did not occur overnight. Changing course will not be easy, but this year’s report identifies opportunities for savings that can help defray or offset the cost of conversion. Over the long term, efforts to improve the security of the faculty can yield benefits for students, communities, and our nation—and, ultimately, strengthen the economic status of the profession.

The report and supplementary data are available for download as .pdfs:

Higher Education at a Crossroads: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015-16

List of Tables and Figures

Facilitating Institutional Improvement through Enhanced Benchmarking

Online-Only Feature: Innovative Faculty Research

Explanation of Statistical Data

Survey Report Tables 

Appendices to the Report (contain salary listings for individual institutions)

You can also purchase a print copy of the compensation survey report.

An corrections or additions to the 2016 report will be published in the Bulletin of the AAUP, the July-August issue of Academe.


Source: AAUP (http://www.aaup.org/report/higher-education-crossroads-annual-report-economic-status-profession-2015-16)

WUU urges UW-Madison Faculty Senate to reject the proposed revision to Chapter 10

Comments from the Wisconsin University Union

on Proposed Revision to Chapter 10

Program Discontinuance, Curtailment, Modification or Redirection

(Approved by the ad hoc committee on tenure and termination on September 11, 2015 and the University Committee on September 14, 2015 and to be presented to the UW-Madison Faculty Senate on October 5.)



The Wisconsin University Union (WUU) commends the ad-hoc committee for the work they did to address their charge. The charge, when given, may have seemed appropriate as a rapid response to the changes due to Act 55. However, from discussions at the faculty listening sessions, it is clear that enacting a tenure policy based on that change is not in the best interest of the University. The measure of the value of tenure is not established through comparison to guidelines from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) or to peer institutions but by comparison with what existed before Act 55.


WUU urges the Faculty Senate reject the proposed revision to Chapter 10 and replace it with a proposal that addresses the issues below and those raised at the faculty listening sessions.

  • As noted by the UW-Madison Chapter of AAUP, Act 55 permits the State Universities to lay off tenured faculty for curtailment, modification or redirection of a program, but does not demand that policies include such possibilities. The ad-hoc committee noted that many programs have changed or been terminated in the past without eliminating faculty. That should not be changed simply because we are now allowed to do so.
  • The policy should go back to stipulating that faculty can be terminated only due to financial emergency and to due cause. Should the Faculty Senate fail to redirect the tenure policy to insure stability for faculty as currently existent, any policy should address the following:
    • Since lay-offs and terminations have not been necessary in the past, they should not be part of program redirections in the future but only applicable for financial emergencies.
    • “Programs” need to be defined to prevent administrators from defining programs as individuals targeted for removal.
    • Program changes approved by the University Academic Planning Council as well as the results of a hearing for program changes or job displacement before the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities should be appealable to the Faculty Senate.
    • For any displacement of faculty, seniority should play an important part in which faculty lose positions and the policy should have explicit langue concerning seniority.
    • Any policy must define all the relevant terms.


Regardless of the policy adopted, the Faculty Senate should resolve to address job stability issues for University Staff.

WUU Stands With Sara Goldrick-Rab

Please join with faculty, staff and students in defending academic freedom on our campus by signing this letter in support of Sara Goldrick-Rab, Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

SGR Photo

Open Letter in Support of Sara Goldrick-Rab and Academic Freedom

To: The UW-Madison University Committee: Prof. Beth Meyerand (chair), Prof. Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, Prof. Thomas Broman, Prof. Amy Wendt, Prof. Ruth Litovsky:

We, the undersigned, are deeply disappointed with the University Committee’s hasty and ill-conceived reprimand of Prof. Sara Goldrick-Rab on July 16, 2015. The University Committee does not speak for all Faculty Senators on this issue, let alone all faculty, and certainly not for university staff and students.

Indeed, since you have singled out Prof. Goldrick-Rab for public reprimand without first discussing your concerns with her, without seeking the input of the Faculty Senators who represent the two departments with which she is affiliated, and without a vote of the Faculty Senate, it is not clear that you speak for anyone other than yourselves.

It is the University Committee’s reprimand, not Prof. Goldrick-Rab, which is damaging the principle of academic freedom and the university. Prof. Goldrick-Rab has demonstrated her dedication to the University of Wisconsin on many occasions. If the University Committee wishes to encourage the fearless sifting and winnowing on which the great state University of Wisconsin once prided itself, then you should retract your statement and apologize to her. We urge you to do so.


Chad Alan Goldberg
Professor and Faculty Senator, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
President, United Faculty & Academic Staff, AFT Local 223

Join the list of Signers! Add your name here:



Find more information on Professor Goldrick-Rab’s actions and the University Committee’s attack in Inside Higher Ed, in the Student Activism blog, and even from political cartoonist, Mike Konopacki.

Bernie Sanders: College for All

By Joe Elder, Emeritus Professor of Sociology/ Languages and Cultures of Asia/ Integrated Liberal Studies and Member of Wisconsin University Union (WUU)


Senator Bernie Sanders’ (Independent, Vermont) entry into the 2016 Democratic presidential race has introduced a fresh voice on higher education.

On May 6, 2015 Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to break up any too-big-to-fail financial institutions. He argues that using taxpayer funds to bail out failed financial institutions after Barak Obama became president in 2008 increased the gap between America’s richest and poorest. He believes that right now the six biggest banks in the US still have too much control over the US economy. They need to be broken down into smaller banks that are NOT too-big-to-fail … to be bailed out once again by taxpayer funds.

On May 19, 2015 Bernie Sanders introduced the “College for All” Act. He believes that free higher education for those who qualify and so desire should be a citizen’s right in the United States (as it is in countries like Denmark).

Bernie Sanders is appalled by the current estimated $1.3 TRILLION student-loan debts and accompanying years of so-called postgraduate “indentured servitude.” Furthermore, he has identified a source for funding the “College for All” Act. The needed funds could be generated by a 50-cent tax on every $100 of stock trades and stock sales in the United States. This tax has been nicknamed the “Robin-Hood tax,” since it takes from the rich and gives to the middle classes and the poor. If approved, the “Robin-Hood tax” would be a relatively simple tax to collect. Moreover, it would generate massive amounts of money taken from the middle of Wall Street’s everyday activities.

Bernie Sanders agrees that college is not for everybody. But he believes that every US citizen who wants a college education and is qualified for admission has a “right” to attend college. The passage of the “College for All” Act could be a significant step toward re-distributing America’s wealth, re-energizing America’s poor and middle classes, freeing college graduates from years of college-debt and “indentured servitude,” and shrinking the gap between the poorest and richest citizens in the United States.

See the summary of Sen. Sanders’ College for All Act Here.


Justice has No Champion in University of Wisconsin Regents

Bascom Hall at Dusk in Winter

By Bruce Thomadsen and the Wisconsin University Union Board.

Of all the ways the Wisconsin State Legislature is working to demolish the University, such as starting to send it into a financial free-fall and deletion of meaningful tenure, the elimination of due process and just cause for firing faculty flies in the face of our national culture’s love of justice and individual rights. For that matter, most cultures in the free world would consider this a major step toward tyrannical totalitarianism.

The University of Wisconsin Regents had the opportunity to stand for justice, protect the employees and students who are victimized by this action and slow the gutting of what is still, but not destined to remain, a major, world-class University. As a body, the Regents chose not to oppose this travesty. By delegation to a committee looking into the issue, they yielded to the abuser (the Legislature). It is unlikely that the committee can report back to the Regents in time to send a message to the Legislature before the budgetary process is complete. The Regents have to know that. They also have to have been thinking about this, assuming that they take their charge seriously. They have thought about it enough in the past to make bold statements that they will maintain the rights currently (perhaps for only a few more days) in State statute. Apparently empty bold statements.

The Wisconsin State Legislature has apparently silenced the UW-Madison Chancellor, probably with the threat that things could get much worse for her hostage children if she does not play nice. If the Regents are under the same pressure, the University has lost its champion and last protector. Civilization has taken a hit. The Empire has total control.

Quality? What potential faculty hire would want to come to a university that could fire without cause and without due process? Few faculty members of quality would stay at such a university except for personal reasons. Stay for the high quality ice cream? These changes will bring the biggest sucking sound since Ross Perot warned of the effects of NAFTA. Why would the top students want to come to study with the remnant of the faculty?

Kudos to Regents Evers, Vásquez, and Bradley who stood against the changes. They stared the dragon in the eye and did not flinch.

UW-Madison Faculty, Staff, and Students Gather on Valentines Day to Stop the Cuts, Save UW!

JoeElder_SaveUW_by Rebecca Kemble

On the 4th anniversary of the February 14th rally and march that sparked the Wisconsin Uprising, hundreds braved the cold to protest the proposed $300 million in budget cuts and the threats to democratic governance and public benefit posed by the “public” authority. WUU members Joe Elder and Bruce Tomadsen spoke to the freezing but spirited crowd.

The Cap Times Reported:

“UW students, faculty, staff and community members gathered, chanting, “No ifs, no buts, no budget cuts” and carrying signs with slogans like “I (heart) UW” and “Be like Minnesota, not Kansas” on them.

Some faculty are already leaving as a result of the cuts, said Joe Elder, professor of sociology at UW-Madison.

“And more faculty will leave,” he said.

“If the budget cuts affected football, we’d have nine players on the field instead of 11,” said Bruce Tomadsen, another UW-Madison faculty member and representative of the Wisconsin University Union. “No problem, says Walker, players can just cover other positions.””

Photo by Rebecca Kemble