Standing against the system

UW campuses pass resolutions showing a loss of trust in system leaders amidst budget cuts and tenure loss

More stories from Sadie Sedlmayr


Photo by Kendall Ruchti

eachers fight back against the UW System for their right to tenure policies.

Last year when Wisconsin legislature did away with tenure from state order, which ultimately left the Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin System to generate a new tenure policy, UW-Madison was one of the first universities to take a stance against it.

The proposal is in response to the substantial state budget cuts to the UW-System and current modifications to tenure policy.

Hence, this pitch of faculty calls for system leaders to refocus on the Wisconsin Idea of serving and putting the people first.

UW-River Falls and UW-La Crosse recently followed Madison’s lead by passing tenacities saying they too, like Madison, have no assurance in UW-System President Ray Cross and Board of Regents.

It might seem like, from someone on the outside looking in, the teaching staffs are just stewing about not having their life-time job security to fall back on, while the tenancy in each academic department slowly dwindles. Dan Vimont, a meteorological science professor, said to Wisconsin Public Radio the real issue at hand goes much more in depth than that.

“It’s not that at all,” Vimont said in a WPR article. “It’s about what makes Wisconsin special. And that is being broken we have to stand up against it.”

Indeed, the decision by Cross to layoff tenured faculty members seems to have splurged a plethora of heated retorts on the receiving end, but on the higher up’s of the UW-System’s spectrum, the reaction to the board’s decision to put in place “reasonable and fair” tenure were disappointing.

First of all, what makes teachers so special that they believe they should get tenure? I mean, doesn’t almost every working class citizen in America face losing their job due to issues out of their control? I’m baffled by how teaching faculty think they should get special treatment from the people in charge.

And so begins the downward spiral of the UW-System.

Judging by the WPR article, I gather the snowballing effects of the unjust policies of our regents in charge are finally beginning to be shown across the board. I never really agreed with the whole academic tenure for teachers anyway because from my experience, I have felt my tenured professors were more incompetent in their teaching styles when they were on tenure than when they were not.

Once a teacher secures tenure, their overall performance in teaching students is drastically changed for the worse. Teachers with tenure think they’re untouchable to the higher ups because now they’re most likely not getting fired because they have tenure protection behind them, so how they perform in the classroom really doesn’t matter.

There never should have been teacher tenure to begin with because of how much teachers rely on on it as a crutch for their services. However, since there is such a thing as tenure, the establishment may have to be the ones to swallow their pride because even I can see they’re in the wrong on this one.

Teachers have one of the most important jobs in our country, which is educating youth. And them being fired because they don’t live up to “the man’s” standard of being a qualified instructor is petrifying to me.

By “the man’s” standard qualified instructor, I mean, for example, the faculty has to accept the chancellor’s right to close programs, hire his friends who are not the best, and fire the ones who are because they won’t bow down to kiss his feet or worship the board’s set of rules put in place.

It’s unfair to both the students and faculty alike, of course, but the regents don’t care and the students are the ones who suffer in the long run because what decent educationalist wants to teach at an institution that doesn’t offer tenure benefits?

The board and the faculty need to come to a united decision on what is to come for the future. I don’t think the resolution should be to fire everyone they don’t like on staff just to save money because then the student pays for it.

One solution would be for faculty to just accept the changes to tenure policies but I don’t see that ever happening. I see so little evidence of faculty even bothering to gather to talk and listen to each other.

Hopefully, there is some middle ground and both sides see the bigger picture of the Wisconsin Idea of putting people before their own pride.