University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross has come under fire from faculty and a high-profile administrator for his changing stance on how the system should address tenure in light of recent changes to its legal status in the state. Faculty members and Chancellor Rebecca Blank of the University of Wisconsin at Madison have criticized Cross’s recent directive that new tenure polices can’t be written at the campus level, saying that the guidance contradicts Cross’s earlier assurances that tenure as it’s known would be preserved at the campus level -- even though the Wisconsin state Legislature changed the law to make it easier to fire tenured faculty members.
“We were assured by Ray and others that Madison could write policies, which would be reviewed by the [system Board of Regents] for approval,” Blank wrote to John Behling, a regent who chairs a newly formed task force charged with reviewing the system’s tenure policies, in reference to Cross’s memo. “Those voices that have argued for more extreme policies (and have argued that the [board] is less than trustworthy on these issues) will be strongly reinforced, and those of us who have been trying to shepherd this in a responsible way toward resolution are likely to lose effectiveness.”
Cross’s memo -- as well as a draft version of a systemwide tenure policy saying professors could be fired for “underperforming” -- also angered faculty meetings at a faculty meeting late last month, according to the Wisconsin State-Journal. (Blank’s emailed letter was obtained by The Capital Times.) On Friday, the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin called for Cross to step down over his handling of the tenure issue, among others, saying “we no longer have confidence in his leadership.”
John Lucas, a spokesman for Madison, said Blank had since met with Cross to discuss her concerns. “Chancellor Blank is satisfied that UW Madison will have the opportunity to adopt its own language in [Madison’s] faculty policies and procedures, once a broad system policy is enacted,” Lucas added. “This is consistent with how other issues are managed between the system and individual campuses.”
Blank reiterated that message in a statement released late Friday, and said she expected the Madison Faculty Senate to pass a draft tenure policy today that will be sent to the system's tenure task force as a suggested campus policy. Once a broad system policy is adopted, she said, Madison will have the opportunity to finalize its specific terms. Behling said in a statement that he was glad Blank clarified her statement and that she and Cross are now “on the same page.”
Non-tenure-track instructors at the University of Chicago have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to vote on whether to form a collective bargaining unit affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Thursday. SEIU adjunct union drives also are under way at the University of Washington, the University of Southern California and Duke University. A spokesman for Chicago said the university had no immediate comment.
Bernie Sanders has been drawing large crowds of college students to his campaign events. On Wednesday, he officially announced a group of faculty supporters, including many prominent figures of the academic left. Higher Ed for Bernie will be organizing a series of campus events. An initial statement from the group calls for a bolstering of public higher education and renewed efforts to make higher education a tool for promoting social equality. Signatories include Cornel West of Union Theological Seminary, Frances Fox Piven of the City University of New York Graduate Center, Adolph Reed Jr. of the University of Pennsylvania, Walter Benn Michaels of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Jeffrey J. Williams of Carnegie Mellon University.
In 1962, Grove City College fired Larry Gara, a history professor whose left-wing politics offended a powerful trustee. As recounted in an Associated Press article, the college brought various charges of incompetence against Gara and fired him. Gara went on to a successful teaching career at Wilmington College, in Ohio. But a Grove City alumnus, Steven Taaffe, a history professor at Stephen F. Austin University, did research on his firing and found considerable evidence that the charges were unfair. All the Grove City officials involved in the firing are dead. Based on Taaffe's research, a former president of the college, Richard Jewell, recently visited Gara and personally apologized on behalf of the college. Gara, 93, told the AP, "I never thought they would come around."