Gov. Scott Walker echoed University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross’ criticism of tenure as a "job for life" as faculty at UW-Milwaukee unanimously declared no confidence in Cross’ leadership Tuesday.
UWM was the fourth UW System campus to vote no confidence in Cross and the Board of Regents.
“Some faculty bodies ... appear more interested in protecting outdated ‘job for life’ tenure than about helping students get the best education possible,” said Walker in a statement quoted by Inside Higher Ed. “The University should not be about protecting the interests of the faculty, but about delivering value and excellence to Wisconsin.”
Walker released a string of facts about UWM professors, including average salaries more than twice the Milwaukee County average, declining contact with students and student numbers declining at four times the rate of faculty, in preparation for the faculty’s “collective groan” about budgeting and tenure.
"The facts speak for themselves," Walker said. "We want to preserve the world-renowned quality of the UW System while protecting students and taxpayers."
Inside Higher Ed referred to an email from Cross to Regent John Behling, chair of the UW System tenure policy task force, days before the Board of Regents’ big vote to change tenure policy in March.
Cross wrote in his email that tenure "is designed to protect freedom of speech and the right to pursue truth — no matter how unpopular — and then to publish that information without worrying about being dismissed for doing so.” Tenure is "not a guarantor of ‘a job for life.’ The more faculty connect tenure to ‘a job for life’ they do serious damage to the value and purpose of tenure,” Cross wrote in the email obtained by the Cap Times in an open records request.
Nearly 300 UWM faculty members packed a classroom to overflowing Tuesday, and quickly and unanimously approved a vote of no confidence, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“The 17-point resolution was read by faculty members spread across the room that was designed to hold 175 people. The atmosphere was charged. It was considered a historic gathering; the first time a quorum of faculty had met to take action in decades,” Karen Herzog reported.
UWM Chancellor Mark Mone echoed the concerns of UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank that a no confidence vote could have a chilling effect on working relationships with UW System leaders and lawmakers.
UW-Madison faculty delivered the first no confidence vote on May 3, followed by others at UW-River Falls and UW-La Crosse.
Faculty and staff at UW-Eau Claire, debated but did not act on a no confidence resolution Tuesday out of concern that they would be rushing to action, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported.
The Faculty Senate at UW-Green Bay was scheduled to take up a similar no confidence resolution on May 11.