A call to speak up

After speaking to faculty across the university, it is clear to me that opposition to the Provost’s plan to dismantle the Graduate School is widespread. However, many faculty members seem hesitant to speak up, and I have even heard rumors that reporters are having trouble finding faculty sources willing to go on the record. Feeling intimidated is human, but the health of our research enterprise, and indeed of our institution itself, is on the line here. This is not the time for timidity.

Luckily, UW-Madison faculty have real power and we don’t have to stay silent. Unlike other universities, our university administration does not pick departmental chairs, and it is the faculty who are responsible for faculty hiring, and decisions on merit pay and promotion. Our system of shared governance guarantees us a role in decision making and shields us from abuses by university leadership.

UW-Madison operates so well, in part, because of shared decision making, but this only works if people participate in governance. It is the faculty’s right to question any proposed reorganization plan. Further, it is our responsibility to oppose any plans that are poorly thought out or which seem likely to harm our great university. The Provost’s proposal, unfortunately, meets both these criteria, and so he should be facing a torrent of questions and criticisms from the faculty, not a trickle.

– CK Adams

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3 Responses to A call to speak up

  1. GP says:

    I am one of those who has been hesitant to speak up “on the record”, not so much because I fear direct retribution, but because my ability to interact effectively with the administration on other, more mundane issues could be affected if I’m perceived as a gadfly. The ironic thing is that I am anything but a rabble-rouser, and I value a cooperative, non-confrontational relationship with the administration as long as things are working as they should, which is most of the time.

    This is not one of those times, and so I have allowed myself – with some trepidation – to be interviewed and quoted by the local press, albeit in considerably milder terms than I privately feel. If the situation continues to worsen, I will do more.

    The important thing to note is that there IS a groundswell of alarm and indignation over the Provost’s plan. I have spoken to easily 50 people in the past week, both inside my own building and elsewhere on campus. Many of these are faculty; many more are research scientists on soft money with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants each, and two are even directors of major research centers interacting daily with the Graduate School the Provost wishes to dismantle. Every last one of these individuals is upset by the plan, by the Provost’s seeming inability to articulate persuasive reasons for it, and by the lack of formal consultation with those most affected.

    As has been said by others already, this is no way to run a university. And yes, it is time for everyone who feels that way to say so.

  2. WPA says:

    Where are the deans on all of this? Are they going to represent the views of their constituents? Are they going to take the side of the Provost against shared governance? Or are they just going to hunker down and wait for it to blow over? The first option would admirable, the second cynical, the third disappointingly timid for someone in their leadership positions.

    The only dean I’m aware of who has openly supported the Provost on this has reportedly also been heard to opine that her faculty are ambivalent about the plan because “they’re waiting for the dean to tell them what to do.” I don’t know about her school, but such a statement would be viewed as outrageously arrogant and condescending in mine.

  3. JLG says:

    Based on meetings I’ve been with many academic staff, none of them wish to speak up for fear of losing their job or repercussions on their departments for having an opinion. Some of them feel that we can’t do anything about it – we should instead just accept it’s going to happen and we should try to insert what we can to make the plan more tolerable instead. I strongly disagree with that sentiment, but I can understand the fear of repercussions being an academic staffer myself. Because of that fear, I can tell you that the majority of staff on this campus are putting their faith in the faculty to be the ones to speak up as their voices and input tend to have the most value on campus.

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