It is easy — indeed, it is natural after a series of crises to mistake a momentary calm for a return to normalcy. We, of course, want the threats to subside and to return to the way things once were which, even if they weren’t quite perfect, were familiar.
In that vein, we’d like to look back and regard the events of last semester as an aberration and not indicative of the life we live now or how we will live in the future. We’d rather not consider all of the facts and face the new reality: that we no longer know what life will be like in the future other than that it will probably be worse in some distinct but as of yet, unknown, ways. But “the facts get in the way” of our attempts to ignore our new and discomforting reality.
The fact is that as of August when the new health and WRS deductions go into effect, we will have a cumulative 20% loss in real income over the last 10 years (21% increase in cost-of-living and a 1% increase in compensation). And except for a small fraction of the faculty that might receive a retention award, no increase is in sight for the next two years regardless of inflation.
Or that Walker’s attempted putsch to control UW-Madison will not deter him from his goal of controlling the University. If the Democrats do not win control in the Senate as a result of the recalls, it is likely that Walker will attempt to change (through statute) the terms of the Regents to give him immediate control of a majority of the Board. A deeply conservative ideological Board will then appoint the new Chancellor for our campus.
Whether a “public authority” was or was not created may make little difference in the balance of power between the State and University. (As UW Regent Walsh mused, “What’s a public authority? It’s anything you want it to be.”) The UW Hospital is a “public authority” but unlike the University, it receives no funding from the state. Nonetheless, new law inserted into the budget prohibits Gyn-Ob residents from performing abortions despite the fact that the training is conducted off-premises of the Hospital with no public funds. (See Wisconsin State Journal: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_803d71f6-9c51-11e0-b739-001cc4c002e0.html) The Governor declined to veto this budget item explaining disingenuously that he believed the state should “not fund abortions.”
Abortion politics aside, the political power at the other end of State St. feels empowered to decide what is taught and probably not far off, the content of our research. Clearly, that’s the motive behind their attacks against the Havens Center, the Extension’s School for Workers and most recently, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy.
The political leadership has sought to implement policies to control the university with as little opposition as possible. The administration’s move to defund (and in the process “de-fang”) all of the campus employee organizations by terminating automatic dues deduction is an unabashed tactic to quash organized opposition. While the administration previously argued that it would not deduct dues for organizations that engage in collective bargaining, it has now extended the same prohibition against any employee association or advocacy.
Yet despite these concerted attacks, tumultuous protests and likely challenges in the future, the vast majority of faculty and staff remain unorganized and thus, relatively incapable of responding to on-going challenges. With the exception of the TAA, no organization was capable of mounting a response to the loss of state funding or collective bargaining rights. Though a petition was circulated among faculty in support of collective bargaining, a concerted campaign in conjunction with other campuses could not be conducted. (In fact, the major organization for academic staff, ASPRO, remained opposed to collective bargaining.)
I raise these issues as means of setting the discussion of some fundamental questions:
- How can we respond to these formidable current and future challenges?
- Is the current mix of organizations appropriate to the tasks ahead?
- Should the traditional divide of faculty/academic staff/ classified staff continue or does the new reality (classified staff will be unrepresented) require new forms of organization?
- What would an organization(s) do that is different from what is happening now?
- What should be the relationship of these organizations with the existing shared governance institutions? Should they be part of, aligned with or separate from them?
- What should our relationship be with organizations of faculty/staff on other UW campuses? Should these relationships be a primary goal of a “Madison” organization?