Commentary On UW System Tenure Changes

Colleen Flaherty:

Repeatedly during the meeting, Millner and other regents cited the need, in an era of tight budgets, for “flexibility” to close programs — and eliminate faculty jobs in the process. The votes here marked the near-end of two years of debate over a tenure policy that saw the university system’s tenured faculty go from having among the strongest protections in the nation (written into state law) to having a system that many professors fear will make it too easy to dismiss them and eliminate programs they believe should be preserved. When the idea of removing tenure from state statute first surfaced — at the behest of Governor Scott Walker, a Republican — he and others said that necessary protections for faculty members could all be preserved in system policy. But the system adopted Thursday differs in key ways from what was removed from state law — especially after a series of amendments were rejected.

Millner weighed in on an amendment proposed by Tony Evers, a fellow regent, that — if passed — would have addressed one of the biggest faculty concerns about the proposed policy regarding layoffs of tenured faculty: that it conflates financial and educational considerations in assessing programs for possible closure (and subsequent faculty job losses).