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UW-Madison professor: Regents can’t have it both ways on tenure

UW-Madison professor: Regents can’t have it both ways on tenure


Professor Chad Goldberg spoke at a rally on Bascom Hill in November protesting changes to the pay system for graduate student assistants. 

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents can’t have it both ways when it comes to tenure, says UW-Madison professor Chad Goldberg.

Regents can “either uphold a strong tenure policy or ... give administrators more flexibility to fire faculty,” Goldberg wrote in a letter published Dec. 29 in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Sociology professor Goldberg continued: “The purpose of a strong tenure policy is precisely to limit administrators' flexibility to reallocate resources and staff so that such decisions do not infringe on academic freedom and are based on educational considerations as determined primarily by the people most qualified to do so, namely, the faculty.”

He was responding to an op-ed piece by John Behling, vice president of the Board of Regents and chair of its Tenure Policy Task Force. Behling wrote a week earlier in the Journal Sentinel that tenure is due for common sense reform because “it is out of step with reality for most workers in other sectors.”

Many workers work at the will of their employer and see tenure as “a scenario in which faculty members keep their jobs even if their departments are eliminated or their performance is lacking,” Behling wrote.

The idea that UW employs inept do-nothings as faculty is a canard ginned up by Republicans, Goldberg responded.

Tenure does not guarantee a job, he wrote. It protects due process for faculty the university wants to dismiss.

Behling’s task force earlier this month forwarded proposed new policies on tenure and post-tenure review to the Board of Regents, which will begin its deliberations in February.

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