Rather than voting no confidence, it’s time that academic insiders acknowledge current economic conditions and join with the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, rather than fighting the regents, in ensuring quality at an affordable cost (“UW no-confidence vote passes,” May 3).
Change, and the ability to adapt to change, hardly will be the death knell of quality higher education. Calling for “pushback against austerity,” as one professor articulated it, is simply running from economic reality. American higher education already spends nearly two times more per student than any industrialized country: It’s time to use scarce resources more effectively.
To build confidence in the system, the regents must make clear they will protect tenure in regent policy and will demand a fair and dispassionate tenure process. This is the way it is done across the country.
The regents also must pledge to protect academic freedom, which is sometimes jeopardized in the tenure process, and pay attention to the academic freedom of non-tenure-track faculty. Finally, the regents must make clear that their priority is the public, not the institution first and the public second. To do otherwise is to dismiss the political process and the interests of taxpayers.
The regents’ duties are academic freedom, academic excellence and accountability, not the preservation of a status quo that serves neither the public nor even, ultimately, the institution itself. Perhaps it’s time that the Legislature consider another change to state statute: one that makes clear that the University of Wisconsin Board’s first obligation is to the interests of the people of Wisconsin.