Statement to the University of Wisconsin System Tenure Policy Task Force

Joint Statement of the UW-Milwaukee AAUP, UW-Whitewater AAUP, and UW-Madison AAUP executive committees to the UW System Tenure Policy Task Force.

Milwaukee, Whitewater, and Madison, 17 September 2015

The University of Wisconsin has a one hundred year-long tradition of upholding the principles of academic freedom and shared governance as set forth by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).  Throughout the history of the AAUP, UW faculty members have played a leading role in establishing these principles and recommendations.  UW-Madison Economics Professor Richard T. Ely, whose trial led to the Regents’ famous and inspired defense of “fearless sifting and winnowing,” served on the AAUP committee that drafted the 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure.  The hard-earned reputation of the UW System as one of the finest public institutions of higher education in the world was built upon this foundation and will stand or fall on its structural integrity.

In the interest of ensuring that the UW System Tenure Policy Task Force achieves its stated goal of crafting a tenure policy that complies with established AAUP standards, we draw the Task Force’s attention to the following principles:

  1. An AAUP-compliant tenure policy depends on AAUP-compliant shared-governance practices. Without shared-governance practices that conform to AAUP standards, it is impossible to craft a tenure policy that conforms to AAUP standards.

  2. Board of Regents policy on review, layoff, or termination of tenure appointments must reflect the prerogatives of faculty shared-governance bodies spelled out in the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (in particular section 4d(1)).

With these principles in mind, we call on the Tenure Policy Task Force to make the following recommendations to the Board of Regents:

  1. Adopt permanently in Board of Regents policy the definition of “tenure appointment” that was removed from Chapter 36 of Wisconsin statutes under 2015 Act 55.

  2. Adopt a statement of principle that articulates the primary responsibilities of faculty in meaningful shared governance.  Such a statement should conform with section 5 of the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education (ACE), and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).

  3. Ensure that Board of Regents policy regarding termination of appointments due to “program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection” (36.21) codifies the authority of faculty shared-governance bodies in making such determinations and decisions, as stipulated in the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (sec. 4d(1)) and the AAUP’s report on The Role of the Faculty in Conditions of Financial Exigency.

  4. Ensure that Board of Regents policy regarding post-tenure review codifies the authority of faculty shared-governance bodies in crafting and carrying out such policies, and does not add new avenues for termination of a tenure appointment beyond those already contemplated under program modification or dismissal for cause, in keeping with the AAUP’s statement on Post-Tenure Review.

We hope that these principles and recommendations will be useful to the Tenure Policy Task Force in carrying out its charge, and that they will help steer the Board of Regents toward policies that ensure compliance with AAUP standards and avoid the possibility of AAUP censure.

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.