The Price of Excellence in Wisconsin

BY KELLY HAND

KellyWilzawardblogKelly Wilz, author of the May–June Academe article “A Day in the Life of a Public University Professor in Wisconsin,” recently won the 2015–16 Teacher Excellence Award given by the student body of the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Becoming an award-winning teacher is never easy, but as Wilz’s article demonstrates, it has become a lot harder in Wisconsin since Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature cut funding for the University of Wisconsin system by $795 million.

Budget cuts have an impact on the daily lives of both faculty and students. As Wilz takes us through the highs and lows of a long, busy day on campus, we learn about the financial, academic, and mental health struggles of several students. Wilz points to inadequate campus resources to assist such students as a primary reason she gets involved with their struggles. Much of her work as a teacher happens before and after class, when she interacts with students one-on-one, and we can assume that her concern for individuals is part of what motivated students to recognize her as an excellent teacher. But what is the price of excellence in a system that provides inadequate support? Wilz’s account suggests that while there are some intrinsic rewards for excellence, the costs are great.

This issue of Academe includes other material about the challenges facing the University of Wisconsin system. Hans-Joerg Tiede contributed a brief article about the fragile status of tenure in the UW system, a topic Academe Blog has covered in numerous blog posts. A chapter profile of the newly reinvigorated University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee AAUP offers hope that collective action can make a positive difference for faculty.

Articles from the current and past issues of Academe are available online. AAUP members receive a subscription to the magazine, available both by mail and as a downloadable PDF, as a benefit of membership.

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