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Chancellor's Blog: Update on tenure

| Chancellor James Schmidt

During  the UW System Board of Regents meeting in Milwaukee Thursday and Friday, the board adopted current statutory language governing tenure as Board of Regents policy should the state legislature and governor enact legislation to remove tenure from current Chapter 36 statutes.

The resolution approved by regents Friday morning both affirms support for tenure and directs the regents' Tenure Policy Task Force to, if the full legislature votes to approve tenure layoff language passed last week by the Joint Committee on Finance, specifically address tenure layoff provisions.

Here is the resolution passed by the regents: 

That, upon the recommendation of the Vice President of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents and the President of the University of Wisconsin System, the Board affirms its support for the importance of tenure for ensuring academic freedom and approves the attached new Regent Policy Document on tenure, contingent upon and effective upon the date that s. 36.13, Wis. Stats., is repealed. The new Regent Policy Document maintains the provisions currently codified in s. 36.13, Wis. Stats., and shall be construed in accordance with applicable state law. This new Regent Policy Document will sunset on the date that the Board adopts a tenure policy as a result of the work of the Tenure Policy Task Force, which shall not be later than April 11, 2016. The Board directs the Tenure Policy Task Force to specifically review the provisions affecting layoffs.

During their discussions and deliberations, the regents invited comment from faculty regarding the importance of preserving tenure in the UW System and also affirmed the regents' commitment to include faculty in the Tenure Policy Task Force development of new tenure policy. 

While many specifics are unknown at this time, I am encouraged and heartened by the regents' actions and strongly stated support for tenure. As I have said in the past, tenure is a bedrock principle of UW-Eau Claire — one that I highly value and recognize as critical to our ability to continue to recruit and retain outstanding faculty who will provide the top-notch educational experiences for which UW-Eau Claire is known. 

Accordingly, I will work closely with our campus faculty and shared governance, as well as UW System administration and the regents' Tenure Policy Task Force, to ensure the principles of tenure are enshrined in regent policy should tenure be removed from state statute. 

As you know, the anticipated $250 million budget reduction to UW System would require changes to the way UW System and UW-Eau Claire have traditionally operated. UW System President Ray Cross has indicated some of the changes under consideration include consolidation and centralization of "back office" administrative functions, as well as some academic programs. 

I want to assure you that no decisions regarding these potential changes have been made.  

Here at UW-Eau Claire, we are in the process of formulating implementation teams to explore and make recommendations for changes in several administrative areas and also have committed to create an Academic Master Plan and to reimagine EDI.  All of this will be done through collaboration and consultation with faculty, staff, students and administration, including shared governance processes as appropriate. Academic programming is at the heart of everything we do — the outstanding liberal-arts based education that is a hallmark of a UW-Eau Claire education is something, like tenure, that I am dedicated to preserving and protecting.  

I understand and appreciate the uncertainty and anxiety being caused by the budget and policy changes being considered by the state government, UW System and Board of Regents. I also truly believe that we have an opportunity to determine our own destiny going forward, and I remain committed to working with you, in partnership, to achieve our common goals. 

As always, I will continue to regularly update you on budget and policy issues as new developments occur.

Read additional blog posts by UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt.