MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved three policies today that ensure strong tenure in the UW System.
“The new policies protect the principles of academic freedom. They sustain our competitiveness in the global marketplace for faculty expertise, research prowess and teaching talent. They enhance our accountability to Wisconsin citizens and stakeholders,” said UW System President Ray Cross.
The approved policies include: (1) revisions to the existing faculty tenure policy; (2) revisions to the policy on periodic post-tenure review in support of tenured faculty development; and (3) a new policy relating to financial emergency or program discontinuance requiring faculty layoff and termination.
Last year, the Wisconsin legislature removed University of Wisconsin System tenure provisions from state statutes as part of the 2015-17 state budget. To uphold the important principles and ensure continuity of long-standing UW tenure practices, the UW System Board of Regents immediately affirmed its support for tenure and academic freedom by replicating statutory tenure language in an interim Board policy.
Concurrently, the Board formed a Tenure Policy Task Force focused on clarifying the UW System’s tenure policies for the future. Chaired by the Regent Vice President John Behling and comprised of about 20 tenured faculty members from institutions throughout the UW System, the task force spent five months evaluating the national landscape, considering and shaping language, and soliciting peers’ feedback. It developed the three new policies considered by the full Board of Regents on March 10.
“One of the goals the task force ultimately wanted is to empower the chancellors and give them the flexibility to get through tough times,” Behling said, after the Board’s lengthy discussion.
The policies’ language borrows heavily from existing tenure policies at other institutions: the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of Colorado, the University of Tennessee, the University System of Georgia, Iowa State University, Minnesota State Colleges, Utah State, the University of California and the California State College System.
Regent President Regina Millner said the policies will serve as “a critical new tool for our chancellors to help them better align their resources with the needs of the state without jeopardizing academic freedom or putting us in a competitive disadvantage.”
“I am proud of the work that has been done and I am confident that the UW System will be in a strong position going forward,” Millner said.
With their adoption, the new policies on tenure may now be adapted into the faculty policies and procedures (FP&P) at each UW System institution, subject to Board approval. It is anticipated that UW-Madison’s FP&P will be reviewed by the Board in April.
“Our intensive policy work has been done under an understandably bright national spotlight,” Cross said. “It has required widespread outreach, the strong focus of our task force and campus leaders, and authentic collaboration. We involved the UW System campus communities. We examined policies and practices at other U.S. public institutions of higher education. We consulted with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Ultimately, tenure practices and provisions in the UW System look very much like those at other institutions throughout American higher education and, in some cases, are stronger.”
System’s dialogue on diversity ongoing
Updating Regents on Systemwide action to address diversity-related issues, Regent Millner highlighted a variety of recent campus events focusing on discussions about campus climate and diversity. The events have attracted hundreds of participants, including students, faculty, staff, and others.
“Conversations have been taking place, at our request, at campuses all across the UW System over the past few months around these vitally important issues of equity, diversity and inclusiveness,” said Millner. She acknowledged that there is more to be done, but also noted there is “an eagerness to work together toward our shared values. We welcome the open and ongoing dialogue.”
National higher ed expert leads Regent workshop
Dr. William “Brit” Kirwan, a consultant with the Association of Governing Boards and former chancellor of the University System of Maryland, addressed the Regents and led a workshop on system governance. Kirwan has written and spoken widely on a broad range of higher education topics, including access and affordability, cost containment, diversity, innovation, higher education’s role in economic development, and academic transformation.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting
on April 7-8, 2016, at UW-Green Bay.