No Future: Climate, Terrorism, and the Study of Culture in the 21st Century

So what do I mean by claiming that there is no future to the study of culture in the 21st Century? My thesis is that we are (or should be) nearing the end of the study of culture, and that to continue to study it as we have will run the risk of irrelevance, or worse. In this talk I maintain that there is no future for the study of culture if it does not include the study of key concerns of the 21st century, including especially those ecological, geopolitical, and economic issues which threaten the existence of culture as we know it.

Before pursuing this argument more directly, however, I want to take advantage of the occasional nature of this symposium, created as it is for a particular occasion, the 10th and 15th anniversaries of the GCSC and GGK, respectively, to talk a bit about the occasion of my presence as a speaker here. I first learned of the GCSC in March 2010 when I delivered the opening plenary address at “The Arts of Mediation,” a summer conference at the Catholic University of Lisbon, organized as part of the PhDNET, of which the University of Giessen is a founding member. At that time I was in the process of finalizing the details of an offer to direct the Center for 21st Century Studies (C21) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Initial discussions with Ansgar about the GCSC persuaded us both that it would be good to work together. Within a year, we had written and signed off on a memorandum of agreement between the two centers that we would collaborate in the future. Beginning with master classes, lectures, and meetings in Giessen, we developed plans for collaboration. Working primarily with Martin Zierold and Beatrice Michaelis, I helped to organize the May 2013 GCSC conference on “the re/turn of the nonhuman in the study of culture,” which was co-sponsored by C21.  Our most substantial collaboration, of which we are in the third and final year, is a $1.5 million Mellon Foundation-funded program in Interdisciplinary Graduate Humanities Education Research and Training (IGHERT), a program that also involves humanities centers at University of California-Santa Cruz and Australian National University, Canberra. Through the IGHERT program, I have had the pleasure to work closely with Ingo Berensmeyer, Andreas Langenhol, and Michael Basseler, as well as GCSC graduate students Snežana Vuletić and Eva-Maria Müller. The culminating meeting of this project will be in November of this year, here in Giessen, at the famous “castle.” I expect to see some of you there.

At today’s symposium I am speaking not as the director of C21 but as a professor of English. Nearly a year ago, I stepped down from my position as Director of the Center for 21st Century Studies (C21) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, due in part to my unwillingness to accept the severe cuts to the Center’s budgets that were unilaterally imposed by our administration in response to the unprecedented cutbacks in support from the state of Wisconsin. Nonetheless, because my relationship with the GCSC was largely coterminous with my tenure as director of the Center for 21st Century Studies, I want to frame my argument about the futures of the study of culture from the perspective of my five years as C21 director. I do so both to mark the continuity of my directorship with the concerns of today’s anniversary symposium and to account for the way in which my own thinking has changed as a result of my now six years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In 2011 while working out the details of our letters of intent to collaborate, I sent Ansgar a copy of the inaugural lecture I had delivered in October 2010, entitled “The Future of 21st Century Studies.” I like to think that this Anniversary Symposium on “The Futures of the Study of Culture” is at least partly indebted to that inaugural lecture, which argued that the future of the study of culture lay in the interdisciplinary academic field called 21st-century studies. I know that my argument here today shares some points of contact with that earlier piece, which addressed the future of 21st-century studies, particularly as it manifests itself in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, the traditional areas of focus among centers like C21 and GCSC.

In that 2010 lecture I described the state of 21st century studies at the start of the century’s second decade to articulate what I saw as some of the key issues that should occupy scholars as they invented this emergent interdisciplinary field. In particular I argued, first, that 21st century studies should be defined as the interdisciplinary studies of culture as currently practiced, i.e., contemporary, cutting-edge study of the arts, humanities, and social sciences in all fields, and at all historical periods. I argued that 21st century studies names the most up-to-date, contemporary manifestation of work in the academy. To help explain what this means I borrowed the words of Walter Benjamin in claiming that the vocation of an educated journal as being “to proclaim the spirit of its age. Relevance to the present,” Benjamin wrote, “is more important even than unity or clarity.”   In proclaiming the spirit of its age, 21st century studies of culture should not be about establishing a coherent program or intellectual project but rather about fostering an active engagement with and representation of contemporary thought and criticism. This commitment to the contemporary does not mean that 21st century studies is only concerned with the present moment. Indeed, as Benjamin would be the first to argue, it is often the past that can most effectively illuminate the present moment in its specificity.[i]

In addition to being defined as the current state of interdisciplinary research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, I argued that 21st-century studies could also be defined as the study of the 21st century, which means in the first instance studies of the present and very recent past, as well as of issues of pressing concern for the future. But the study of the 21st century also means, now, the study of the 20th century in its incarnation as the century immediately prior to ours as well as in its role as the final century of the second millennium. In this sense, I argued, the 20th century is becoming the new 19th century. Already in the first decades of the current century scholars have set out many of the themes for the decades to come, almost all of which have emerged from the concerns of the late 20th century but take particular forms when placed in relation to our 21st century future. Thus, issues like climate change, terrorism, finance, mobility, migration, security, sexual equality, water, food, health care, networked media, biotechnology, geo-engineering, and others provide an ample field of research for 21st-century studies.

Finally, I argued that by studying what is distinctive about the issues of the present or near future, we are also able to rethink or reconceptualize our study of the past, which in turn allows us to understand our current situation in a different light. This scholarly feedback system operates in almost every field of the humanities and social sciences, as, for example, contemporary concerns with questions of gender and sexuality prompted scholars to investigate earlier historical formations of queer, straight, and other sexualities, which in turn provided new insights on our own gendered and sexual formations. The same thing can be seen in the way in which, say, an enterprise like critical race studies has both provided new perspectives on and been strengthened by historical study of racial science. Similarly interest in new forms of digital media has helped both to accentuate study of earlier media formations like photography, print, or linear perspective and to remind us that what was most new about our new media was the way in which they remediated prior media formations. And concern with pressing issues of environment and climate, evident in the increased focus on the anthropocene and mass extinctions, has opened up new areas of research in the history of environmental and ecological thought. One of the most interesting consequences of studying the concerns of the 21st century is that they help to transform our received understandings of the history of the humanities, arts, and social sciences, and thereby help to transform the study of culture at our current historical moment.

Indeed, one thing that should be evident from the definition of 21st century studies I offered in 2010 is that for this emerging interdisciplinary field to engage the key issues of the day, it cannot focus on the humanities, arts, and social sciences alone. If 21st-century studies is to engage the crucial issues of the day, it is going to have to engage all of those other academic disciplines that have traditionally been seen as distinct from the concerns of the humanities. Because the dividing lines between science, technology, art, society, and culture are becoming increasingly blurred, it is essential for the humanities to collaborate with and reach out to scientific, technological, political, and economic disciplines. And conversely, if scientific and technological disciplines are going to answer the complex transdisciplinary questions that mark the first decades of the 21st century, they are going to have to engage and enroll the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences in doing so. Although in the 20th century the study of culture has been distinguished from the natural, physical, and social sciences, from computation, engineering, or business, much as the human has been opposed to the nonhuman, in the 21st century these clear-cut divisions can no longer obtain. Borders are becoming increasingly difficult to draw, as questions of genetic engineering, for example, turn into questions of ethics, or questions of film, music, and literature become questions of sampling technologies and intellectual property, or questions of war and counterterrorism become questions of computer programming or the design of video games. The study of culture in the 21st century must expand the idea of culture if it is to remain relevant and vital not only to the academy but to the world at large.

So, having just articulated a framework for the future of the study of culture in the 21st century, why do I want to argue that there is “no future” for the study of culture? I intend by the phrase “no future” to make two allusions. The first is to the powerful refrain to the Sex Pistols’ 1977 anthem, “God Save the Queen,” whose sympathy for the working class and resentment of the monarchy have recently refigured themselves very differently in the wake of the recent Brexit referendum. In alluding to the Sex Pistols song I mean to call attention to the way in which the study of culture in the academy is currently threatened by the politics of austerity and securitization that have emerged in the EU and the US as a preemptive response to the threat of global terrorism.

The second allusion in my title is to Lee Edelman’s 2004 book, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive.  In remediating Edelman’s title, I want both to borrow from and to expand his argument. I borrow from his project the concern to destabilize or “queer” normative notions of time, particularly of reproductive futurity. Both the nation state and the academy operate according to a temporal framework in which their institutional form is reproduced indefinitely into the future. Insofar as we have been asked to imagine the institutional reproduction of an academy in which the study of culture will still have a place, this symposium imagines the reproduction of an academic future that looks very much like the present. For Edelman a queer ethics negates the conservative political project of reproductive futurism. Queerness, Edelman argues, “comes to figure the bar to every realization of futurity, the resistance, internal to the social, to every social structure or form” (4). I want, then, in this talk, to try to “queer” the future of the study of culture. Although I follow Edelman in thinking about how we might queer the future of the study of culture in the 21st century, I want to move beyond the concerns with the human and the literary that Edelman’s book foregrounds, and that the notion of culture customarily entails.

In singling out “climate” and “terrorism” in the subtitle of my talk, I mean to signal not just the importance of interdisciplinarity but the increasingly vital threats that both ecological and geopolitical concerns pose to the continued future not just of the study of culture, but of culture itself. Indeed the idea that there is no future for human culture is today most often associated with questions of climate change, particularly with the concept of the sixth mass extinction or the anthropocene, which imagines a time after humans are gone and when the impact of humans and their culture on the planet is evident only in nonhuman traces and effects. But arguments about the end of civilization have also been made in response to the proliferation of radical acts of terrorism in the post-9/11 world, and the preemptive responses by nation-states and transnational organizations to the threats posed by such acts. In my five-year tenure as director of C21, we pursued many of these ideas in trying to define and develop the field of 21st-century studies. Increasingly our treatment of the future of 21st century studies moved from global to local issues, as we began to address the threats to the future of higher education in Wisconsin from our own state government. Ironically, doing so often entailed in part not the move away from the study of humanities and culture in the name of interdisciplinarity, but the attempt to protect the value of the study of culture for its own sake, without resorting to neoliberal arguments about utility and economic value. Doing so did not mean a refutation of the arguments for interdisciplinarity but a refusal to subordinate those arguments, as they often are in work that goes under the name of digital humanities, to instrumentalist claims for the value of the study of culture. In light of real threats to the reproductive futurism not only of the academic study of culture, but to culture and society as they have come to exist in institutional modernity, we need to do more than make the study of culture interdisciplinary.

Perhaps this is what Ulrich Beck had in mind when he claimed in World at Risk that “cultural criticism” was inadequate as a means of approaching the problems of climate, terrorism, and other 21st century threats.  Beck writes: “Even the most radical cultural critiques look like caricatures compared to the catastrophic potentials of full-blown modernity. Indeed, one must even go an essential step further; in comparison to the horizon opened up by the negation of the basic principles of modernity, most cultural criticism looks outdated and ‘idyllic,’ i.e., blind to its own presuppositions or even downright affirmative” (229). In dismissing cultural criticism as a means to address the imminent catastrophes of global risk society, Beck takes it to task for failing to realize that the end of nationalist modernity, which the principles of modernity itself have brought about, is not the end of the world but the end of a particular historical formation. He accuses thinkers like Foucault, Adorno, or Weber for failing to “realize that where [cultural criticism] sees a world coming to an end the world order is in fact being transformed, that the rules and structures of power and domination are being renegotiated in the global age” (219). This renegotiation is prompted by the global risk brought about by such imminent threats as climate change and terrorism: “For there is no greater threat to the Western way and quality of life than the combination of climate change, environmental destruction, dwindling energy and water resources and the wars they could spark” (65). Beck sees cultural criticism as unable to get past its immanent critique of culture, “which presupposes and reinforces the basic principles of modernity as a measure of value without questioning them” (229).

While I share Beck’s concern with the need to anticipate or premediate future risks, and his analysis of the way in which media proliferate potential global catastrophes, I am not entirely convinced that his invocation of the “’cosmopolitan moment’ of world risk society” is necessarily the best alternative to the problems of climate or terrorism that threaten our future. Take, for example, the cosmopolitan anticipation of the always imminent threat of global terrorism, Islamic or otherwise, which has generated the development of the largest transnational infrastructure of surveillance and securitization in world history. Such transnational cooperation has led to the widespread collection of as much communication and transaction data as technically possible, spearheaded by the NSA and Great Britain’s GCHQ, but also supported by the BND in Germany and the DGSI in France, with the aim of preempting potential threats or catastrophes before they happen. But because such preemption is often unsuccessful, we have also witnessed the concomitant development of militarized securitization forces ready to respond immediately to a presumed terrorist attack. My concern here is that the everyday terror of such surveillance and securitization runs the risk of having a far greater negative impact on freedom and safety than the threats they are designed to counteract or preempt. Rather than dismiss cultural criticism for failing to keep up with these new global social formations, there is a role for the study of culture in resisting the abuses and overreaching of security and surveillance.

To put it differently, I would agree with Beck that there is no future for the study of culture if such study does not take as one of its foremost tasks the resistance to the forces of neoliberalism and austerity that threaten the very existence of the academy as we have come to know it. But this resistance cannot simply be a defense of reproductive futurism, of the institutional reproduction of the academic study of culture as it has existed for the past century and more. There is still, I would argue, pace Beck, Latour, and others, a role for critique in the study of culture, but that role must include taking on not only the discourse of humans but the mediations of nonhumans, technical and otherwise. While we are well on our way to doing just that, to breaking down the traditional barriers between humanistic and non-humanistic disciplines within the walls of the academy, we must at the same time defend the walls of the academy against the barbarians at the gate, the incursions of globalization and securitization brought about to protect us from the threats posed by climate and terrorism. While these threats are very real, and I would not in any way want to diminish them, I want also to challenge the way that these threats have been used as an occasion to strengthen and reinforce the control of global capitalism and militarized securitization over individuals and societies as well as academic institutions. More than twenty years of climate change summits have done little or nothing to reform or dismantle the economic structures of industrial and post-industrial global capitalism that have brought us the environmental and geopolitical catastrophes that we are now facing.

Indeed we can see in the emergent paradigm of “resilience” the acceptance of catastrophic change and the determination to create contingency plans to increase the chances that our economic and political institutions will survive in the face of environmental disaster. Barack Obama’s historic “Climate Action Plan” of June 2013 was celebrated for being the first official acknowledgment by the US government that global warming has been scientifically proven to be real. But what I found most telling about this plan was not its commitment to cut carbon pollution in America but its recognition that no matter what changes might be able to be made, America (and by extension the world) must act now to prepare itself for the impacts of dramatic climate change by increasing the resilience of infrastructure, buildings, and communities, as well as economic and natural resources. Nowhere does the question of reducing production or commodification or development ever come into the equation, but only the question of developing new technologies that might reduce environmental damage in order to allow capitalism to continue unchecked. In other words, the significance of Obama’s “Climate Action Plan” was less its commitment to reverse or even to end global warming than its commitment to prepare the United States to deal with catastrophic environmental change by increasing its “resilience.”

Similarly, the paradigm of resilience is also at the heart of counter-terrorism planning. Despite the declared goal of using total data surveillance to preempt terrorist attacks a la the pre-crime unit in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, the collection and mining of data and the unprecedented proliferation of hyper-militarized homeland security police forces is designed mainly to insure that communities and institutions will be resilient in the wake of inevitable acts of terrorism. For like Obama’s “Climate Action Plan,” his and other nations’ plans to defeat terrorism begin with the acknowledgment that terrorism, like climate change, is inevitable, and therefore focus mainly on preparations for surviving these inevitable attacks. In the case of terrorism what this means is an increase in the militarization and securitization of society, evident in the US in the dramatically increased use of military equipment and tactics by local police forces, spurred on by the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997, which was signed into law during the administration of the first President Clinton. While the Obama administration has moved recently to limit such military-style weapons, particularly in the aftermath of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, there has been little change in the degree of militarized police control in the United States, ready to be brought to bear at a moment’s notice, as we have seen in responses to recent shootings in places like the gay nightclub in Orlando or, to bring this issue closer to home, on college campuses.

I want to close by showing a few images from the overwhelming show of militarized police force in response to the June 1, 2016, murder-suicide at UCLA, as a way of underscoring my concern that securitization is as much or more to be feared than the acts of criminal violence that are lumped under the rubric of “terrorism.” For those of you not familiar with this event, at around 10:00 AM police received the first of several 911 emergency calls reporting three shots fired and possible victims. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The shooting prompted a massive response from local and federal law enforcement. Police officers in riot gear ran across campus, guns and battering rams drawn, while students exited buildings with their hands above their heads.” In addition to shutting down the campus for two hours, police searched every student carrying a backpack, which as we all know means almost every student on campus. In retrospect this response proved to be massively disproportionate to the threat, which ended when the murderer, a former graduate student, killed himself after killing his advisor. Of course, one might argue that because there was no way to know this at the time, it was better for the police to be safe than to be sorry. And this argument makes a certain kind of practical sense. But what I find most troubling about this event is not the murder itself, as tragic as it was, nor the threat of future murders with greater numbers of victims. No, what is most troubling to me is the fact that such a massively militarized law enforcement infrastructure pre-exists and that the authority of the police to take complete control over any public space, including a college campus, is undisputed, particularly when, as was the case in this incident, every student on campus is transformed into a potential suspect.

The metaphorical force of this event was quite powerful. Even in a “free” society like the United States, we live, work, and study on campus at the behest of the forces of securitization, and our permission to do so can be revoked at a moment’s notice, and with very little evidence or explanation. Or to put this in terms of the language of this symposium, there is no future for the study of culture that is not free from the authority of militarized securitization and global capitalism, which means that unless we are vigilant in exposing and resisting these forces there may be no futures for the study of culture at all.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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Open Letter to UWM Chancellor Mark Mone

Dear Chancellor Mone,

I write this open letter to you as an expression of the outrage I share with many members of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee community that Greta van Susteren will be hosting a “town hall event” with Donald Trump for a special edition of “On the Record,” Sunday, April 3, at UWM’s Mainstage Theatre. I urge you to reconsider your decision to lease our public university facilities to Fox News for what is essentially a Trump campaign event.

In making public resources available for an individual political campaign event, you have given the appearance that the university supports one candidate over another. To feel compelled to note, as you do in your Chancellor’s Update about a “Presidential Candidate on Campus April 3,” that “UWM does not endorse or promote any political candidates,” only serves to acknowledge that your decision to host Trump’s Fox News town hall indeed creates that appearance.

Although you might object that no such complaints were raised when you agreed earlier in the year to host a Democratic Presidential Debate, produced by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), certainly you must recognize that hosting such a debate is very different from hosting a “town hall” for a single candidate of either party. For a public university like UWM to be the site of a national party-sanctioned debate, “broadcast” on public television, is to perform a “public service” meant for a nation-wide audience. When the Democratic debate was held on February 11, Wisconsin’s presidential primary election was still nearly two months away.

But as you know, Trump’s Fox appearance Sunday is only two days away from Wisconsin’s primary. As such it is clearly a Trump campaign event. According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, the UWM “town hall” is the first of two Fox-Trump campaign events in Milwaukee: “A second town hall hosted by the Fox News Channel and featuring Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will be at downtown Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater and facilitated by national conservative talk radio and television host Sean Hannity on April 4 at 5 p.m.”

It is unseemly for a public university, which claims to be committed to building bridges among all of the diverse constituents of the Milwaukee community, to be lending its reputational capital to a presidential campaign devoted to walling out or imprisoning those who would displease, threaten, or oppose it. The racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and fascist ideas and policies that Trump has expressed during his campaign are antithetical to the cultural and political values on which the University of Wisconsin in general and UW-Milwaukee in particular are founded.

All UWM community members who oppose Trump’s poisonous values have a right to protest him if he comes to campus. But responsibility for Trump’s presence on campus belongs ultimately to you. You try to justify your decision by appealing to your “commitment to free speech and academic freedom.”  But your decision to lease public university facilities to host a private political media event has nothing to do with freedom of speech and even less with academic freedom.

Without your approval, Donald Trump would not be coming to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sunday. I urge you to act quickly to reverse your decision to lease our public university facilities to decidedly private media and political interests.

In protest,

Richard Grusin
Professor of English

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Facebook, Fear, and Freedom of Expression at UW-Milwaukee

Last Thursday, December 10, I blogged about how, on the previous afternoon, 20-25 UW-Milwaukee students had been locked out from Chapman Hall, the university’s administration building, where they had marched from a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) rally to deliver a list of budgetary demands to UWM Chancellor Mark Mone. Ironically or not, on Friday December 11, the Board of Regents passed a resolution “to reaffirm its commitment and support for the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

As is often the case with such resolutions, however, this one was passed mainly to specify the situations in which free speech could be suppressed, as this paragraph makes clear:

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not mean that members of the university community may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. Consistent with longstanding practice informed by law, institutions within the System may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the university. In addition, the institutions may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt ordinary activities. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with each institution’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

According to the UW Board of Regents, university administrations retain the right to “restrict expression” that is “directly incompatible with the functioning of the university” or that may “disrupt ordinary activities.” In the University of Wisconsin System, business as usual trumps free expression. By the logic of this resolution, locking the doors of the building that houses the offices of the Chancellor and Provost was an exemplary administrative action by UWM.

On December 17, at the final Faculty Senate meeting of the semester, UWM-AAUP President and faculty senator Rachel Buff called out Chancellor Mone about this cowardly (my word) behavior, emphasizing that he had shut out the very students he should be supporting–those who cared enough about the future of the university to want to present their views directly to its chancellor. Not unsurprisingly Buff’s challenge prompted a flurry of defensive maneuvers by members of the upper administration: Chancellor Mone was in Madison at a meeting; Vice-Chancellor Laliberte had met with the students before the rally; Provost Britz was in a budget meeting in the building; and so on.

But the claim on which their lockdown seemed to depend was their fear that as many as 500 students were planning to enter the administration building. Both Chancellor Mone and Vice-Chancellor Van Harpen relayed this intelligence to the Senate in defense of their actions. Amazingly they based this data on the fact that they had noticed that more than 500 people had been invited on the SDS Facebook event page. They were merely being prudent by locking down the administration building against 500 angry students.

Sadly, the UWM administration does not have a clue about how social media works. At the end of 2015 there is not a single Twitter account to be found among Chancellor Mone, Provost Britz, or Vice Chancellors Van Harpen, Laliberte, or Luljak (although the UWM communications czar is the only one of the five to have a Facebook page). Perhaps if there were more social media savvy among the UWM administration, someone might have known what anybody who has posted an event on Facebook knows–that inviting 500 people to an event does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that 500 people will come! Indeed there were no more than 50 or so at last week’s SDS rally, and less than half of that number walked over to Chapman Hall.

Just as last June an ironic tweet about “armed insurgence” earned me a visit from two UWM police, so inviting 500 people to an event on Facebook prompted UWM Chancellor Mone and his cabinet to lock down Chapman Hall. As harmful as the actions of this administration continue to be to the students, faculty, and staff of UWM, actions like this seem as incompetent as they do malicious. In light of this kind of behavior it is difficult not to wonder if Chancellor Mone is in over his head.

Prior to his appointment as Chancellor, Mark Mone’s highest administrative position had been as Associate Dean for Executive Education & Business Engagement at UWM’s Lubar School for Business. With such limited academic administrative experience–never having served as department chair, dean, or provost–it is easy to understand why he shows so little willingness or facility to collaborate with faculty, staff, and students in the face of our current economic crisis. His insecurity and inexperience are also evident in his refusal fully to inform faculty and staff about the details of UWM’s budgetary situation, or in his fear of empowering an elected faculty committee to try to devise a vision or plan for how to go forward in the face of the university’s purported structural deficit.

In an administration-centered university like UWM, students are customers, staff are interchangeable, and faculty make up a faction that needs to be managed and controlled. It is therefore no wonder that a Facebook event inviting 500 people to a rally is a terrifying and incomprehensible enough prospect to lock down Chapman Hall. But perhaps we should look on the bright side. After all, in light of the recent Regents resolution, it would be hard to imagine a clearer expression of the UWM administration’s reaffirmation of its support for “the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression” than locking the doors of Chapman Hall to prevent two dozen students from expressing themselves.

 

 

 

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Locked Out of Chapman Hall; or, Downsizing UW-Milwaukee One Survey at a Time

[NB: Please answer this one-question survey before reading this blog, so that your responses will not be biased. Thank you for your cooperation. For the correct answer, see below.]

In both the formal and informal media, questions have been raised about the quality and effectiveness of UW-Milwaukee’s upper administration. In order to explore the full range of possible opinion, please respond to the following question. You may select more than one answer.

Which of the following terms describe your opinion of the upper administration of UWM?

A. Cowardly

B. Unqualified

C. Dishonest

D. Incompetent

E. All of the above

Thank you for your cooperation. Your input is highly valued!

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I. Locked out of Chapman Hall

On Wednesday, December 9, at 2:30 p.m., UWM Students for a Democratic Society held a small (fewer than 50 people) protest on Spaights Plaza. In addition to SDS student leaders, faculty speaking at the rally included AFT 3535 President Richard Leson, UWM-AAUP President Rachel Buff, and SDS faculty advisor Annie McClanahan.  The rally had been announced on social media roughly 10 days before the Thanksgiving break and was scheduled at this time on this date so that it could culminate with a march to Chapman Hall (home of UWM’s Office of the Chancellor and Office of the Provost), where the Support Team for the Chancellor’s Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team (CCOET) had been scheduled to hold one of its regularly scheduled biweekly meetings at 3:00 pm.

On the way to Chapman Hall at around 3:20, we encountered a tenured UWM faculty member who had gone over to attend the open meeting on behalf of his/her department. Here is what that faculty member reported as ensuing upon attempting to enter Chapman Hall to attend the CCOET Support Team meeting:

I was able to open the back door, where I was immediately confronted by two security officers (one blocking the door, and one a few paces behind him in the corridor).  The second officer  asked me in a challenging tone, “Do you have business  here?” I replied yes, that I was there to attend the CCOET meeting. She responded, “The budget meeting has been cancelled. There’s nobody up there. You should follow the other gentleman who just left and go.” (I did vaguely notice someone walking away from the building as I was approaching.) I replied, “The meeting has been cancelled?” And the first security office stated that yes, the meeting was cancelled due to “possible activities that might occur associated with the protests taking place” (as best as I can remember the exact procedurese).

So I left, noticing as I did that there was a UWM patrol car waiting to the east on Hartford, and a police or security officer in front of Enderis Hall observing from across the parking lot and speaking into a shoulder radio.

When a group of 20 or so students, faculty, and staff arrived at Chapman Hall just before 3:30 (full disclosure: I was one of that group) we found UWM police officers stationed in the parking lot and around the buildings, along with members of UWM student services stationed on the sidewalk in case they were needed.  When student leaders tried to enter Chapman Hall, they found that the doors to the University’s administration building had been locked.  After knocking a few times, and trying various student and staff IDs on the security swipe unit outside the door, the protest disbanded and people went back to their daily lives, literally and metaphorically locked out of and by the administration of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

II. Downsizing by Survey

When I returned to my office, I found an email from the Secretary of the University to the UWM faculty list, with the subject “Faculty Survey for Academic Reorganization.” The email was coincidentally (?) time-stamped at 2:17 that afternoon, 13 minutes before the announced start of the UWM SDS protest rally.  The message read:

Dear Faculty member,

During the listening sessions and in subsequent discussions, CCOET has received a number of suggestions for reorganization of academic and administrative units on the campus. These suggestions have been published on the website but, as we continue to discuss options that both strengthen the academic mission of UWM and make economic sense, we are anxious to explore the full range of possibilities.

We are asking you to please take this brief survey by clicking on the link below. If you have additional ideas on how the combination of either academic or administrative units will benefit our mission in the future, please share them with the CCOET committee in this survey. This survey will close on Monday, December 14th.

https://milwaukee.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_7UoTqwZtO4OTAAR

Sincerely,

CCOET Co-Chairs

Ignoring the bizarre capitalization in the salutation and the failure of CCOET Co-Chairs Bob Greenstreet and John Reisel to sign their names to this message, the timing and justification for distributing the survey seem curious.  Acknowledging that CCOET has already published on its website numerous “suggestions for reorganization of academic and administrative units on the campus,” the CCOET co-chairs express that they are “anxious to explore the full range of possibilities,” perhaps because they have not gotten the suggestions they were looking for on their website.

This possibility seems borne out by this very poorly designed survey, which as of this moment is still available online. (A more permanent link to a pdf of the survey is available here: CCOET Faculty Survey)

As UWM Professor Emerita Nancy A. Mathiowetz explained in a December 9 letter to UWM Chancellor Mark Mone, about an online UW System survey distributed to the people of Wisconsin last week, the CCOET survey suffers from the same fundamental flaw of producing a “self-selected sample.” The CCOET survey is aimed at UWM faculty but there is nothing to prevent anyone from inside or outside the university from clicking on the link and responding. Nor is there anything to prevent people from responding multiple times.  Such a major flaw makes it impossible to draw any reasonable conclusions from its results.

Perhaps to try to weed out responses from the wrong population, the survey begins by asking respondents to select their Academic unit/department affiliation. Unfortunately this allows individual opinions to be correlated to specific units; and because some units have only a handful of faculty members, this identification runs the risk of identifying the opinions of individual responders. Perhaps the presumed reason is to allow the CCOET co-chairs to correct for bias or for people advocating selfishly for their own interest. But given that the survey also asks for answers based upon one’s professional expertise in later questions, this seems problematic—especially in that it would imagines expertise in terms of self-interest rather than collective interest.

After listing UWM’s 14 schools and colleges, the first question asks, “In your opinion, what is the ideal number of schools/colleges for UWM to have?” This is a preposterous question, which provides no real context or content about these 14 schools and colleges, such as relative size, budget, and organization. Furthermore it is absolutely meaningless, if not fundamentally insulting, to ask about the IDEAL number of schools and colleges in the face of our radically less than ideal situation, what Chancellor Mone described in founding CCOET UWM’s “precarious fiscal situation.” When does CCOET, or the Chancellor, imagine we will be in an IDEAL situation?

The next question similarly provides little context or content, asking “Would your current unit/department benefit from enhanced formal or informal instructional or research collaborations with other units (unit = other schools or colleges)?” What kind of benefit does the question refer to? What would “enhanced” collaborations mean? “Enhanced” with financial incentive? What would be the teaching, research, or service conditions under which “formal or informal instructional or research collaborations” would be enhanced?  How can anyone provide an informed answer to such a vague and uninformed question?

Finally, the survey asks, employing the passive voice habitually used by administrators and others in power to conceal their agency and erase their responsibility, “Should a reorganization take place affecting your Unit/Department, which (if any) Units/Departments should be grouped together with you? (see list below) Note: You may select more than one.”

What is this question asking?  It is almost incoherent, with no meaningful context, made all the more so by the implicit threat and likely fear and uncertainty created by asking people to contemplate their unit/department being reorganized or merged with others.  The uncertainty and precarity of the current situation of being a faculty member at UWM is only heightened by the ambiguity of the final “you,” which could undoubtedly mean either the “individual you” or the “collective you” (your department or unit). Is this asking which of your colleagues you would like to be grouped with should a reorganization take place affecting your unit or department? Or is it asking which units or departments could be usefully or positively combined?  It is impossible to know.

Just like the previous question about enhanced collaboration, the complete absence of context or content makes any responses to this question totally meaningless. For example, faculty in some schools have higher teaching loads than others—who would willingly choose to be grouped with such a department without knowing if it would impact teaching loads, research support, service expectations, degree of self-governance and control over curriculum?  Indeed the only thing certain about this question, and the survey itself, is that it is certain to intensify the unease and anxiety that is widespread among UWM faculty about the impending decisions by the Chancellor and his hand-picked team about how to deal with the $15 or $20 or $30 million “structural deficit” with which we are being terrorized.

If the aim of this survey was to remind faculty that their role in this process is primarily as anonymous respondents to incompetent surveys or anonymous commenters on the CCOET website, or to worsen the already gloomy and downright funereal mood of faculty on campus, congratulations Chancellor Mone and your appointed CCOET co-chairs! You have accomplished your goals!

III. Correct Answer to the Above Survey

As I have been urging for nearly a year on this blog and on formal and informal media, the correct answer to this survey is that UW-Milwaukee faculty must immediately and without qualification take back their university from its Republican-appointed managers. The UWM Faculty Senate should immediately demand that the Chancellor disband CCOET and activate the statutory Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergency, so that an elected faculty committee, not a hand-picked team of administrators and administrator wannabes, can determine the true state of UWM’s financial condition and devise the best way forward for the faculty, staff, and students of the university–not for its administration. In addition the Faculty Senate, as well as all campus governance groups, should issue immediate statements of no confidence in our chancellor. Failing this, we will all continue to be locked out of Chapman Hall, and the administrative takeover of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will be a fait accompli in all but name.

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To Contemplate Is Not To Declare–One Last Time With Feeling

On the afternoon of Friday, November 19, UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone sent an “update” to the all-UWM email list, with the subject “CCOET Work and Next Steps.”  This email was clearly written to address a number of concerns that I, and others, have expressed about his failure to comply with UWM policies and procedures, which require the election (and subsequent activation by the Chancellor) of a faculty consultative committee in the event that the declaration of a financial emergency is being contemplated.

Chancellor Mone’s refusal to activate such a committee relies upon his insistence that he is not at this time “declaring a financial emergency, as emphasized in the following paragraph, which repeats a variant of the verb “declare” four times:

There is no current plan to request that the Board of Regents declare a financial emergency for UWM. Such a declaration would be extraordinary in the UW System’s history and is only necessary if and when we would anticipate laying off faculty. It is not merely informational or synonymous with announcing our budget situation to be serious. Thus, the work of various individuals and groups, including CCOET, is focused on avoiding the need to declare a financial emergency.  It is too soon in our budget planning process to know with certainty whether such layoffs will be necessary, and every effort is being made to minimize layoffs of all employees. If declaring such an emergency were to become necessary, we would work directly with shared governance and the Board of Regents per UWM policy and UW System regulations. (“CCOET Work and Next Steps”)

Unfortunately for Chancellor Mone UWM’s policies and procedures are crystal clear on this question; it is not the declaration of financial emergency that requires the formation of a faculty consultative committee, but its contemplation :

In the event that a declaration of financial emergency is contemplated, the Chancellor shall notify the Faculty Senate Rules Committee. The Rules Committee thereupon calls for nominations as the first order of business at the next meeting of the Senate or Faculty. Immediately thereafter, the members are elected by the faculty in a mail ballot in accordance with the provisions of 1.01. As soon as the full membership composed of designated and elected members has been constituted, the Chancellor shall activate the Committee for consultation and advice as provided in UWS 5.05.  (A2.4, UWM Policies and Procedures).

It is difficult to read Chancellor Mone’s claim that CCOET “is focused on avoiding the need to declare a financial emergency” as anything but its (and by extension his) contemplation of declaring financial emergency. How could one “avoid the need of declaring a financial emergency” without contemplating such a declaration?  Only by failing (or perhaps refusing) to understand the difference between contemplation and declaration, can Chancellor Mone continue to insist that he is operating within UWM’s policies and procedures.

Although as an English professor I often warn my students not to rely too heavily on dictionary definitions in their papers, I think it would be useful here to cite the definitions of “declare” and “contemplate,” so that Chancellor Mone might understand the intent of UWM’s policies and procedures. As Webster was fond of saying, to declare is “to make known formally, officially, or explicitly”; while to contemplate is “to view or consider with continued attention.” UWM’s policies and procedures do not, as Chancellor Mone seems to think they do, require him “to make known formally, officially, or explicitly” his intent to request a declaration of financial emergency  in order to activate the Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies. Rather they require only that he “view or consider with continued attention” the declaration of such an emergency, which the above paragraph, with its fourfold denial of his intent to “declare” a financial emergency,” clearly demonstrates him to be doing.

Spin it how you will, but “contemplation” does not mean “declaration.” Although Chancellor Mone might wish otherwise, UWM policies and procedures are absolutely clear. In the event that the Chancellor is contemplating the declaration of financial emergency, Section A2.4 of UWM’s policies and procedures explicitly mandate him to activate a duly elected faculty committee for the purpose of consultation and advice. It is impossible not to see his continued consideration of how to avoid such an emergency being declared as anything but its contemplation.  I call upon Chancellor Mone to activate immediately such a committee.  Failing that, I urge UWM’s elected Faculty Senate to fulfill its official responsibilities and pass a resolution requiring the Chancellor to adhere to the policies and procedures under which UWM is supposed to be governed.

 

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Will UW-Milwaukee Become A Research University in Name Only?

On November 17, UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone sent an email to the entire UWM community in an attempt to quash a rumor that he was working with the UW System and the Board of Regents to transform UWM from a doctoral research to a comprehensive university, i.e., one which is not accredited to offer doctoral degrees and in which faculty are predominantly teachers rather than scholars and researchers. That same day, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Karen Herzog amplified the Chancellor’s message for the Milwaukee-area and statewide public in an online article that would be published in the November 18 print edition.

It was reassuring to read Chancellor Mone’s insistence that UWM’s mission “to serve as one of two UW System doctoral-granting research universities. . . . has not changed and there are no plans to change it.” Encouraging, too, were his assertions that “UWM is the state’s only public urban research university, which is absolutely essential to the future of our region and state,” and that “Our current and future decisions and planning will continue to be guided by UWM as a research university.”

But when he goes on to explain that UWM’s status as a doctoral university “is affirmed in the Doctoral Cluster Mission Statement, which provides that UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee share a core mission that includes organized programs of research,” methinks the chancellor doth protest too much. One could never, for example, imagine UW-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank having to defend her university’s research mission by appealing to the mission statement of the UW System’s Doctoral Cluster. UW-Madison’s robust support for research speaks for itself.

Chancellor Mone flatly denies, however, that anyone is considering turning UWM into a “comprehensive university.”  “There has been some misinformation circulating that the UWS Board of Regents is considering changing UWM’s mission to become a comprehensive university. This is false. I’ve spoken to UWS President Ray Cross and a change in our status as a research university is not being considered.” Given that, not too long ago, Chancellor Blank herself had to backtrack from spoken reassurances she had received from Cross about Madison’s freedom to write its own tenure regulations, is there any reason not to believe that Chancellor Mone might in the foreseeable future have to do the same?  And when President Cross is invoked to deny that any change in UWM’s mission is being considered, how can we not remember the pledge he made in an open forum at UWM earlier this year (a pledge which in the eyes of many he failed to honor), to resign as System president if he did not obtain substantial reductions in the proposed State budget cuts and preserve tenure and shared governance?

But in the final analysis the real concern among UWM faculty, researchers, and graduate students is not that UWM will lose its official System designation as a doctoral research institution. People are more dramatically worried about the severe changes being floated by CCOET, an extra-governmental “Organization & Efficiency Team”initiated by the Chancellor to deal with the projected $30 million “structural deficit.  These changes, and the process itself, threaten ultimately to circumvent the faculty’s statutory authority, ignoring its expertise and diminishing the research mission of UWM.

When, for example, PhD-granting departments like English (and I presume others) are so chronically underfunded that they cannot offer their faculty even one fully supported research trip a year; when graduate assistants are paid several thousand dollars a year less than their peers, and will remain under-compensated even if a proposed salary increase goes into effect; when funding for internationally recognized research centers like the Center for 21st Century Studies and internal research awards like the Research Growth Initiative has been dramatically reduced; when CCOET is floating the idea of raising the teaching load of UWM’s research faculty above national norms, and basing their proposals upon color-coded graphics with round numbers but no specific details: these are the actions and ideas that are causing “distress and anxiety” about the future of UW-Milwaukee as a vital, successful public urban research university.

The research mission of a university is defined by what it does, not by how it is characterized to the public.  Thus it is not what Chancellor Mone says in an email or to the press about the university’s research mission, but what he does about it on campus, that will truly determine whether the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee can continue to be the high-quality public urban research university that it once was.

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Has UW-Milwaukee’s Administration Circumvented Wisconsin State Law?

ABSTRACT. Wisconsin Statutes and UW-Milwaukee Policies and Procedures prescribe detailed, specific conditions and steps to be taken for a UW campus to contemplate financial emergency, including vesting the faculty of any such campus with the authority to review the institution’s financial situation and to make a recommendation to the Chancellor about whether to seek a declaration of financial emergency from the Board of Regents. UWM Chancellor Mark Mone, Provost Johannes Britz, and Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen have sponsored an extra-governmental Campus Organization & Efficiency Team (CCOET) to avoid declaring financial emergency. Because CCOET circumvents both Wisconsin Statutes and UWM Policies and Procedures by removing faculty from the process of considering financial emergency, Chancellor Mone should immediately disband his Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team. If he fails to do so, then it is incumbent upon the faculty of UWM to consider seriously the declaration of a lack of confidence in Chancellor Mone and his administration.

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On Wednesday, November 11, I attended (for the first time) a meeting of UWM Chancellor Mark Mone’s “Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team” (CCOET). What this meeting made crystal clear to me is that this ad hoc committee (or “team”) is arguably illegal, and perhaps explicitly and consciously designed to make an end run around campus governance bodies and State of Wisconsin administrative law. At the very least, we must ask the question: Does CCOET represent the efforts of Chancellor Mone’s administration to circumvent the lawful procedures written into state law for the “contemplation” of a “financial emergency,” as prescribed in Chapter 5 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code for the University of Wisconsin System?

Let me explain.

The meeting began with a motion to centralize all replacement hiring for the next two years in the Chancellor’s (or more accurately, Provost’s) office. After being amended both to include positions made vacant through “termination” and, in response to AAUP objections raised by Rachel Buff, to involve faculty governance in the approval of any new hires under this centralization, the motion was unanimously passed. Next, a motion recommended by Provost Britz to freeze “carry-forwards” for use by central administration was tabled for further clarification. The remainder of the meeting was largely spent in a discussion led by Math Department Chair and CCOET “Support Team” Co-Chair Kyle Swanson, on two budget models he had developed to arrive at more than $20 million in continuing budget cuts needed to remediate UWM’s $30 million “structural deficit.” Because more than 85% of UWM’s budget is in personnel, and because the non-personnel components of the budget have been cut to the bone and beyond over three biennia of cuts from the state of Wisconsin, the models discussed at the November 11 meeting focused on how much money each academic and non-academic unit would need to cut from its payroll to erase UWM’s structural deficit. The consequences of such cuts, as explicitly and implicitly discussed in yesterday’s meeting, would constitute a financial emergency in all but name.

Procedures for the “contemplation” of financial emergency are laid out in the regulations for the University of Wisconsin System, as published in Wisconsin Statute 35.93, “Wisconsin administrative code and register.” Chapter 5 of the UW System regulations, “Layoff and Termination for Reasons of Financial Emergency,” both defines “financial emergency” and lays out the procedures for “contemplating” a declaration of financial emergency and then for recommending it to the UW System President and Board of Regents. First the definition:

For the purposes of this chapter, “financial emergency” is a state which may be declared by the board to exist for an institution if and only if the board finds that the following conditions exist:

(a) The total general program operations (GPR/fee) budget of the institution, excluding adjustments for salary/wage increases and for inflationary impact on nonsalary budgets, has been reduced;

(b) Institutional operation within this reduced budget requires a reduction in the number of faculty positions such that tenured faculty must be laid off, or probationary faculty must be laid off prior to the end of their respective appointments. Such a reduction in faculty positions shall be deemed required only if in the board’s judgment it will have an effect substantially less detrimental to the institution’s ability to fulfill its mission than would other forms of budgetary curtailment available to the institution; and

(c) The procedures described in ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06 have been followed. [UWS 5.02]

Note that, based upon the discussion at the November 11 CCOET meeting, the two substantive conditions for financial emergency to be declared are clearly in place at UWM: the total budget of the institution has been dramatically reduced to the point where the only way to operate “within this reduced budget” would require “a reduction in the number of faculty [and other] positions such that tenured faculty must be laid off, or probationary faculty must be laid off prior to the end of their respective appointments.”

Because these regulations are designed to lay out the conditions that would allow the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency at any UW campus, they also provide the procedures that any campus must follow in seeking such a declaration, which are described in ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06. UWS 5.05 specifies that the very “contemplation” of financial emergency requires “the chancellor of the affected institution [to] consult with and seek advice from the faculty committee provided for in s. UWS 5.04.” UWS 5.04 stipulates:

It is the right and responsibility of this [faculty consultative] committee to represent the faculty before the board if a declaration of a state of financial emergency for the institution is being considered, and to assure that the procedures of ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06 are followed.

And UWS 5.05 explicitly states:

It shall be the primary responsibility of the faculty of the institution to establish criteria to be used by the chancellor and committee for academic program evaluations and priorities. A decision to curtail or discontinue an academic program for reasons of financial emergency shall be made in accordance with the best interests of students and the overall ability of the institution to fulfill its mission.

So, given that CCOET has been discussing the need to terminate faculty and other positions, or to “curtail or discontinue” colleges, schools, and programs to meet the challenges posed by UWM’s reduced budget, it is difficult not to see its formation as the “contemplation” of financial emergency as defined above, and thus to see the Chancellor as failing to follow statutorily prescribed regulations.

This conclusion is further reinforced if we review the administration’s rationale for creating CCOET. In an email sent on September 11, 2015, to the “students, faculty, and staff,” Chancellor Mone announced the formation of his new team and the rationale for its existence:

UWM is facing severe fiscal constraints due to unprecedented circumstances, including four consecutive biennial budget cuts and several factors that created a $30 million structural deficit over the last decade. Consequently, there is an urgent need to devise strategies that will enable us to swiftly and effectively respond. Based on feedback from many sources, including students, governance groups, deans, alumni, and the Budget Planning Task Force, CCOET is being formed to conduct a comprehensive review of our campus. CCOET will develop recommendations for large-scale actions that will address our substantial fiscal challenges and strategic goals.

As this message also sets out, CCOET has been sponsored by Chancellor Mone, Provost Britz, and Vice Chancellor Van Harpen, in order to address the first of the conditions required for the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency: the “severe financial constraints” brought about by “four consecutive biennial budget cuts.” The language of this message, and of the committee’s purpose and charge is careful not to mention explicitly the termination of tenured or probationary faculty positions. Nonetheless such termination is clearly an implicit consequence of its charge to “Develop recommendations for consolidating organizational units, potentially including combining schools and colleges; deleting functions; shrinking the size of departments, offices, and activities.” Given that these are the two substantive conditions necessary for the Board of Regents to declare financial emergency, it is impossible not to see CCOET as being charged with contemplating actions that are possible only if a financial emergency has been declared. Because the Wisconsin Administrative Code requires the formation of a faculty committee in the event that an institution even contemplates a financial emergency, it would be difficult for a reasonable person not to see CCOET as circumventing state statute.

In accordance with the Wisconsin Administrative Code governing the UW System, UW-Milwaukee has since 1980 had in place well-established policies and procedures for a “faculty consultative committee” to address the contemplation of financial emergencies. Unfortunately, Chancellor Mone has refused to follow UWM policies and procedures to empower the faculty to exercise its rights and responsibilities in a situation involving the contemplation of financial emergency. I will let others speculate upon the Chancellor’s motivations for choosing instead to appoint a hand-picked, administrative-heavy ad hoc “team” to make recommendations on how to deal with the “severe financial constraints” resulting from, among other things, “four consecutive biennial budget cuts.” No matter his motivations, however, clearly one effect of establishing CCOET is to further strengthen managerial/administrative control over the university, particularly the academic side. There will undoubtedly be other effects as well.

To demonstrate further that Chancellor Mone has intentionally, or out of ignorance, circumvented Wisconsin Statutes and UWM Policies and Procedures, I want to turn to an email correspondence which I initiated with him, and which I then shared with Distinguished Professor of History Margo Anderson. The sequence of emails began with my suggestion on November 3 that, in advance of his upcoming November 9 Campus Budget Meeting, Chancellor Mone should release to the UWM community the specific, detailed revenue figures on which he has based his claim that the campus’s anticipated expenditures exceed its revenues by $30 million, constituting what he calls a “structural deficit.” After he replied that such materials would still not be ready ahead of that meeting, I forwarded him a blog post written by Professor Anderson, in which she cites UW-Madison’s AAUP-influenced governance procedures in the event of a consideration of financial emergency, closing with a more detailed request for specific budgetary information:

So, here at UWM, how about we produce those “five years of audited financial statements, current and following-year budgets, and detailed cash-flow estimates for future years as well as detailed program, department, and administrative-unit budgets” and then we can get down to work.

On November 6 I received a response from Chancellor Mone, which I forwarded to Professor Anderson:

I’d point out that Margo’s call for more information is based on the presumption that we have declared financial exigency, which we have not. And, I hope that we do not have to go down that path which is why I’ve asked for CCOET to engage the campus in developing recommendations to help prevent that.

Professor Anderson quickly responded that Chancellor Mone fails to understand the relationship between “declaring” and “contemplating” financial emergency (here called exigency), and therefore (willfully or through ignorance) he has circumvented the policy requirements of UW-Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin Administrative code. Anderson wrote:

The procedures require that the Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies be constituted if “at any time a declaration of financial emergency is to be considered.” Note that obviously means before such an emergency is declared, and in fact implies that the committee would consider whether to recommend such a declaration.

Since reports from CCOET clearly document that individuals have asked the question about whether a fiscal emergency is possible, so that committee is already “considering” the issue. I think we all need to heed the procedures we have long had on these matters.

Despite Professor Anderson’s clear explanation that even the consideration of financial emergency should go through the statutorily established Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies, Chancellor Mone continued to misunderstand that the power to “declare” financial emergency is not in his hands, but belongs to the Board of Regents. In response to her email he offered “two thoughts”:

First, CCOET is discussing everything with no specific recommendations to me at this point; the context of this group mentioning financial exigency is to point out that that is a possibility if we do not address our structural imbalance in the next 1.5-2 years. A central goal of CCOET is to go beyond the budget cuts identified for FY16 and FY17 by the BPTF to prevent us from having to declare financial exigency—but that is all a ways off.

Second, while we cannot say definitively what the future will bring, it is my priority to avoid financial exigency at all costs. I don’t think it is out of CCOET’s “jurisdiction” to consider the ramifications, but if they did make such a recommendation in February, all of the required processes that you point out would be followed.

As his “two thoughts” make clear, Chancellor Mone’s reason for sponsoring (along with Provost Britz and Vice Chancellor Van Harpen) a hand-picked, administrative-heavy ad hoc “team” to address UWM’s “severe financial constraints” is that he wants to avoid a declaration of financial exigency (or emergency) “at all costs.” But the point of the State of Wisconsin Administrative Code and UWM’s Policies and Procedures is that the criteria by which to contemplate financial emergency belong not to the Chancellor, or the Provost, or the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administrative Affairs (or to an appointed “team” sponsored by them), but to the faculty: ”It shall be the primary responsibility of the faculty of the institution to establish criteria to be used by the chancellor and committee for academic program evaluations and priorities.” If one wants, as Chancellor Mone clearly does, “to avoid financial exigency at all costs,” then his reasons not to refer the recommendation to a faculty committee, but to hand-pick a sympathetic committee with only a minority of non-administrative faculty members, become patently obvious.

Whether through deliberate, conscious intent, or through simple ignorance of UWM’s Policies and Procedures and the regulations of the UW System as legislated by the State of Wisconsin Administrative Code, UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone (with the cooperation of Provost Johannes Britz and Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen) has put in place a procedure that is at the very least extra-legal and which violates his own campus’s established Policies and Procedures.

In light of this circumvention of both Wisconsin law and UWM policies and procedures, Chancellor Mone should immediately disband his Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team. In its stead he needs to authorize the UWM Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies, providing them with whatever budgetary data they require to make a recommendation on whether to request the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency for UW-Milwaukee. If he fails to do so, then it is incumbent upon the faculty of UWM to consider seriously the declaration of a lack of confidence in Chancellor Mone and his administration.

[NB: The initial version of this blog entry had misrepresented the results of the motion to centralize hiring at the November 11 CCOET meeting, leaving out the successful AAUP-sponsored amendment. The current description is to the best of my recollection accurate.]

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