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

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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!

——————————————————

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

———————————————————————————————-

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.]

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Is UWM’s Chancellor Mone Fiddling While His University Burns?

About a month ago the UW-Milwaukee community received a save-the-date email for Friday, October 2, 2015, for “the installation of Mark A. Mone as the 9th Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.”  When questions were raised by faculty governance leaders about the optics and economics of spending money on an inauguration ceremony when UWM was in the midst of the worst budget crisis in its history, they were informed that such events were crucial for development purposes and brought in much more money than they cost the university.

Chancellor Mone’s fundraising savvy was in full view on the morning of July 30. In an email sent at 12:30 AM, under the cover of night, Mone announced that “Sheldon and Marianne Lubar are donating $10 million to UWM to establish the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship and UWM Welcome Center,” part of “a $25 million initiative that will leverage support from multiple sources to support facilities, programs and faculty.” At a moment when the ongoing budget crisis throughout the University of Wisconsin System has already begun to lead to programs being closed and faculty and staff being let go, we learn that “the UW System committed $10 million over several years” to construction costs for the project, with another $5 million being sought from wannabe philanthropists.

Although Mone calls the Lubars’ donation for a Center for Entrepreneurship “an extraordinary gift,” it is in actuality the most ordinary large gift one could imagine. If you google the phrase “center for entrepreneurship” you get over 500,000 results. If you remove the quotation marks you get over 55 million results.  And while entrepreneurship centers can be found at top business schools around the US, they can also be found at regional universities, religious schools, and community colleges. There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of such centers across the world. In noting my disappointment in the purpose of the Lubars’ gift I do not mean to question their generosity.  Rather I mean only to express my regret that they were not encouraged to do something truly extraordinary with their generosity, something that did not seem tone deaf to the ongoing fiscal crisis at UWM.

An extraordinary gift might look more like the $100 million donation by John and Tashia Morgridge recently announced by University of Wisconsin-Madison. To my eyes what makes this gift  extraordinary is not its magnitude, but more importantly the fact that “the record-shattering donation is to be used exclusively for recruiting and retaining world-class faculty through endowed chairs and endowed professorships. Some of the money will go toward salaries, but a substantial amount will help launch research of top-flight faculty and hire students to work with them.”  This is a gift framed to acknowledge the budgetary crisis faced by UW-Madison and the rest of the system.

But wait, you might object, the Lubar gift will also build the UWM Welcome Center, which will help UWM bring tuition-paying students to campus. “‘Welcome centers today are really important,’ the chancellor said. ‘They’re the first thing you see on a campus.'” And as all businesses know, customers’ purchasing decisions are largely dependent on their first impressions. But to invest money in a Welcome Center when the university to which prospective students are being welcomed is in the process of being devastated, makes it appear as if the UWM administration is more interested in marketing its brand so that “customers” will “purchase” UWM with their tuition than it is in investing in the quality of the “educational product” that these customers will receive when they enroll as students at UWM.

One day perhaps the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee might receive a truly extraordinary gift, one that would sponsor exceptional undergraduate teachers in the liberal arts and sciences, fund talented graduate students to pursue their degrees without being exploited as over-worked, underpaid labor, or support world-class faculty research in the production of cutting-edge knowledge in traditional and non-traditional fields.

For now, prospective student, welcome to the University of Entrepreneurship at Milwaukee. We don’t invest much money in faculty to teach you or to conduct scholarly research. The infrastructure on campus is failing and the library has no money to buy books. But if you are sold on UWM by your first impression of the Lubar Welcome Center and decide to purchase our educational product, welcome aboard. While on campus, you would be well advised to keep your eyes on UWM’s administrative class, so that some day you may learn the innovative entrepreneurial techniques that will allow you, too, to capitalize on your talents for your own (and perhaps even others’) personal gains.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment