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.



About rgrusin

I am an Academic Entrepreneur and Professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
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1 Response to To Contemplate Is Not To Declare–One Last Time With Feeling

  1. Pingback: Facebook, Fear, and Freedom of Expression at UW-Milwaukee | Ragman's Circles

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