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.

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About rgrusin

I am an Academic Entrepreneur and Professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
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5 Responses to Locked Out of Chapman Hall; or, Downsizing UW-Milwaukee One Survey at a Time

  1. Robin Pickering-Iazzi says:

    Thanks, Richard, for making some sense out of the letter and survey, which were incomprehensible to me. Robin

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