Phi Beta Cons

It’s Warmer Down South

A survey of faculty at the University of Wisconsin reports that if tenure were eliminated, 89 percent of the responders would consider moving out of the state. 

The survey, commissioned by the Wisconsin Public Policy Institute, marks another skirmish in a conflict between the legislature and faculty over tenure. Until recently, Wisconsin was the only state with a statute authorizing public university faculty tenure. The legislature removed it last summer, causing an uproar—even though that action merely put tenure issues into the hands of the Board of Regents as it is in most, if not all, other states.

With a bitter political game going on between a leftist faculty and a conservative legislature (this is Scott Walker’s state), it’s hard to interpret the survey. The response was 22 percent (not that high) and interviews by Inside Higher Ed suggest that some faculty deliberately boycotted it or refused to take some of the questions seriously.

For example, one alternative to tenure is five-year contracts with higher pay. The questionnaire asked what pay increase would induce faculty to agree to such contracts in lieu of tenure. IHE’s Colleen Flaherty reports that:

. . . the median pay increase professors over all [tenured and tenure-track] would accept for a five-year contract in return for giving up tenure was 40 percent, and the mean was 295 percent. For 10-year contracts the median was 25 percent and the mean was 336 percent.…”

The 295 percent and 336 percent figures suggest there were some “strategic answers” designed to foil the findings. Faculty don’t always play fair.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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