Phi Beta Cons

Are Wisconsin Faculty Like Railroad Brakemen?

Not only did the president of the University of Wisconsin system criticize faculty by warning that they shouldn’t be like union railroad brakemen, but Governor Scott Walker backed him up. President Ray Cross had said in an email in March that to treat faculty tenure as a “job for life” was a “union” argument and compared it to past (successful) efforts to protect union railroad workers, who kept their jobs long after the railroads didn’t need them.

As for Governor Scott Walker,  Inside Higher Ed said:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who pushed for some of the changes in question, along with major budget cuts, seemed to support Cross in a statement Tuesday saying, “The bottom line is [system] funding stands at an all-time high, spending per student at [Madison] is up more than 40 percent since 2002-03, and faculty is spending less time in the classroom. …Some faculty bodies […] appear more interested in protecting outdated ‘job for life’ tenure than about helping students get the best education possible.”

Cross wrote in his email that tenure ”is designed to protect freedom of speech and the right to pursue truth — no matter how unpopular — and then to publish that information without worrying about being dismissed for doing so,” and ”not a guarantor of ‘a job for life.’ The more faculty connect tenure to ‘a job for life’ they do serious damage to the value and purpose of tenure.”

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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