Dean's Update: June 2015

To: L&S Administration, Chairs, Directors, Associate Chairs and Department Administrators

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing during a challenging time for all members of the campus community. Like everyone I have spoken with, including top level campus leadership, I am alarmed at the actions of the Joint Finance Committee that affect tenure and shared governance in the University of Wisconsin System and at UW-Madison.

If you have not had a chance to read the Chancellor's statements on this topic, and especially her statement released on Tuesday, please do so. I am confident that the Chancellor understands our frustrations. We collectively understand the issues at stake. The system of higher education in the U.S. remains the envy of the world. Within this system, UW-Madison takes its place as one of the finest public research institutions in the world. To preserve our standing, we need the same tenure protections at UW-Madison as is policy at every other great peer institution. Now, more than ever, this institution and other U.S. institutions of education and government need leaders grounded in ethics, including freedom of speech and inquiry, civility in deliberation, responsible and productive critique and protest, and powerful advocacy.

We are a wonderful public institution in a politically polarized state. This results can yield messy, uncomfortable policymaking. I know many are further angered and hurt by the speed at which these changes have been proposed. The process will need some time to play out, but I am confident in the upcoming work of the University Committee as they appoint a faculty committee to recommend policies to specify when and how we invoke the new authority outlined in Section 39 of the omnibus motion from the Joint Finance Committee. And at the system level, Provost Mangelsdorf is serving on the Regents’ committee on tenure where she will play important role in crafting the policies and practices on tenure.

The college’s next steps:

Many faculty have told me about concerning conversations among their faculty and staff. I am greatly concerned about the negative impact this policymaking has on our faculty and staff colleagues, particularly assistant professors and those coming to campus for the first time this fall. We will continue to do all that we can to work together, to communicate, and help the College of Letters & Science prosper as best we can given the challenges that we face.

To further communication and recognize the critical need to work together, I will host a special listening session on Tuesday, June from 1-2pm in Room 165 Bascom. Please encourage all who might be interested to attend. We will have light refreshments available.

Further, I know there are many ongoing conversations occurring among faculty about offers from other universities. As we always have been, we are committed to working with you on retentions -- do not hesitate to reach out to your divisional associate dean and to speak with faculty members who have concerns.

Every day, I see evidence of great things done by our faculty, staff and students. I hope that over the next weeks and months you will look around and see the depth, the sophistication, the energy, and the possibility that exists here. There are many reasons why I believe Madison will remain one of the most exciting places to undertake critical scholarship and advance knowledge – to live and to teach. There continue to be promising developments in philanthropy, summer budget models, and hiring, tenure and retention decisions. The remarkable people here make me proud to be part of UW-Madison and, despite very difficult current circumstances, optimistic about our future.

On, Wisconsin!

John Karl Scholz, Dean
College of Letters & Science
Professor of Economics

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