- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) - University of Wisconsin System regents voted unanimously Friday to add faculty tenure protections to its policies as legislators consider dropping those assurances from Wisconsin statutes.

“This resolution we are passing does what we can do,” Regent Mark Bradley said during a board meeting at UW-Milwaukee. “It doesn’t address what only the Legislature can address. What we’re doing is what we’re able to do, and that is to affect our policy.”

The vote sends a message that regents don’t believe they can change the course the Republican-controlled Legislature has set, so they are moving on to protect tenure and academic freedom through whatever means are within their control, the Journal Sentinel reported (https://bit.ly/1Qx6ZrE ).

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee recently voted to remove tenure from state law as it debated a two-year budget. The committee also added language that gives the UW System and the regents more room to lay off or dismiss tenured faculty. The regents’ policy could not supersede anything in state law.

Tenure offers protection for academic freedom, grounded in a conviction that creating knowledge and expressing ideas should be free from intimidation or retaliation. Critics of the proposal say watering down tenure will hurt the ability of Wisconsin campuses to attract the best and brightest faculty.

The idea behind the GOP plan, first floated in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, is to give the UW System more flexibility to run campuses as it sees fit and have broader ability to hire and fire faculty.

The plan says tenured faculty and indefinite-term staff could be laid off or terminated with proper notice “when deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision regarding program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection.” Currently, universities have to prove “just cause” as a disciplinary matter or a campus-wide financial emergency to take such a step.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com

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