Sunday, December 16, 2012

Barack Obama's Most Important Move: As a Dad

There is a reason he is our president. Barack Obama regained my faith in him tonight.  Here are some of his most important words.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.

I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight....

....We bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change....

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this....

We can’t accept events like this as routine.

Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?...

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.

The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.

We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that...."


Dear Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, and Allison:

Children all over America will remember what you did for us.  Finally moving our leaders to positions of strength.  We will back them.  We will push them. We will not forget.

Much love,

Sara, Liam, Annie, and Conor

Saturday, December 15, 2012

You Are Killing Our Kids

It's impossible to tuck our kids in tonight, seeing the complete and utter excitement in their eyes about their futures (my daughter, age 2, said "I need to eat more foods so I can get tall and be allowed to go on the bus with my brother to school!"), without understanding that it is our responsibility as the adults to DO something to make them safer.  Enough already with the childish fear of the NRA!  The tobacco lobby was once all-powerful too.  Then we woke up and realized cigarettes were killing us all, and we put a stop to it.  Smoking is way down, including among teens.  The tide can turn. It's on us to make it happen.

Wherever there's a powerful lobby there are powerful wealthy backers. The strength of the NRA lies not in the many average fools who think that having guns in their homes makes them safer (tell that to the gun-toting mama whose boy killed her before shooting those 20 children in Connecticut), but in the obscene wealth possessed by the gun manufacturers. Who are these people, and how have they managed to twist the 2nd amendment into some rationale for the right for regular people to bear assault rifles?

I'm far from an expert on this topic, but what I do know is that social movements require individuals that get informed enough to be smart, inspired actors. And since I can't stomach sending my kids off to school even one more day without knowing that I DID SOMETHING to try and make them even a little bit safer, well, I'll take this one on.  And I hope you will too.

The tiniest bit of research tonight led me to learn a few things I had no idea about:

(1) Gun stocks are on the rise.  Smith & Wesson, among other gun manufacturers, is more profitable than ever.  At a growth rate of 10% per year on average, and much higher for the top sellers, business is booming.

(2) The industry is promoting gun use successfully among women and children.  Just like cigarette manufacturers, this mature industry is constantly seeking to expand its market and thus has encouraged an explosion of so-called shooting shows, including for audiences at the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.  The number of "shotgun" and "rifle" badges given to the Boy Scouts of America is up nearly 30 percent in the last decade, and the participation of women in shooting shows has experienced similar growth.

(3) Manufacturers of "high-capacity clips" -- which should remind you of extra-nicotine added cigarettes times 10 -- are major donors to the NRA and hold two board seats.  Why these high volume clips are considered requisite for self-defense is beyond me. What I do know is that each of the 20 six and seven-year-old children in Connecticut was riddled by between 3 and 10 bullets.

Guns and cigarettes go hand in hand.  It took America nearly a century to stand up to tobacco, but it happened.  The time is now for guns. Call it what it is-- profitting on the backs of dead children.   And put a stop to it.  Join us.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Let's Write It Down

"What happens when the gun shoots through you, Mom? Does your heart come out?"

These are not the sorts of questions I expected my 5-year-old son to be asking me on this, the seventh night of Chanukah. What happened to "can I have another piece of chocolate?"

As impossible as it sounds, a young man walked into a school this morning, shoved past a brave principal and school counselor, and did his best to shoot as many young children as possible.  Little boys and girls whose parents had kissed them goodbye after packing their lunch, bundling them up in coats, hats, and mittens, and sending them off to practice their reading and handwriting and maybe do a little art.  Off at work, these parents sat, as my husband and I do every day, thinking of them but mainly unconcerned, knowing that hugs would reconnect the dots at day's end.

Never again.

I spent this afternoon fighting off tears in a faculty meeting, trying not to play out the scenarios that confronted my son's peers in Newtown, Connecticut. Trying not to think about the look on that teacher's face as she was shot while teaching, trying not the hear the screams and wide open mouths of children just hoping it was a game and yelling for mom and wondering where dad was and then falling, falling to the ground---gone forever while sisters and brothers ran in distant halls unable to help....I kept drifting in and out of the meeting, trying to stay engaged while feeling so enraged, such fury, such complete helplessness, shouting it out with a Tweet once in awhile ("end the NRA" cried my fingers valiantly)... no point.

I didn't want Conor to wonder about my sadness tonight, mistaking it for something else. And I never, ever want to hear him again asking for a toy gun.  So I decided to tell him, when his baby sister was out of earshot, what today meant for those kids.  He listened, and said "wow" and seemed to really struggle. "Can I see him, the shooter?" he asked. "Can I watch the video of him doing the shooting?"  No, I said, "there's no video."

"But what happens, Mom, do they just fall down? And they never come back?"

Yes. They never come back.  We just move on. We can't quite bring ourselves to do more. We are too chicken, it seems, to fight with our fellow Americans who mechanically argues for the right to purchase guns without background checks or waiting periods, the right to own high capacity magazines, and the right to own automatic assault weapons.  Even though they make no sense.  Even though our silence can kill our kids.  Even though we know exactly what's right. We just fall down.

I can't take this anymore. My son knew exactly what to do, and he did it.  He said, "We will draw a picture of a gun and then cross it out, Mom.  We will write 'No guns allowed. No bad guys.'  I will tell those guys at school, it's not cool.  Let's do that. Let's write it down."

And he did.  He signed it: "Conor, Annie, Mom, Dad." That's our family. We're lucky enough to still all be here tonight, alive.

God bless America. It's long past time to fix the 2nd Amendment. Let's get it written down.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Choices, Choices, Choices

As expected, the UW Regents moved forward Friday, approving the proposal from the UW-Madison Administration to raise the cap on out-of-state enrollment even though it hadn't been vetted through proper shared governance channels.  The cap was moved from 25% to 27.5%, rather than to 30% as requested.

In typical style, everyone involved acted like this represented the wise, informed choice arrived at through careful decision-making. Of course, we have real choices given the "new normal," a context so normalized at this point that the vast majority of our campus intellectuals can't even see that "normal" is a political agenda.

But as I constantly work to help my students understand, there is always a choice. And the lack of careful thought being paid by the state and its universities to this particular choice could easily come at the expense of Wisconsin residents. Sure, there are other options.  Let's consider the range of possibilities.


1. Unless explicitly noted, each scenario below works with the previously existing 25% cap on OOS to adjust the student body to achieve greater diversity and/or greater revenue for UW-Madison.  You could do the same exercise with 27.5% percent.

2. I illustrate three dimensions of diversity here-- socioeconomic (via %Pell), national geographic (via OOS), and international.  Of course there are others, but not knowing, for example, the % of racial/ethnic minorities within each current category of students I couldn't do the modeling (for example, what % of WI residents at Madison are racial/ethnic minority now?)  It would help if that sort of thing were publicly available.

3. Since the %Pell is a characteristic often recognized in rankings and accountability metrics, I consider it by applying it to Wisconsin residents only. This could be an error-- if, for example, a sizable proportion of Madison's Pell enrollment comes from OOS.  I strongly suspect this isn't the case, however, given that college choices of Pell students tend to be geographically constrained and Pell recipients are more expensive for the university's budget (e.g. because they require more institutional aid).

4. I assume, unless explicitly noted, that MN students count as "residents" when computing the cap since that's the rule.

5. I assume that international students are less expensive than other students because they do not qualify for financial aid.

6. I assume that it is possible to increase the proportion of Pell recipients and international students without diminishing the academic preparedness standards of the institution.  This can be achieved in several ways: (a) Waiving the ACT requirement for all or some students -- for example it could be waived for Wisconsin residents. The ACT is predictive of freshman year GPA and very little else-- it is not a useful assessment of how capable individuals are of succeeding at UW-Madison. (b) Recruiting in low-cost ways in a variety of additional countries, rather than focusing on a single nation or small set of nations with a limited pool.  Anyone rejecting this contention should be asked to provide evidence to the contrary- -rather hard given the many studies showing the sizable pool of high-ability low-income students currently not in college.

Where things stand now

This is approximately the current distribution of UW-Madison students. The percent Pell is slightly off (around 12%) but it has bumped around in minor ways for years. The main points are that (a) %Pell is well below that of our peer institutions (there's a nice paper by Bob Haveman of LaFollette on this), (b) Wisconsin residents are just 63% of the total now, even with the 25% cap, (c) international students are a small fraction of our allowable OOS enrollment, and (d) MN residents are dramatically overrepresented among U.S. students from outside Wisconsin.

Chart 2 shows that under the existing 25% cap, we could increase diversity and raise additional revenue by (a) reducing the percent of OOS students from the U.S. and increasing the representation of international students and (b) reducing the percent of WI residents who don't qualify for the Pell Grant and increasing the percent of students on the Pell grant (which would require some of the revenue from the international students, and a relaxation of our admissions focus on the ACT score).

Chart 3 shows that the previous cap was insufficiently specified to protect a UW-Madison focus on Wisconsin residents, and the new cap doesn't do this either.  The new cap requires 200 additional seats for WI residents but this could be done by expanding overall enrollment-- the proportion WI resident could still decline.  Thus, it would be possible for the % Wisconsin (and the %Pell) to decline below 50%, and the % international to fully replace the % OOS-- if Madison so chose.

Of course, the scenario in Chart 3 isn't likely in the near future-- though it is possible. I think that instead we are moving towards Chart 4 by growing enrollment a bit.  This is a more diverse campus in that it's more international, and national diversity is increased a bit by trading MN students for WI students, and it raises revenue. But it does nothing to increase the socioeconomic diversity of the institution.  (After all, the constituency for that group, I'm told, amounts to me and my friends.)  Heck, why not go for 0% Pell while you're at it, and maximize the heck out of students' dollars?

That would lead you closer to Chart 5-- still allowable under the prior and current caps, as long as overall enrollment grows.  We can let in more MN students, and cut WI representation, and diversify further through more international enrollment.  Nothing really to stop us, especially if we're headed for lots of online classes.

Finally, let me leave you with what I think is fairly close to the optimal scenario. This one does require a change, but it's one that the Regents should like.   If the goal of the cap is to protect seats for WI students, then we should count MN students as the out-of-state students they are. We can keep reciprocity while doing this (though one should ask-- why?). But it requires a change to the cap, since MN -- currently not counted-- would count towards it.  Under this scenario, we could diversify both in terms of U.S. states and internationally, and use the increased revenue to increase socioeconomic diversity by increasing the %Pell.  The current % Wisconsin remains the same. That's a change to the cap that would have made plenty of sense and given Madison administration more wiggle room without endangering enrollment among WI residents.

These are just a handful of options. Each one reflects a different composition of the student body. It is for that reason that any efforts to alter the constraints we face should be fully vetted through shared governance.  Constraints both help and hinder us-- they help us focus in the face of temptation, and when badly specified they prevent us from doing actual and real good.

Before Madison administrators sought changes from the Regents, they should have been required to show their cards-- which of these scenarios are they after?  Why should we imagine they plan to give primary responsibility for these academic decisions to their faculty, staff, and students-- even though it's specified in Chapter 36.09?  After all, remember, they feel they "have no choices."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Enrollment Management at UW-Madison

UW-Madison is bringing a proposal before the UW System Board of Regents this week to change the cap on the percentage of undergraduates from out-of-state from 25 to 30%.

In this post, I'm going to focus on the factual basis for the proposal itself.  I'm not going to speak to the process through which it was brought to the Regents, which I am fairly certain violated shared governance. I'm just going to examine the veracity of statements the UW-Madison Administration has made in support of this proposal using publicly available data.  I think the numbers alone suggest a need for further consideration before any decisions can be made. This motion should be tabled.

In its proposal, Madison makes the following remarks:

1. The UW Admissions Policy counts Minnesota residents -- who receive tuition reciprocity--  in a separate category, and thus they are not counted as either residents or non-residents.  This is uncommon.  It means that the percent of out-of-state students (OOS) cannot be used to fully understand access for Wisconsin residents.  It leaves the general public with the impression that a cap of 25% on OOS means that Wisconsin residents comprise 75% of the institution.  They do not.  At UW-Madison, Wisconsin residents are 63% of the undergraduate enrollment.  

This calculation is especially important when comparing the percentage of OOS in UW System or Madison to the percentage at other institutions.  In repeatedly stating that UW-Madison is "alone in the Big 10" in having a cap on non-resident enrollment, the Administration neglects three facts:
  • Many schools in the Big 10 have alternative options for high- achieving students in the state-- another flagship, or a set of very highly respected private schools.  These help restrict the market of the Big 10 school for out-of-state students, such that a cap isn't needed. In addition, in one case a Big 10 school is private (Northwestern) and in two others, their origins make them defacto private (U. Michigan and Penn State). Those different missions make the comparison irrelevant.
  • When counting only Wisconsin residents as in-state students, the state ranks in the bottom 15 of state public institutions serving in-state residents.  Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina, Washington, Illinois, Ohio, Texas etc-- all have institutions enrolling a higher fraction of in-state students than we do. It cannot be said, then, that Madison is "behind the times" in enrolling out-of-state students.  It is behind-the-times in offering discounted tuition at UW-Madison to students in Minnesota, whose families are wealthier than those in Wisconsin. (Sidenote: Perhaps reciprocity could continue at other UW universities, where OOS enrollment is much lower and MN plays a more important role-- while ending reciprocity at Madison.)
2. This year, the enrollment composition of new freshmen at Madison changed.  According to the proposal, "The unanticipated and increased number of non-resident freshmen choosing to enroll at UW-Madison contributed to UW-Madison’s non-resident enrollment of 25.8%." This suggests that the unanticipated "surprise" was in the yield of non-residents-- specifically, the number of admitted students who chose to attend the university.

Let's take a closer look.  This document shows that this year, the number of applicants to UW-Madison went up by 51 students. The number of admitted students, however, went up by 1,214. In other words, UW-Madison accepted 54.6% of those who applied, up from 50.05% in 2011. Who were the students accepted at so much higher rates? Unsurprisingly, 61% of them were international students.  In other words, UW-Madison saw a 4% growth in the rate of applications among international students, and matched that with a 53% increase in the acceptance rate of those students (it jumped from 26.9 to 41.3%). There's no way that happened by accident-- admissions decisions are made by a thoughtful staff carefully overseen by a team of professionals.  Admissions, unlike yield, can be completely controlled by the institution.  Now, however,  the yield of those international students was 30.6%-- a number that Provost DeLuca apparently found surprising.  This probably because the yield the prior year was 20.5% but that was clearly an off year-- the average yield for international students over the prior nine years was 35.6%!  I'm sure the hard working people in Academic Planning knew better than to base their projections for yield on one year of data.

Therefore, it was clearly the decision to increase the admission rate of international students, and not the "unanticipated and increased number of non-resident freshmen choosing to enroll" that drove up the percent of non-resident students. 

That was the "surprise" in 2012.  Sure, Madison decided to admit more Wisconsin residents, despite a decline in applications, but that was clearly a strategic move to ensure that the cap wasn't further displaced.  The Administration made a calculated decision to go after international students, and now claims that "whoops we hit the cap"-- and asks that the cap be removed.

3. The document then goes on to make the case that OOS students contribute to the learning experience at UW-Madison.  This "diversity" argument relies heavily on the interaction occurring among students  on campus.

Regarding this, two facts should be noted:
  • OOS students attending UW-Madison are much wealthier than Wisconsin residents. This study by scholars at La Follette shows that both Minnesota students and those from other states have average family incomes of around $100,000 (MN) and up-- approaching $130,000 for those from other states. In comparison, the average family income of Wisconsin residents attending UW-Madison is under $80,000.  Such socioeconomic differences are not easily overcome on college campuses, and the documented reality in both research studies and on our own campus is that these students live in different worlds. "Lucky" is a dorm inhabited by the "Coasties" and inaccessible to most Wisconsin students.  Students recruited from out-of-state enjoy family resources and experiences that compel them to seek amenities at UW-Madison which Wisconsin residents simply don't demand (heck, they are saving on tuition compared to their likely private alternatives).  This in turn creates pressure on student fees and creates a "keeping up with the joneses" situation.  It would be helpful to see evidence that diverse socioeconomic interactions on campus and in classrooms are being fostered at Madison before we invest further in bringing more wealthy students-- as opposed to more low-income students-- to campus. 
  • In making its argument, the University seems to treat Minnesota students as if they are just like Wisconsin residents. In fact, they are not, demographically speaking. And they comprise 12% of undergraduates.  If the mix is 63% Wisconsin and 37% non-Wisconsin, is that insufficient geography diversity to ensure good learning experiences?  How much within-Wisconsin geographic diversity is achieved now?
4. The proposal promises to reserve at least 3,500 seats at UW-Madison for Wisconsin residents.  It notes, "Since the number of Wisconsin high school graduates is declining and will continue to
decline over the next several years, the proposal to commit to enrolling 3,500 Wisconsin resident new freshmen by admitting 200 more Wisconsin resident students represents an enrollment of a higher fraction of the high school class than in recent years, and a higher number than the average of the past several years."

Here, are additional facts needed for context.
  • While birth rates are declining, the fraction of students seeking to attend college is rising.  Rates of ACT-test taking are rising (and will go up further as it becomes mandatory) and so are FAFSA completion rates. These factors will eventually grow the Wisconsin resident applications.  There is little evidence of decreased interest in UW-Madison.  Applications and yields are down somewhat among Wisconsin residents, yes, but that decline coincided with the recession and Madison's tuition hike (Madison Initiative for Undergraduates). It cannot be said to be divorced (or necessarily related) to those changes.
  •  UW-Madison is already turning down about 1,000 well-qualified Wisconsin residents each year. This proposal addresses just one-fifth of that need.  It leaves 800 well-qualified students to very likely go out-of-state to college, or "undermatch" in-state. That is a form of brain drain currently not tracked (Madison only reports on where their accepted students go, not where their applicants who are not accepted go-- the latter would give a fuller picture of their enrollment management policy impacts). 
  • There is clear room for improvement in recruiting students to apply to Madison. This report indicates that at UW-Madison "efforts to increase the enrollments of students from smaller Wisconsin communities need continued and sustained focus on recruiting and outreach to high schools in these communities." Other efforts, such as going "test-optional" in acknowledgement of the systematic racial bias present in the ACT and SAT, would also boost the size of the applicant pool, and diversify it-- though it's sure to be met with racially-tinged charges of a "weakened applicant pool."
5. The proposal says that in order to fix the "mistake" of a higher-than-expected yield of out-of-state (international) students, "UW-Madison would have to enroll about 3,700 resident students in the fall new freshman class each year—a number that far exceeds historic levels and that would create additional financial pressures and bottlenecks."

But, the earlier statement said that Madison would commit to 3,500 seats. Are we to believe that 200 additional students are impossible to find and impossible to afford-- and would create "bottlenecks"-- despite the "Educational Innovation" going on around us?

Finally, shouldn't this have occurred to the Administration before it rashly made the decision to dramatically increase acceptances of international students? A decision it never discussed with shared governance bodies?

Caps are put into place by states to provide a balance against institutional behavior that is self-interested.   I wish it weren't needed here. But institutions respond to incentives.  The cap exists to protect Madison from its own rational impulses, requiring it to balance these with the needs of the state. No other check on the revenue-maximizing instincts of the Administration exists. And clearly, this Administration is mainly about maximizing revenue-- not about shared governance, not about access or affordability, and not about transparency.

The Administration claims that even with the cap lifted UW-Madison will not race to hit the 30% mark. I  see little reason to believe this.  Chancellor Ward is leaving campus, and there is no check on what will happen in his absence.  It's clear that the people in power under Biddy Martin are still running the show. Old habits die hard.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shared Governance in UW System

One week ago, a group of concerned faculty, staff, and students organized a forum at UW-Madison to discuss shared governance: what it is, how it's been challenged in the past, and what current risks it's currently facing.  The forum, held at 5 pm on the Monday before Thanksgiving, drew more than fifty people to the Wisconsin Idea Room in the School of Education. Speakers included former chair of the University Committee, Judith Burstyn, Professor Emeritus of History Jim Donnolly, Professor of Political Science Don Downs, David Ahrens of the Wisconsin University Union, and Chad Goldberg, Professor of Sociology.

There was a robust conversation about the precedent set by the famed Spoto case in establishing the importance of joint decision-making in shared governance, a process that in the University of Wisconsin System goes well beyond simply advice and input.  The key takeaway: when faced with an impasse between faculty and administration on an issue over which faculty have primary domain (e.g. academic affairs), both parties must continue to negotiate until an agreement is reached. Until then, no action can be taken by either side.

My sense is that leaders all over campus-- administrators, faculty, staff, and students-- misunderstand this key attribute of shared governance. The buck simply stops without agreement. There is no right to "move on" without compromise.  Simply collecting input, providing information, holding listening sessions, etc, that's all wonderful but also entirely insufficient without explicit agreement.

It's nearly impossible to overstate the importance shared governance to the University of Wisconsin System, to maintaining high academic standards, crafting an engaged body of teaching and learning, and ensuring operations that are high quality and cost-effective.  We have no faculty union -- no collective voice-- while shared governance is a collection therefore of individuals, it is what we have.

I will end with a wonderful talk given by Chad Goldberg during the forum. He's quite the wordsmith, so I'm grateful to him for allowing me to post it in full.

"Current Challenges to Shared Governance at UW-Madison" 
Chad Alan Goldberg
November 19, 2012

"I’ve been asked to speak about current challenges to shared governance. I will talk about two kinds: external challenges, from outside authorities, and an internal challenge, from faculty disengagement. Ultimately, I will suggest, the latter encourages and reinforces the former.

The external challenges, though predating the current HR Redesign Project, have been thrown into stark relief by the Administration’s handling of it.

To be sure, the HRDP has been participatory in a certain sense. The Administration formulated the “Strategic Plan for a New UW-Madison HR System” based on the recommendations of eleven work teams on which many employees served, and it followed up the release of the plan with information sessions at which further feedback was elicited. Notwithstanding the problems that David Ahrens and others have noted, including disproportionate representation of OHR on the teams work teams and dependence on their technical expertise, this attempt to gather input from employees was commendable. I availed myself of some these opportunities, as did many others. However, providing feedback and input is no substitute for shared governance, especially when people must rely on an atomistic and aggregative mode of producing public opinion that demobilizes them.

Furthermore, the language in the “Strategic Plan for a New UW-Madison HR System” was itself problematic. Shared governance was redescribed there as giving “input” and “feedback.” We did not want to see this definition of shared governance fixed in place by the plan and, worse yet, endorsed by the Faculty Senate itself.

We moved to postpone endorsement of the “Strategic Plan” at the November 5th Faculty Senate meeting for two reasons. First, we were asked to vote on a plan before it was finalized. As my colleague Sara Goldrick-Rab put it, this would be like signing off on a master’s thesis before it was finished. Second, we were asked to endorse a plan despite ongoing controversy about and significant resistance to specific changes affecting the job security and wages and compensation of other university employees. Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell’s comments to some of the Faculty Senators calling for postponement were revealing. The Vice Chancellor asked why we were doing this, and he expressed concern that postponement would deprive the faculty of a chance to vote on the plan before it was sent to the Regents. Not only did these remarks reduce shared governance to a plebiscite, they also implied that the plan’s executive sponsors can act unilaterally, without agreement from the faculty.

I see these external challenges to shared governance as part of a broader erosion of the rights of faculty, staff, and students to participate in decision-making on campus. Another instance of this erosion is the evisceration of collective bargaining rights by Act 10. While the Administration cannot be held responsible for Act 10, it can be criticized for its unwillingness to commit itself to a “meet-and-confer” process in the absence of collective bargaining. In addition, current disputes over WISPIRG funding indicate that students are also facing an erosion of their rights. As I understand it, WISPIRG funding requires, in addition to student approval, a contract with the University, which has been signed by previous chancellors in the past. Interim Chancellor David Ward has yet to grant the contract that the Associated Students of Madison requested almost a year ago to keep WISPIRG in existence. His refusal appears to stem from a legal dispute about the process by which student government should identify student needs and act to meet them. Should the Administration prescribe this process on the basis of its interpretation of the relevant statutes? Surely students ought to have the right to determine how best to identify their needs and to decide where their fees go. What do students learn about democratic citizenship when those rights are denied?

Alongside these external challenges to shared governance, the HR Design Project has also underscored an important internal challenge. Insufficient faculty engagement in the HRDP is symptomatic of what, many years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville called individualism: the tendency that “disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellows and to draw apart with his family and his friends, so that after he has thus formed a little circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself.”

Insufficient faculty engagement in the HRDP is a kind of abdication of responsibility for the university’s public affairs—not an abdication by all faculty, and certainly not by the University Committee, but by a significant portion of the faculty and even, I suspect, by some members of the Faculty Senate itself.

There are many reasons for this abdication. Faculty are extremely busy people, which leads to a desire to delegate: let Pushkin do it, where Pushkin in this case is the Administration or OHR or perhaps the UC. The perception that the HRDP affected faculty less than other university employees also no doubt discouraged faculty engagement. And we generally trust the groups to which we seek to delegate such matters. Trust is not a bad thing. As a sociologist, I know institutions and organizations cannot operate without it. Still, it’s worth bearing in mind the old Russian folk saying: trust but verify.

I’m not suggesting that faculty have the time or expertise to design the university’s personnel system ourselves, but we need to be engaged in the process, and not just as individuals but collectively, as a body, through the Faculty Senate.

Why is individualism a problem? Because the alternative, as Tocqueville pointed out, is guardianship and tutelage. Bad guardians use their power to make decisions with which citizens may not agree and which may even be detrimental to their interests. But even in the best case, when benevolent guardians have our best interests at heart, guardianship gradually degrades our capacities to think, feel, and act for ourselves in matters that affect us and for which we have a legal responsibility."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Revised HR Design Plan

The Chancellor just released the revised HR Design plan. Lest anyone wonder "Why did we postpone the vote at Faculty Senate," here's your answer.

The red-lined version of the Plan and the list of changes should be read in full.  But there is clear evidence on the pages as to why a strong pushback at Senate was smart and appropriate.  For example:

p. 4  and 41 Mandatory placement of laid off employees has been restored!

p. 42 Right of return has been restored (for up 30 days)!

p.10 A commitment to using HR to achieve excellence in all disciplines and to emphasize learning is now included

p.25 and 26 Internal equity is now explicitly included as a factor continuing to affect compensation (see Strategic Plan Components #1 and the following paragraph on p. 26)

p. 28 Living wage for contracted employees is officially under consideration again

But the language on shared governance is still too weak. This is ironic given tonight's forum (which I'll write about tomorrow!)  "Advice and input" was replaced with "engagement," and "participation" and "involvement" and "review" which are still incredibly passive terms (e.g. p. 24, 32). I'd prefer to see "joint decision-making authority" and "approval" used instead.  Spoto sets the precedent here-- no changes to faculty compensation should be made without the explicit agreement of BOTH the faculty and the administration.


This is a major improvement on the prior iteration of the plan and it is responsive to nearly all of my recommendations and requests. However, this language, authored by Noah Feinstein, should be added in order to ensure Faculty Senate approval:

"A commitment to shared governance extends to direct participation of governance groups in relevant decision-making. This must include guarantees that any future results and recommendations of the ongoing HR Design process, including especially the title and total compensation study, will be subject to approval by all affected shared governance bodies without which approval they will not proceed."

Scott Walker's Latest Agenda for Wisconsin Higher Education

With a headline like that, I bet you're assuming this is going to be one scathing post! The last time Scott Walker had ideas for Wisconsin public higher education, they involved separating UW-Madison from the rest of System. Or at least, so Biddy Martin told us.

This time, the issue is performance funding for higher education. Walker recently declared his interest in the model, and many people are naturally on the defensive. The common list of concerns is already being circulated (e.g. it will fail to distinguish between institutions with different missions and student bodies, intrude on institutional autonomy, and excuse cuts in regular state funding of higher education), but this is my favorite: Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, a Democrat, said that Walker's plan sounds like "social engineering" that would force students to study "what industry wants" rather than what students want.

Ouch!  Sounds godawful.   But here's the thing-- this is not Walker's idea; it's an old, fairly passe idea, which he seems to have finally gotten around to reading about. (And by the way, most students simply want jobs-- which may be the same thing industry wants. Given the narrow k12 system we're putting them through, we can't be surprised at this outcome.)

The current higher education funding model is built on "butts in seats"-- the more students you enroll, the more money you get, up to a point. In this system, degree completion rates could be 25% or 90% and institutions would still get paid the same. If you believe graduation rates have anything to do with institutional effort, and there's some evidence that they do, this is a problem.  The policy shift from a focus on enrollment to a focus on completion occurred over the last 10 years, and has finally reached Wisconsin.

Is that a good thing? Not entirely. Is it a bad one? Not entirely either.  I've written about the problems with how higher education tends to ignore the college completion challenge; instead of accepting responsibility for completion rates, institutions tend to blame the students. If an 18-year-old freshman drops out of college, it's the student's "fault" but if a 17-year-old junior year in high school drops, it's either the parent or the teacher's "fault." This is an old model, from a time when college enrollment was fairly uncommon and clearly a "choice" rather than an economic necessity embraced by the vast majority of Americans as "required."  We have to catch up.

So let's try taking the focus on completion as a good thing -- AT LEAST FOR STUDENTS-- and worry instead about the devilish details that could screw it up. (Yes, this is a big assumption-- it's not clear the completion agenda is good for students, and it's obviously not always good for educators, but I have to start somewhere!)

(1) The focus on completion must not sacrifice the focus on enrollment.  Sound impossible? Only to educators. In fact, people in the job training realm have thought about this issue for years and managed to craft metrics that encourage programs to both open their doors and do a good job at providing training and access to high quality employment.  The key is crafting metrics to prevent creaming -- the phenomenon that occurs when a college says "Want us to jack the college completion rate? We'll just increase our admissions bar."   If the measure requires the institution to raise completion rater while not changing admissions standards, this can be prevented. Similarly, if you want the completion rates to rise while not locking out in-state students, that must be built in. One option is a variation on "risk-adjusted metrics" or "value-added" metrics though these are currently incredible flawed and should not be simply imported from national initiatives since they still largely fail to distinguish institutional characteristics (and missions) from student inputs (maybe because it's near-impossible given the strong feedback loop between the two).

(2) Process measures should be included to ensure quality is maintained. Colleges can raise graduation rates by simply reducing the number of credits required to graduate and/or making it easier to pass our courses. This isn't desirable, and close attention to these process measures will help. Tennessee and Washington State provide some examples, though I prefer Maryland's far more sophisticated model of reform.

(3) Completion alone is not enough. Coupling the graduation metric with assessments of both learning and job outcomes will help ensure the provision of a well-rounded education leading to both short-term employment and long-term job security. It doesn't help Wisconsin to have its colleges and universities turned into job-training shops that prepare people for the jobs of today -- as demanded by current employers.  We need to prepare people for the jobs of tomorrow and the days after that--we want them to get and keep jobs and have careers-- and research clearly demonstrates that critical thinking skills and the ability to find multiple solutions to problems, the sorts of things that liberal arts education teaches incredibly well, are essential to doing this.  Governor Walker wants a legacy-- and so should focus on that long-term horizon, thinking forward and far to imagining how public higher education can help rebuild the state's economy.

(4) If you want real action, make the measures meaningful.  Study after study shows that implementation is everything-- policy agendas fail if the actors don't buy in. They have to find the metrics meaningful and know how to meet those standards.  Getting buy-in from the workhorses of higher education-- the faculty-- requires avoiding a top-down approach and going with the "Wisconsin local" approach to metric creation.  Again, don't bother with importing metrics from outside initiatives. These may be a useful starting point for local creators, but they are also unproven.   Walker has thousands of bright minds throughout the state capable of building smart metrics. As Tom Friedman recommended in yesterday's New York Times he can help link up faculty and business in an exchange of ideas and good things will result.  With real leadership, business will come to see professors as mostly useful people who are already focused on getting students the skills they need to succeed-- we are simply different in our focus on longer-term skills.  That may indeed be too narrow; some programs will need professors who see business's desire to have people trained in today's requirements. Both can and do have space in Wisconsin higher education, between the technical colleges and UW System.

(5) Tie money to metrics carefully.  Lessons from other states indicate that success has been achieved when performance has resulted in incentive funding-- a lift up-- rather than the reduction in base funding-- a leveling down. One step at a time rather than massive change that leads to marches on the Capital rather than productive action would be a smart way to go.

There is plenty of indication that Wisconsin higher education administrators saw this coming. Locally, David Ward's Year of Innovation at UW-Madison is quite reminiscent of Michael Crow's efforts at Arizona State- a place I suspect Walker finds appealing.  It is less effective thus far than hoped, in my estimation, mainly because it's come across as a top-down effort focused on the bottom line rather than a botton-up excitement among faculty to find new ways to do their current jobs.  (Imagine, what if the Year of Innovation had been pitched as a way to make teaching more enjoyable, flexible, and easier to integrate with research-- rather than more profitable?)

Certainly, it's hard for any thoughtful educator to recommend with a straight face that we embrace ideas stemming from Walker's office.  But the focused effort on completion accompanied by institutional accountability isn't coming from Walker's office. It's part of a national agenda endorsed by President Obama.  Those on the Left should not uncritically accept it (and I definitely don't) but they must remember that fact.

My recommendation to Wisconsin public higher education:  Instead of fighting this effort, through shared governance get the faculty, staff, and students together and begin to work on approaches to completion and accountability that are mutually productive.  This is not easy to do and if anyone pretends that it is, call them out on a foolish agenda.  But, I believe, this is necessary engagement if you want to improve both the quality of higher education in this state and its financial support. 

ps. Step 1: Invite Jane Wellman , Brit Kirwan, and leaders from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education together to visit and stimulate conversation and action.

pps. I highly recommend this quick overview of performance funding for those new to it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shared Governance at UW-Madison -- In Jeopardy?

Since last week's Faculty Senate meeting, my email inbox has grown cluttered with letters from faculty, staff, and students who are experiencing violations of shared governance at UW-Madison.  All are afraid to speak out with their names included, fearful of responses from the Administration.  I can't tell you how upsetting this is, especially given my own Biddy battles during the term I was up for tenure.

In any case, one brave soul has decided to allow me to quote from his letter.  I hope you'll consider his words (below) and then decide to join us next week for a discussion of the past and future of shared governance at Madison.

There will be a FORUM on these issues held on Monday November 19 from 5-630 pm in the Wisconsin Idea Room of the School of Education. Sponsors include WUU, TAA, WISCAPE, and UFAS.  You can rsvp here.


Hi Sara,

The biggest issue for me now is the apparent demolition of faculty governance. Wisconsin has a long history of egalitarian democracy and shared governance. It's one of our hallmarks compared to other universities.

The HR redesign process has been most offensive to me in its top-down dictatorial nature. It's like someone asking for you to sign a blank check and saying "trust me" when asked what dollar amount and payee will be written in.

That's like when Noah Feinstein says "the devils that lurk in the details yet to come."

At the last faculty meeting, after the sham representation we received from the University Committee, I thought this whole vote is a sham. They are saying "it's like a courtesy we are being asked to render an opinion, but don't expect to play more than an advisory role."

My immediate thought was to make a motion to postpone so they have to show their cards and reveal it's a sham. When Chad Goldberg beat me too it, and so eloquently too, and you made the ten-faculty-needed-for-a-paper-ballot motion -- well it was one of my happiest days at a faculty senate meeting in my life!

So, I think the bigger issue here is the move by the administration to subvert faculty governance. More people will be outraged by that that the HR redesign.

I liked Noah's statement that faculty governance is the ability "to approve or reject policies - not merely offer advice and input to some uncertain end."

That to me is the crux of the issue.

Crisis in Academic Governance & Standards at CUNY

The following is a guest posting by Robin Rogers, associate professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). Robin authored the popular "Billionaire Education Policy." She can be reached via email at
Follow her on Twitter: @Robin_Rogers

The City University of New York (CUNY) is in the middle of a clash over budget-driven higher education reform that could rival the Chicago Public School strike, and that is bad for everyone. The epicenter of the crisis right now is in the small, unassuming English department of Queensborough Community College (QCC). 

At issue is CUNY’s implementation of a new program known as Pathwaysthat aims to make transferring among CUNY colleges, particularly from the community colleges to the senior colleges, easier and to improve graduation rates. It is also an attempt to make the CUNY system more cost-effective. All of this seems very rational. In fact, when I first heard about Pathways, I thought it might work. What is happening now, however, is tearing CUNY apart and threatens to diminish the noble CUNY system, with its unmatched diversity, which has been a center of both academic excellence and accessibility for decades.

Before getting into the decidedly local, and very shocking, details of what is happening at CUNY, and which reached a boiling point last week at QCC, I want to make it clear that CUNY is not a unique case. Similar dynamics are at work throughout higher education and, thankfully, some universities are handling it with  grace and wisdom. (For an example see, THIS is What Shared Governance Looks Like! ) That bodes well not only for those universities but also for the future of the institution of higher education.

As with all major events, the CUNY Pathways crisis has a long history and many facets. I’ll start with the event that was significant enough to merit coverage in the New York Times on September 17th. Here is what happened.

On September 12th, 2012 Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs at Queensborough College, Karen Steelecame to the English Department’s faculty meeting to discuss a proposed change to the department’s composition courses that would make it a 3-hour course rather than a 4-hour course and thus compliant with the new CUNY Pathways rule. According to a faculty member present, “She also brought a host of threats, including some of the ones that she later put into writing in her infamous emailwhich essentially threatened to dissolve our entire department.  It was clear that she expected our department to roll over and vote to pass the new courses – if you can call something a vote when only one outcome is acceptable and the other outcome results in the termination of your employment.
Professor David Humphries, then the Deputy Chair of the English Department was quoted in the Times as saying “It’s hard to understand how teaching less English, less math, less science and less foreign languages could be good for students,” Echoing concerns expressed by many other faculty across CUNY campuses, including myself, Humphries continued, “Under the guise of streamlining transferability we’re actually watering down the students’ education.
It gets worse. Much worse.
The English department voted against dropping the fourth hour of instruction on the grounds that it was academically unsound; their students needed more time. Then they elected David Humphries as Chairman of the English Department by an almost 3/4th majority faculty vote.
On November 6th, Election Day -- one hopes this simply reflects President Call’s finely honed sense of irony -- Queensborough College President Diane Call rejected the vote for Humphries. Instead, she replaced the faculty-elected Humphries with her own self appointed interim chair (who was brought out of retirement to take on the task) and announced that she would be conducting a national search for a new department chair. The interim chair would take over administrative tasks, while Vice-President Karen Steele – yes, you do remember that name – would assume tasks such as bringing faculty members up for promotion and tenure.
The English Department issued an open letter demanding that President Call reverse her decision and respect faculty autonomy in departmental governance. A petition is also being circulated, which you can sign and circulate online.
The events at QCC are only a part of what is happening at CUNY.  Now there is a lawsuit against Pathways by the faculty union. There very well may be another lawsuit over Call’s recall of a department chair, which appears to violate the bylaws of the faculty that requires that a petition to the Faculty Executive Committee be signed by a majority of the full-time faculty members of the department. Last week, Staten Island College faculty voted to reject Pathways. Other colleges and departments are taking similar action. Foreign languages, classics, and philosophy – the core of the traditional humanities – are extremely limited under Pathways. And so much more.
This promises to be an interesting and important week for higher education and for CUNY. If you want to follow what is happening on twitter, you can follow #CUNYPathways.
Full disclosure: I worked with Professor Humphries almost ten years ago when he was at Queens College, and I have the highest regard for him.

Update: 11/13/11

The following email was sent to members of the Queensborough Community College English Department late this morning:

It is my decision to accept the recommendation forwarded by the English Department for Dr. David Humphries to serve as its Chairperson, effective November 14, 2012.
In a lengthy meeting with Dr. Humphries yesterday, he expressed his willingness and ability to advance the important work of the English Department in curricular and personnel matters. I have confidence in and appreciate his sincerity to unite the department as a community, in the best interests of the College and our students.

Thank you.
Dr. Diane B. Call
Interim President
Queensborough Community College

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

HR Design in the News

This ran in today's Capital Times. 
Stay tuned... more to come. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama's 2nd Term: NOW is the Time

" Mitt Romney will LOSE this election," says CNN....

We worked hard for this moment. Now, let's make it worthwhile.

Agenda #1:  This is not a post-racial era. This is a highly racist era. It's time to deal with it.

Agenda #2:  Education is not a business, and teachers are not mid-level managers.  Treat them like their partners in raising the nation's children. They deserve it.

Agenda #3:  Families can't succeed if they can't work. Raise taxes dramatically on the Romneys of the world and provide tax breaks only if they create significant numbers of good jobs paying living wages to Americans.

Agenda #4: End housing segregation, now. Poverty isn't quite so detrimental when it isn't concentrated.

Agenda #5: Make college affordable by recognizing our democracy's need for postsecondary education. Two quality years for free-- minimum. Now.

That's just a start.  ON.

Monday, November 5, 2012

THIS is What Shared Governance Looks Like!

All over America, faculty, staff, and students are losing their collective voice as a tidal wave of "reform" washes over higher education. The adjunctification of the faculty is well underway and some administrators and members of the public cast faculty as the enemy of progress, despite hard empirical evidence to the contrary.

We've been confronting our own dilemmas at UW-Madison, where a deeply conservative Wisconsin legislature handed us the "tools" requested to bring efficiences to our human resources system.  It is indeed an old system, which insufficiently recognizes the needs of educational institutions, and it is indisputably in need of modernization.  The plans are in process to use the new flexibilities to improve the system, and today the Faculty Senate was to vote on those plans. The problem? The plans aren't yet  fully articulated.  They are still in process, in a draft stage, and it's hard to tell whether they really take UW-Madison forward-- or backward.

A year or two ago I could've predicted the meeting's outcome.  Under the thumb of a chancellor who not only misunderstood shared governance but deliberately squelched it, the Senate was rife with meek and silent professors.  Attending those meetings, I was awed by how many strong intelligent people could be rendered mute when confronted with the likes of Biddy Martin.

That was then, and this is now.  Biddy is gone, thanks to her inability to recognize the importance of institutional culture, and the people of the Senate are free. So in a remarkable turn of events, this afternoon the UW Madison Senate took decisive action to reject a push by the Administration for premature yet supposedly "time-sensitive" action and instead postpone a vote on the proposed Human Resources Design plan until the Administration reveals its full and revised plan.  By waiting until December 3 to vote on HR design, the Senators essentially said: "We'll vote when we are shown what we are voting on."

To some, this was stunning. Those are the folks who misunderstand shared governance at UW-Madison, falsely believing it is merely "advisory" and that ultimately the Chancellor decides.  Not so. Not at all.  In the coming weeks,  this will become a great subject of conversation on campus, since the Senate meeting revealed that key administrators among us do not understand Faculty Policies and Procedures as written in law.

The faculty, students, and staff care deeply about the future of this great university and recognize that key changes are needed to strengthen it.  HR Design is one of those things, and that's why it's worth taking the time to get it right.  We won't be pushed into premature judgment, or told that we can only vote "now or never."  The responsibility is too great. As Professor Chad Goldberg told the Senate today, "Our educational activities depend vitally on the contributions, well-being, and morale of all of the university’s employees, including faculty, academic staff, and classified staff. None of us built this university on our own. None of us can do our jobs without the help and support of others. When we succeed, we succeed because we work together."

Today is what happens when faculty are equipped with Robert's Rules, informed by a full discussion with all of the relevant parties, organized, prepared, and motivated.  Don't worry-- it wasn't a one-time thing. This is how Senate will be going forward. Our work is cut out for us.

Next on the agenda:

(1) We expect that the UW Madison Administration will meet and engage with campus labor to reach an agreeable plan for moving forward.  I hope to see those meetings begin within 72 hours and continue until there is a reasonable solution.  If they do not, we'll know there are larger problems at Madison-- and we'll make sure the community knows it.  I'm sure this won't be necessary though, given Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell's stated robust commitment to fair and equitable treatment of unions.

(2) We will work to educate and inform the full UW-Madison community of the meaning of shared governance as it exists here.  We have every right to vote on the plan as it is put together after the Chancellor's approval.  We will do so, on December 3-- and then the Board of Regents will know where we stand.  Whether or not they choose to ignore us, our rights and responsibilities on behalf of those who fought for and established FP&P will be intact. In that, at least, we can trust.

Tonight I stand in awe and in solidarity of my university tonight, and am deeply proud to call it home.  To Noah and Chad, Bruce and David and Judith and Pam, Charity, Robin and Eleni and Gary -- all I can say is, "On Wisconsin."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Petitioners Receive Response from HR

At 3:51 pm, I received the following letter from UW-Madison Human Resources Director Bob Lavigna in response to the Change.Org petition. The full text follows.  I have underlined key sentences since it is rather long and inserted with ** some comments of my own.

I am very pleased with this display of engagement on the part of the administration and shared governance units, and hope you will agree with me that this is a significant step forward.  On Wisconsin!

November 2, 2012

 Dear UW-Madison colleagues:

I am writing in response to the October 30 petition asking me to, “… issue a list of written assurances regarding all planned significant changes to the Human Resources Design Strategic Plan on which the Faculty Senate will vote on Monday, November 5, 2012.”

 First, I want to outline where we are in the process of finalizing the HR Design Strategic Plan, and what will occur as we move forward.

On September 21, we posted the plan for campus-wide review and comment. Since then, we have engaged in another aggressive round of soliciting campus feedback, including in-person and online forums and presentations to groups that include the Faculty Senate. We have also continued to meet regularly with the University Committee and other governance and stakeholder groups to discuss the plan.

This wide-scale engagement is a continuation of the campus engagement strategy we have used from the time the 11 HR design work teams issued their draft recommendations last spring. To date, our outreach has resulted in nearly 10,000 contacts with members of our campus community.

Later this month, our executive sponsors – the Interim Chancellor, Provost, and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration – will consider feedback on the plan from across the campus, as well as resolutions and other feedback from governance groups, and then make final decisions on the plan. It’s also important to remember that once the framework goes forward there will also be continued consultations as specific implementation details are developed. 

Then, on December 7, the Board of Regents will consider both the UW System and UW-Madison approaches. At this stage, we do not know what level of detail the Board will request that this discussion cover. We expect to issue a final version of the HR Design Strategic Plan after the Board meeting.

I have outlined this process to make it clear that the executive sponsors will make final decisions on the HR Design Strategic Plan based on the input we are receiving from the campus community.  


Over the past two weeks, we have had a series of communications with Associate Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab, the originator of the petition. These communications have included an in-person meeting which we initiated, as well as a series of follow-up email communications. These exchanges have been positive and constructive.  

Professor Goldrick-Rab identified several issues that she believes need to be clarified or modified. On October 29, I responded to her, agreeing in most cases with her suggestions (**these suggestion are listed as each "Issue" below**), and committing to recommend changes to the plan to the executive sponsors. What follows is a summary of my understanding of these issues, and my responses. 

Issue: Pay a living wage to contractor employees who work on campus premises, on contracts that exceed $5,000 in value. 

Response: We understand the importance of this issue and have asked for information on how many contracts UW-Madison has (as opposed to any contracts the Wisconsin Department of Administration manages, which we can’t control). After we receive this information, we will be in a better position to understand the scope of this issue and work with the appropriate campus units, particularly UW-Madison Business Services, to conduct an analysis. We understand the legitimate concerns about paying the living wage to contractor employees, including the potential impact on UW employees if contractor employees do not receive a living wage. We do not yet have a timetable for completing this analysis.  

Issue:  Address tensions between equity and market in the current plan. 

Response: We plan to 1) recommend language further clarifying that UW-Madison places a strong value on internal equity as a campus climate and retention strategy; 2) recommend editorial changes to the plan to make sure the terms “market” and “equity” are given equal consideration in the text; 3) clarify, after speaking again with our classified staff representatives, what is meant by market with regard to unskilled and semi-skilled classified employees; and 4) add a discussion of the importance of collaborative, interdisciplinary work on our campus and that this factor needs to be considered in compensation decisions.(**This is exactly what I had asked for**)

Issue: Revise the language in the plan regarding shared governance to be consistent with FP&P.

Response: We completely agree that the plan should accurately convey the precise nature of faculty governance and its role in implementing the new HR system. It’s also important to emphasize that the plan does not call for any changes to the nature of faculty or academic staff governance. Moreover, the plan calls for extending formal governance rights to university (currently classified) staff.  (**Again, exactly what I had asked for**)

Issue:  State more clearly the strong need to train faculty, chairs, and deans to appropriately determine compensation packages and to retain employees and help them be productive. Call for a campus-wide discussion about how best to create incentives for faculty to learn how to perform effectively in management roles. 

Response:  We agree there needs to be thoughtful and widespread discussion about how to create incentives and accountability for managers, including faculty, to be consistently effective. We believe that this point is already made in the plan but will review the plan to make sure it is clearly stated. (**Again, request fully met**)

Issue:  Assure that accountability metrics and measures are included in the plan. 

Response:  We agree that accountability measures and clear assignment of responsibilities are important. According to the HR Design Strategic Plan (page 54), “OHR will develop a dashboard of key measures to help track the effectiveness of university HR practices.” These metrics will provide a set of reference points to assess progress. Developing these measures must be a thoughtful and collaborative process. The plan includes a list of possible metrics. We will build on this list to develop a more robust set of measures.

Issue:  Modify the portions of the plan that eliminate the right of classified employees who transfer to other jobs on campus and fail probation to return to their original jobs. The determination of transfer itself may involve multiple factors but seniority should be used as the determinative factor in the case of ties. Create a roster of laid-off employees. Employees on the roster would have the right (provided that they are physically and mentally capable of performing the job) to an open position of the same job classification held by the employee or a classification in which the employee previously served. 

Response: We believe the appropriate forum for discussing these important issues right now is the Labor-Management Advisory Committee (LMAC). This committee, composed of labor and management representatives, has been in place for many years to discuss work-related issues that affect classified employees. We have been discussing these and other issues with our classified employee/labor partners and are willing to continue these discussions.

Issue:  Publish a list of written assurances regarding all planned significant changes to the Human Resources Design Plan on which the Faculty Senate will vote on Monday November 5, 2012. 
Response:  We are still gathering and analyzing feedback on the plan, including by engaging in conversations with governance and stakeholder groups. We will use this feedback to recommend changes to the executive sponsors. Therefore, it would be premature at this time to finalize any lists or draft specific language about possible changes. However, we plan to make the recommendations described above (and perhaps others as we continue to receive feedback and speak with stakeholder groups) to the executive sponsors. Specific modifications to the plan will be driven by the decisions of our executive sponsors. 


I believe the above discussion responds, as best as I can at this stage in the process, to the request for a list of written assurances. At this point, it is not possible to identify each potential change that the plan might include, or the specific language of changes. However, we will continue to 
meet regularly, as we have been doing, with governance and other stakeholder groups to discuss possible changes and provide updates. 

I hope that our colleagues across the campus appreciate where we are in the process and how this affects our ability to provide detailed information on possible changes. I also ask that our colleagues recognize the transparency and candor that have characterized our conversations and campus engagement activities about the HR Design Strategic Plan.


Robert J. Lavigna