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

Information? Intimidation? It's Hard to Tell

This morning the Dean of Letters and Sciences at UW-Madison sent the following email to all faculty and staff in his college.  Since that time, my email inbox has flooded with concern expressed by staff, students, and faculty who are not sure why he sent it and what it's meant to accomplish.

Subject: [xtmp] Human Resource Design Strategic Plan
Date: Fri, 02 Nov 2012 09:37:26 -0500
From: Gary Sandefur

Dear L&S Staff and Faculty,

 There have been many documents and statements floating around about aspects of the Human Resources Design Strategic Plan.  Some of this information is not factually correct.

To address these misconceptions, campus has developed the attached fact sheet.  You can also find the document at the following website:

 I encourage all employees to read the Fact Sheet to ensure you are accurately informed.  If you have any questions at all about the information in the Fact Sheet or the HR Design Strategic Plan, please feel free to contact the following L&S Human Resource Staff:  [deleted]

You may also want to refer to the general HR Design Website at  for additional information about the HR Design Strategic Plan.


Dean, College of Letters and Sciences
105 South Hall
1055 Bascom Mall
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Madison, WI  53706

As I wrote to Gary in response, there are at least two problems with this email. 

First, the information distributed is titled "facts" but is in fact hardly objective or "factual." At best, it's one point of view, and at worse, it is administrative propaganda.

For example, point 15 is misleading. The stated "misconception" is that HR Design work teams were dominated by HR staff. The statement that the teams had "representatives" from stakeholder groups does not contradict the claim. The fact is that 1/3 of the reps were HR staff and another 1/3 were managers above the HR staff level--only 1/3 were from lower-status stakeholder groups or faculty.  Clearly, the work teams were predominantly HR staff and managers!

Second, the timing of this email is worrisome since right now there is a petition being circulated asking that HR simply provide clear details on planned modifications to the Plan so that the Faculty Senate knows what it's being asked to vote on on Monday.  That petition includes large numbers of L&S faculty and staff who were brave enough to make their request for transparency public. 

It is 11:40 am right now, the petition asks for these details by 12:00 pm today. Nothing has arrived.

Instead, I am now hearing from people who signed the petition and who feel this email was intended to intimidate them.  

Since I'm sure that was not Gary's intention, I urge him to take immediate action to correct that impression and ensure that everyone on campus feels they are allowed to sift and winnow their way through this absolutely crucial process.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Research: Shared Governance Promotes Cost-Effectiveness

Good news for UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students:  a new study suggests that shared governance lowers institutional costs per student.  The disintegration of shared governance across the nation's universities has contributed substantially to rising costs, according to these economists.  But not at UW-Madison, right folks? We are keeping shared governance alive.

There is more good news.  The study also says that the optimal ratio for cost containment is 3 tenure-track faculty for every 1 full-time administrator.  At many places there are now twice as many administrators as faculty.  But not at Madison. This year, Madison has 1,986 tenure-track FTE faculty compared 406 FTE administrators, a ratio of 4.86 to 1.

However there may be some need for closer attention to what lies ahead.  The study also suggests that we need to take into account students (imagine that!) and think about our staffing relative to students, not merely one another. And there, the evidence suggests potential problems.  Between 1987-2008, the study reports that nationally at public research universities the number of administrators per 100 students increased 9%, while at Madison the data digests show that growth was 34% -- with another 5% growth occurring since 2008.  In comparison, nationally the number of tenure-track faculty per 100 students grew by 3%, while at Madison it declined by 3%, then rebounded for a total net gain of 2% in the last five years. Admittedly, Madison started with a higher baseline for faculty-- almost 0.5 more tenure-track professors per 100 students than the national average-- and a lower baseline for administrators--about 0.6 fewer administrators per 100 students than the national average.  But even so, this change over time is not necessarily about striking a better balance, and  given the trends we in shared governance need to ensure that's the sole motivation.

Punchline? At the moment, we seem to be in a good spot.  This study contradicts the "popular hypothesis [that] intransigent tenure track faculty prevent costs from being minimized by cost conscious administrators."  The shared governance metric (the ratio of tenure track faculty to full time professional administrators)  is not correlated with cost. Instead, "costs are convex in the ratio of tenure track faculty to full time administrators and the models suggest costs are lowest when the ratio is approximately three tenure track faculty for every one administrator."

The problem is that "the ratio goes higher or lower costs per student are higher." If anything, this study suggests that we may have too many faculty at Madison given the numbers of students we are serving-- a great case for increasing enrollment, and maybe, growing the size of the administration a bit too (whew, never thought I'd say that).