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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


What ‘real’ tenure means for UW System professors

Approved changes to UW’s tenure policy spark controversy, future impacts yet to come
Marissa Haegele

Following the Board of Regents’ recent approval of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s tenure policy, and other UW System campuses’ policies soon to be determined, the future of tenure is uncertain.

Board of Regents approves UW-Madison specific tenure policies

The Board of Regents passed an initial system-wide policy focused on “flexibility” in March. The board wanted to ensure the initial tenure policy would allow campus chancellors to tailor their policies to meet their campuses’ needs, Alex Hummel, UW System spokesperson, said.

Though it has been dubbed as “fake” tenure, there is nothing fake about it, Noel Radomski, director and associate researcher for the Wisconsin Center of the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, said.


While the tenure policy adopted last Friday is a reduction and change for UW-Madison to the UW System’s previous policy, it is not worse than any other universities’ tenure policies, he said.

“As an outsider, my view is that [the Board of Regents] understood that if they went further [with layoff procedures], that could have serious consequences — both from a public perception problem, but also how that might be implemented, [whether it] would … trigger more faculty layoffs,” Radomski said. 

Radomski said though the policy may be just as good as other universities’ policies, the finalization of the tenure policy was not without several “hiccups.”

Before the board approved UW-Madison’s tenure policy, the UW System’s education committee revised the policy to give the chancellor a bit more power in the discontinuance of a program process, he said.

UW System to see changes to tenure policy after Board of Regents vote

Board of Regents approved UW-Madison’s revised tenure policy without discussion, but the “inside baseball politics” began before the revision to the policy was made, Radomski said.

Two UW-Madison members of the university committee approved the changes to the policy, Radomski said, but the Faculty Senate was upset because the finalized policy was different from the one it approved last fall.

Radomski said the Faculty Senate did not choose to review its original proposal before it was voted on, which could have helped ensure it would coincide with the UW System tenure policy approved in March.

Faculty Senate approves tenure policy, voices concern over graduate assistant compensation

“For a variety of reasons that didn’t happen and now you have dissent on campus and some faculty saying maybe we should have a special session of the Faculty Senate — maybe we should have a vote of no confidence,” Radomski said.

Many campuses have been waiting for UW-Madison’s proposal to be voted on before building their own, Radomski said.

But what will be interesting to see in the future will be not how the tenure policy changes affect UW-Madison, but how they will affect other UW System schools, he said.

These schools, unlike UW-Madison, will likely experience layoffs because of the state budget cuts, Radomski said. Institutions like UW-Parkside do not have alternative funding sources to make up for the cuts. Their primary source of funding comes from their tuition rates — which are small compared to UW-Madison, he said.

Hummel said it’s difficult to predict how the tenure policy will affect campuses, but it will help them maintain their competitive edge.

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