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UW System President: Tenure Shouldn’t Guarantee Lifetime Job

MADISON, Wis. ― University of Wisconsin System president praised the decision to remove faculty tenure protections from state law in a recently released email to another university official.

The Capital Times reported Monday that President Ray Cross sent an email to John Behling, the regent who led the process to write new tenure policies that were widely criticized by professors, days before the Board of Regents approved the new policies on March 10.

In the email dated March 7, Cross wrote that the debate “has exposed the real value of removing tenure related policies from statutory language.”

Cross said tenure should not protect professors who are no longer needed in their discipline and it should not guarantee a “job for life.” He compared faculty to railroad brakemen, who he said were kept on the job for years after they were no longer needed.

When asked if he wanted to elaborate on the email, Cross said a review of program discontinuance policies was prompted by the removal of tenure from statutory language and it “revealed some differences, inconsistencies, and gaps in these policies.”

The email could further deepen the mistrust for UW System leaders that has expressed by faculty, who argue that Cross should have worked harder against the $250 million in state cuts to higher education and changes to tenure.

After reading the email, faculty said Cross’ remarks reveal a position that’s hostile to tenure and harmful to the university’s mission.

UW-Milwaukee professor Richard Grusin said last week that Cross’ email “makes it crystal clear that he sees being able to fire tenured faculty as the ‘real value’ of removing tenure from statutory language, which he has supported from the very beginning of this process.”

Faculty at UW-Milwaukee are expected to meet Tuesday for a vote of no confidence in Cross and the Board of Regents.

Faculty at University of Wisconsin System campuses in Madison, River Falls and La Crosse already have passed similar measures and others, including Eau Claire, are considering them.

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