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Besides expressing that FAC Senate has no confidence in Cross and the regents, the resolution also calls on UW System leadership to “recommit themselves to the Wisconsin Idea” and work with faculty to strengthen UW education quality.
Chad Goldberg, UW sociology professor and author of the resolution, stressed the importance of a free exchange of ideas at world-class universities like UW. He said faculty members need to take a stand when they realize administration is harming the UW System.
While the resolution received a mixed reception from faculty members, system leaders expressed overall opposition to it.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank tweeted that despite being outspoken against the no-confidence resolution, she can find common ground with FAC Senate in a devotion to UW’s mission.
“While there was argument over many amendments and the resolution contained language that I do not personally embrace, we can all agree on the need for support for the university’s mission, continuing to make this a place worthy of our energy and passion,” Blank said in the tweet.
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UW System President Ray Cross said in a statement he disagrees with the resolution despite maintaining respect for faculty members’ right to express their opinions.
Board of Regents President Regina Millner also reaffirmed the regents’ confidence in Cross in the statement.
“Most Regents will be disappointed by this overreaction to the Board’s decision to put in place very reasonable and fair tenure and layoff policies — something the legislature directed us to do as part of the state budget,” Millner said.
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But during the meeting, several faculty senators spoke in support of the resolution. Judith Burstyn, president of the Public Representation of the Faculty Senate, said regarding a faculty layoff policy, the Board of Regents did not follow the requirement to either adopt the policy as is or send back to the FAC Senate to modify, but instead altered it themselves.
They changed the policy regarding discontinuation of academic programs, circumventing the senate, for the first time in the history of UW System, she said.
“I am supremely uncomfortable with that action, and because of that, I support this particular motion,” Burstyn said.
Other senators, however, were unsure of the outcome or the potential outcome of the resolution. An overarching argument against the resolution focuses on the message it will send about UW faculty.
Many senators who spoke said the words “no confidence” will send out a message to the public that UW faculty is whining about their own experiences instead of working with the Board of Regents to improve education quality.
Amos Ron, professor in the Department of Computer Sciences, said voting no confidence in system leaders is a dangerous and extreme move, which will indicate that UW faculty is fighting with the Board of Regents.
Amy Wendt, a member of the University Committee, proposed an amendment to the original resolution. It highlights a fear that “the educational direction of the university may be wielded to suppress instruction in areas that are deemed risky” by UW System leadership.
After a few senators voiced support for the amendment, it passed.
Christopher Wells, UW school of journalism and mass communication professor, proposed to add four clauses at the beginning of the document, to serve as a broader introduction and set the tone for the resolution.
“We’re concerned about the first whereas clause, starting with tenure,” Wells said. “This document for many people is not going to be about tenure. It’s not about tenure, it’s about what the university means.”
The additional clauses were approved.
Brian Mayhew, UW School of Business professor, proposed to amend the resolution by removing the first “resolved” and leave only the second one. He said the real issue about this resolution is the words “no confidence.”
Finally, in response to many faculty senators’ concerns about sending a negative message to the public, Cynthia Burnson, co-president of Teaching Assistants’ Association at UW took the floor. She stressed the importance of graduate student workers on campus and said TAA unanimously approved of the resolution.
Burnson said the resolution sends a message that UW faculty will stand together to protect the university when system leadership is not.
“In my opinion, voting down this resolution is far more risky than voting for it,” Burnson said. “It will send the message that the faculty are divided, and worse, unable or unwilling to mount any real resistance to degradation of the University of Wisconsin.”
Her speech won a standing ovation from the crowd.
Despite a few dissents, the Faculty Senate also passed a resolution to provide faculty members with diversity and inclusion training. Due to limited time, Blank proposed to move the rest of the agenda to another meeting, probably in two weeks, and FAC Senate agreed.