Enabling a queen sacrifice: Wisconsin sets up the policy framework

Most of the queen sacrifices I’ve written about have had the air of emergency.  They’ve been single events, driven by unusual circumstances.  But now Wisconsin is trying to make the queen sacrifice… ordinary and official.

David Vaness, a health policy professor at University of Wisconsin, dug into proposed Board of Regents language and found some powerful passages.  Short version: new policies would allow shifting resources between programs due to financial considerations. “Resources” here can mean faculty compensation and lines; tenure is no shield.

Hunger GamesLet Vaness explain.  The policy language is dry and vague, but dig in and you’ll see why we’re discussing it:

RPD 20-XX, II B states: “Educational considerations are related in part to regular program review, and reflect a long-range judgment that the educational mission of the institution as a whole will be enhanced by program discontinuance. This includes the reallocation of resources to other programs with higher priority based on educational considerations. Such long-range judgments generally will involve the analysis of financial resources and the needs of the program and any related college or school.”

The first sentence in II B is fine – it comes straight from AAUP’s recommended institutional regulations. The last two sentences are disasters waiting to happen. If the administration decides, for example, that climate science is a lower priority than petroleum engineering, well — it could be “goodbye climate science!” It need not be so obviously political…

One implication:

[D]o we want to work in a climate where we are competing against each other for our own jobs? We’re talking “Academic Hunger Games” here, folks. (I guess that makes me the tribute from District 90)

There’s more:

Another landmine lurks in II D, which includes “current and predicted comparative cost analysis/effectiveness of the program;” in the list of “educational considerations.” If program A graduates more majors per dollar spent than program B, then program B could be discontinued. What metric will be used to choose? The policy doesn’t specify — and doesn’t give faculty the responsibility to decide (assuming that using comparative cost-effectiveness is even an appropriate reason to lay off faculty). The administration’s charge to the faculty committee could dictate the criteria. After all, Act 55 says faculty no longer have primary responsibility for such matters.

In short, campuses won’t need a declaration of emergency, or even a sense of crisis.  Ending programs and tenure-track faculty would simply become an ordinary option for campus administration.

Is 2016 really the year when we normalize the queen sacrifice?

(thanks to Steve Bragaw on Twitter; image via Wikipedia)

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2 Responses to Enabling a queen sacrifice: Wisconsin sets up the policy framework

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    so I wonder — how many other states are considering similar policies. Which are the likeliest candidates?

    Like

  2. Pingback: Oklahoma prepares for higher education cuts | Bryan Alexander

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