University faculty worried over new tenure changes

Board of regents approved tenure changes Thursday morning

The UW Board of Regents approved new tenure policies at a meeting Thursday in Madison.

Last year, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed the tenure changes as part of the state budget, effectively weakening tenure.

The Board of Regents adopted those provisions on Thursday, but with some changes, including allowing chancellors to lay off faculty if their programs are cut and for poor performance.

Some professors said that’s a bad idea.

Sociology professor Kim Vogt has been at UW-La Crosse for 22 years, 15 of them have been tenured.

“I love working with students. I love working with them individually on undergraduate research projects for example,” said sociology professor Kim Vogt, who has been at UW-La Crosse for 22 years, 15 of them tenured. “I love teaching in the classroom.”

A lot of her research outside the classroom involves victims of children homicides.

“As a sociologist, as a criminologist, the type of research that I do, could sometimes be quite controversial, with the types of recommendations we might make to certain agencies,” said Vogt.

Vogt said tenure protects her against backlash on her research. She said faculty close to achieving tenure are becoming worried because of changes.

“They are anxious. They are nervous, that if they say the wrong thing in class, they may be retaliated,” said Vogt.

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow said he doesn’t think the changes will impact the campus.

“The administration needs the ability to make the tough decisions if there are low enrolled programs, but there aren’t any at UW-La Crosse, and I don’t foresee there being any in the future,” said Gow.

But former Board of Regents member Brent Smith also said the changes could potentially hurt a University’s ability to hire new faculty.

“We’re having a heck of a time trying to retain people in the UW system, and something like this isn’t helpful,” said Smith.

While she says it’s unlikely that she would leave UW-La Crosse, tenure changes have given her a second thought on her future.

“It is something that I have thought about in the past, whether or not that would happen now, always up to questions and opportunities, but those things do cross your mind,” said Vogt.

Critics worry that any change in administration at any university could impact what programs could be cut at any given time, and which tenured professors could be laid off.

Officials said the policy is similar to institutions in Maryland, Michigan, and Iowa.