TAUWP UW-L Statement Concerning Furloughs

 

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chapter of The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals (UW-L TAUWP) holds accountable both Wisconsin elected officials and the University of Wisconsin System—under the leadership of President Kevin Reilly—for failing to uphold the basic mission of the University of Wisconsin and for compromising the integrity of all faculty and staff who must now implement a fundamentally dishonest furlough policy.

 

Until there is some acknowledgement of the real reduction in teaching, research, and service that will accrue from these furloughs, both Wisconsin elected officials and UW System Administration are compelling those of us who must now implement this policy to participate in a “lie.”  We are being obliged to mask from our students and the public, to the fullest extent possible, the true effects of this unfortunate policy.

 

As members of UW-L TAUWP, we do not want to punish students unduly for problems they did not create. Yet, neither do we wish to deceive them about the full consequences of a true furlough.  The UW System has mandated that furlough days for faculty and instructional academic staff take place on non-teaching days. However, teaching work takes place even on days that classes do not meet. If faculty and teaching academic staff have fewer office hours, spend fewer hours preparing for class, and have fewer work hours to devote to staying current in their discipline, the students' educational experience will suffer.   These furloughs will have real and adverse effects on the quality of education and our university's already compromised mission. We should not pretend otherwise.

 

Over the past three decades, we have seen state funding for the UW system decrease from 52% of the institution’s budget in 1974 to 26% in 2005, while at the same time tuition at the four-year comprehensives has increased by over 100%. The state’s disinvestment in higher education has resulted in a decrease in tenured faculty lines and a dramatic increase in contingent, academic staff positions with little or no job security; faculty and academic staff salaries that are in the bottom fifth quintile nationally; and decreased access, larger classes, and longer times to degree for the students. The furloughs are but one more piece in the state’s ongoing disinvestment in the UW System.

 

Therefore, we hold the current furlough mandate and guidelines to be acts of political cowardice on the part of Wisconsin elected officials and the UW System Administration.  These decisions betray the trust bestowed upon them by virtue of the offices they hold. They also reflect a profound failure of both leadership and imagination in fulfilling the responsibilities of those offices.

 

We also reject the underlying premise that the UW System Administration has either the necessary authority, or the knowledge, to implement these furloughs in an intelligent and effective manner without the full and equal participation of the faculty and staff both in defining the details of these policies and in determining how they are to be implemented.

 

We further reject the idea implicit in these furloughs as ultimately articulated that “shared governance” is a synonym for consultation. Consultation without true and honest choice is not shared governance; it is subservience. And subservience dishonors both the “Wisconsin Idea” and the spirit of true, shared governance.

 

In light of all the above, we call upon our elected officials and the UW System Administration to undertake the following future actions:

1)      First and foremost, reverse the true, long-term problem of which the latest furlough policy is one small piece:  decades-long inadequate state-level funding for the University System.

2)      Identify any necessary future pay cuts as such; do not present them with the politically expedient label of “furloughs.”

3)      Faced with any future furloughs, UW System Administration should honor the principle of subsidiarity and allow the relevant groups or individuals to decide for themselves how best to implement the furloughs.  

4)      Furthermore, System Administration should not prohibit furloughs from occurring either during regularly scheduled class times or as an extended block of time across regularly scheduled class periods, as appropriate.