Category Archives: On Wisconsin

UW Budget Cuts: There’s always a reason…

Every two years, Wisconsin Republicans come home and see that the UW burned the roast.

Or left a mess in the kitchen…

Or didn’t buy more beer…

Or forgot to pick up the dry cleaning…

There’s always a reason that when the budget comes along, and the UW System leaders ask for money, Republicans decide instead to smack it around and then cut higher ed in the state.

Four years ago, it was the allegation that the UW had stockpiled more than $1 billion in its coffers without telling anyone.

(Of course, that wasn’t true, but it was more than enough to create fake outrage and cut nearly a quarter of a billion from the System.)

Two years ago, it was the idea of an “autonomy for cuts” trade: We cut you to the tune of 13 percent and we then let you get away from us and live your lives.

(Of course, that was never going to happen. After making the cuts, the Republicans came up with the “what’s the point of giving you freedom if you won’t do what we want you to do with it?” argument that still makes my head spin.)

This time, I honestly thought it was going to be a Canadian hip-hop artist/UW-Madison professor who would be our sacrificial lamb. Damon Sajnani wrote a course called “The Problem of Whiteness” and Republican Dave Murphy lost his mind over it and threatened the U with budget cuts if this shit wasn’t stopped. Never mind Murphy is basically Exhibits A and B for what’s wrong with Whiteness…

In the end, Scott Fitzgerald realized he couldn’t fuck over the system of his alma mater just because of one class, so he needed a better reason.

And of course he found it.

Thanks in large part to some financial shell games at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, in which a former chancellor co-mingled state money and private foundation money to burnish his legacy and make his cock swell, all of the universities in the system are now being investigated.

Never let it be said Fitzgerald missed an opportunity to do his best Scrooge impression:

 

Fitzgerald stopped short of saying the university foundations issue would affect state funding for the UW System in the next budget. “When it comes to the state budget, members and finance committee members in particular, have a straight-forward process. How much is being set aside, how much is available.”

That said, “it’s human nature when you hear about something like this… ” Fitzgerald added.

 

Actually, Scott, it’s not. It’s sub-human nature to find flaws with everything in hopes of being able to make something suffer for your own pleasure. It’s the same approach kids take when they get a magnifying glass and discover they can use it to immolate ants. It’s power and dominion over those who lack the means and the recourse to fight back.

The state contributes 17 percent of the funding the UW System gets each year and yet you get to write all the rules. Every two years, you and your ilk get all fake outraged over some perceived slight, some perceived error in judgment or some stupid issue that allows you to whip people into a frenzy before you slash education.

The reason this works is because A) the universities suck at explaining anything to people who aren’t academics (and I say this as being an academic who watches the overly academic people fall all over themselves fucking this up every single time) and B) it’s so much easier to channel rage and anger than it is to marshal common sense.

I’m quite certain the cuts will come and the U will bleed and more quality faculty will flee this state like rats of the Titanic. We will then see a period of normalization until it comes time again for Ray “Oliver Twist” Cross to approach you with his bowl in hand and meekly request:

“Please, sir… more.”

Wingnut Mailbag: On Wisconsin Edition

Clarke

For some reason, I’m on Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s email list. I’m not quite sure why. It shouldn’t have anything to do with my making fun of Clarke last fall, but it might. All publicity is good publicity to the likes of Clarke. Trumpers love to be trumpeted.

I’m getting a perverse thrill at poaching on Scout, Doc, and A’s turf but I suspect they don’t mind. I’d rather not be getting wingnut email from the Clarkites but I am. So it goes.

Sheriff Clarke is looking to 2018. He could run for re-election but his approval rating is even lower than Trump’s: an abysmal 31%. Milwaukee County is a Democratic stronghold, which is why he’s nominally a Democrat. Clarke is even less popular among Democrats at home: only 13% of Dems want him re-elected. That’s why he’s likely to change parties and challenge Senator Tammy Baldwin.

The aforementioned  fundraising emails combine homophobia, sexism, and wingnut lunacy. On January 30th, Team Clarke sent an email entitled Arrest Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Hey, at least they used her title. Here’s a sample of the ravings therein:

Liberal lesbian Tammy Baldwin is aiding and abetting ISIS. She is working to stop President Donald Trump’s ban on terrorist refugees. Tammy Baldwin is more concerned about protecting the safety of ISIS members than she is about the security of the United States. It is clear that Tammy Baldwin doesn’t care that many of the refugees have plans to attack America. Tammy Baldwin belongs in prison! She is a traitor to our country!

Fun fact: a group called Restore American Liberty sent the email. It’s located in Denver, Colorado. Clarke might call it federalism, I call it carpetbaggery.

The ironically named Restore American Liberty has sent me the same email three days in a row. You’d think they’d get tired of repeating themselves, but wingnuts are simple people. Here’s another passage:

Sheriff David Clarke can win! He can defeat leftist lesbian Tammy Baldwin in the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race! If elected, he will work to secure the borders and ban Muslim immigration. Unlike Tammy Baldwin, Sheriff David Clarke supports balancing the budget, protecting the Second Amendment, and defending the right to life. 

Liberal lesbian Tammy Baldwin needs to be defeated! She is a radical pro-abortion, open borders Democrat. She supports higher taxes, gun control, and expanding ObamaCare. America needs Sheriff David Clarke to defeat her!

Wealthly LGBT donors from Hollywood, San Francisco, and New York are going to spend millions in support of Tammy Baldwin. It is crucial that grassroots conservatives fight back!

Wealthly? Don’t these bozos spell check? Of course, their target audience is knuckledraggers who read about as much as the Insult Comedian. Trump, of course, would say that Sheriff Clarke is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice. If you think I’m obsessed with that gobsmacker of a sentence, check out N Todd’s joint, Dohiyi Mir.

My unsolicited advice to Wisconsinites: get over the Packers loss and go to work supporting “leftist liberal lesbian” Tammy Baldwin. The helots are coming for her. If it’s not David Clarke, they’ll find another challenger. It’s an example of why our voters need to turn out for EVERY ELECTION. The country you save may be your own.

The Problem of Whiteness meets the Problem with the Witless

It seems that Rep. David Murphy, who chairs the state’s committee on colleges and universities despite never having graduated from one, came out swinging against a course titled “The Problem of Whiteness.” This class is taught at UW-Madison, is an elective and is taught by professor Damon Sajnani, who has a Ph.D. in African-American studies from Northwestern. Murphy found the class – an elective, mind you – to be so disturbing he called for the entire UW System’s funding request to be yanked unless the class was cancelled:

 Murphy, who is chairman of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, said he and his staff looked at “The Problem of Whiteness” course description for the spring semester, as well as the background of its teacher, Assistant Professor Damon Sajnani. He concluded: “We are adding to the polarization of the races in our state.”

 

SNIP

 

Murphy said he had been “trying to talk up” to fellow lawmakers increased funding for the UW System in the next state budget but was now having doubts.

“If UW-Madison stands with this professor,” Murphy wrote, “I don’t know how the university can expect the taxpayers to stand with UW-Madison.”

 

This is the textbook definition of bullying and a shakedown. The university system contains 26 campuses, 180,000 students, 40,000 faculty and contributes nearly $6 billion annually to the state and Murphy wants to hold it hostage over ONE COURSE. He has also demanded that Sajnani be “dismissed.” Keep in mind, he never took the course, never read the texts associated with the course and never received a complaint about the course. He just basically decided to screw with the university because he can. We’re about a millimeter away from Murphy saying, “Nice budget you gots here… Shame if somethin’ were to happen to it…”

 

Murphy didn’t stop with just this one course, however, noting that he was going to have his staff check into ALL classes at UW-Madison to make sure “they’re legit.”

Asked what he and his staff would be looking for in courses, Murphy said they would not need to look at disciplines like chemistry or business, but “we’ll be looking at the humanities. I realize college is a place to discuss ideas that aren’t necessarily everybody’s idea of how things ought to be, but I want to make sure there’s legitimate education going on.”

 

This would be hysterical if it Murphy didn’t have actual power over state resources. Let’s review a few things:

  1. Murphy never graduated from college. He couldn’t even finish a degree at UW-Fox Valley, a two-year school in the system. He spent his life in agri-business and as a real estate guy. How, exactly, would he know if the courses were “legit” or not? What level of expertise does he bring to the table that would indicate his life and educational experience will allow him to sniff out all these potentially illegitimate courses? That would be like me walking around the surgical wing at the Mayo Clinic and checking up on all those brain surgeries to make sure they’re being done right.
  2. The professor he attacked at this point is an international scholar. Sajnani hails from Canada, where he not only received a bachelor’s and master’s degree, but he also is an accomplished member of the hip-hop community. For all the shit legislators give people about not getting “real world” experience in an area of interest, this guy has walked the walk in various aspects of life. His Ph.D. comes from Northwestern and he’s been a fellow at Harvard based on his research. So exactly how would he be unqualified a) teach this course and b) contribute to this university?
  3. Does Murphy realize he just backed the state into a corner with his stupidity? Let’s say for the sake of argument, the state wants to fund some, but not all of this UW System request. Anyone with a good PR person (read: anyone but Murphy) would immediately pounce on this and say, “Look, we got cut because Dave Murphy is trying to undermine academic freedom at our flagship university!” Regardless of how often he denies it, the case can be made that he threatened the budget if the course wasn’t cut, the U has not (and will not) cut the course and now the budget got cut.

 

This isn’t the first time the state has threatened the system’s budget. A few years back it was Steve Nass, who holds two degrees from UW-Whitewater and somehow thinks he made it in life despite that, took on the system over courses. He and several other Republicans killed a budget request when it created an overblown shit fit about an alleged $1 billion systemwide surplus.

Usually what happens is, the regents ask for money for faculty raises or improved facilities and the Republicans find something to get outraged about. It’s not a case of actual outrage, but they do a good job of making people really upset about these greedy, liberal (probably all gay drug using) professors in their ivory towers who don’t understand reality. Thus, they cut the budget, hold it out as a pride point and continue to divide the state between the “haves” and “have nots,” all as they do very little for either group.

Promises, Promises

My dad held very few points of pride when it came to things he did or didn’t do. He never smoked at all, he doesn’t “owe anyone anything” when it comes to financial concerns and he didn’t make a promise he didn’t think he could keep.

“If I said we’re going to do something, we did it,” he always told me. “If I said ‘No,’ I meant ‘No.” If it was ‘Maybe,’ anything could happen. But if I said we’re doing it, we did it unless something really changed the situation.”

He wasn’t kidding. I asked to go to my first baseball game when I was about 8 years old. He promised we’d go that Friday, not knowing it was “Bat Day” in the middle of a pennant race. The traffic was insane, the tickets were hard to get and it was just chaos at old County Stadium. Dad disliked all of those things, but we went and he never complained.

Promises were an important part of my life and I kept that same attitude for my kid. If I said we were going for ice cream, we went. If I said we weren’t doing something, begging only strengthened my resolve. I get the importance of promises, especially when people are relying on you.

That said, the kinds of promises we made as fathers were the kind that led to positive outcomes. They also occasionally were broken when circumstances intervened on us. Occasionally a promised trip had to be postponed due to a funeral or an illness. Sometimes, it became insane to persist in the promise.

When I was 10, Dad promised to take me to opening day. He got the tickets, pulled me out of school and we went to the stadium. In typical early-April fashion, it was about 40 degree, so we were all bundled up. It was also raining, so we did our best to stay dry.

The game was postponed for almost two hours and we were both freezing and soaked. Finally, Dad asked if I wanted to stay and I said, “Let’s go home.” Eventually the game started (we caught the first pitch on the radio in the car on the way home) but it was stupid to stay there and die in the frigid weather to prove a point.

When it comes to promises, Scott Walker and his ilk need to better understand the difference between the inconveniences of Bat Day and the stupidity of not coming in from the rain.

Walker unveiled his latest plan to close a $1 billion gap in the transportation gap by delaying some projects, shuffling money to local municipalities and cutting the department’s budget in other ways. The purpose of making these changes? To keep his promise of not raising taxes:

 

“Governor Walker has kept his word by proposing a reasonable transportation budget that sets the right priorities and doesn’t increase taxes or the registration fee,” said a statement from Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater).

Walker campaigned in 2010 for governor by criticizing Democrats like his predecessor Gov. Jim Doyle for failing to execute work on the Zoo Interchange. But Thursday Walker said it wouldn’t be fair to criticize him in turn for proposing delays to the north leg of the Zoo, saying that it was in better shape than the interchange’s aging core that is on track to be replaced.

“I make promises and I keep promises, and my promise to the taxpayers was I’m not going to raise taxes and fees,” Walker said.

 

Like many Republicans, Walker treats “tax” like it is a four-letter word. Then again, given his educational standing, he might think it is one.

The larger point is that this was a stupid promise. When we lack for revenue and need to get things done, we have to get more revenue. Things in the real world do, in fact, cost money. To that end, we can’t just say “delay this” or “delay that” to make it seem financially responsible. That’s like the guy who knows his brakes are going on his car, but to replace the pads will cost $200. Instead, he keeps riding the brakes for months and months until he literally can’t stop. At that point, he’s warped the rotors and irreparably harmed the calipers, so the job now costs $1500. Sure, he stuck to his guns that he wasn’t going to get them fixed, but at what cost?

Walker can’t back out of his pledge to not raise taxes because his lizard brain can only see the attack ads for his next campaign about how he raised taxes. Him worrying about that is like the captain of the Titanic worry about how all this water is going to tarnish the brass railings on the ship. Trust me, pal, you have bigger concerns.

Speaking of promises, what about that whole 250,000 job promise? What about that whole “Open for Business” pledge? Yeah, not so much on either of them and those are the important ones if you want to get revenue hopping in this state. No one with half a brain or a sense of proportion would have expected him to hit the 250K mark or that just posting “open” signs would have businesses pouring into the state. That said, had he made a stronger effort with better logic to make those things happen, it is far more likely that he could have made good on this third pledge to keep tax rates down.

I don’t like taxes any more than any other person out there, but I can tell you that I do vote for them locally. In a small town like the one in which I live, I can see where my tax money goes: The city well gets fixed. The trash pickup is awesome. My street gets plowed quickly. Same thing with schools: New computers, improved facilities, more engaged kids all come from me checking the box that says, “Take another $10 out of what I make each year to improve stuff.”

I hope people who drive the I-94 corridor that will be delayed or the area near the zoo that’s a total shitbox will also be able to see what happens when we make stupid promises and forgo our responsibility to improving society. Sure, it’s hard to see how things like teacher pay or university subsidies pan out for individuals, but when the potholes are knocking the fillings out of their teeth, I hope they feel the tax break was worth it.

Fitzgerald to MPS: Bitch, don’t make me hit you

I spent the last week watching the 30 for 30 documentary series “OJ: Made in America.” I have to admit it was intriguing, if not way, way, way too long. It’s been more than 20 years since the first O.J. trial and a time in which people like Marcia Clark, Kato Kaelin and Lance Ito all became nationally known names. For me, it was a bit like opening a box of stuff I found in the attic: It brought back memories, but didn’t provide me with a lot more than that on the whole.

The one thing that it did provide me, however, was a look into the life of Nicole Brown and the constant cycle of abuse she endured at the hands of O.J. At the time of the trial, we didn’t really have the Internet as we know it now, nor did we have a ton of talking-head journalism, so we really got only one real stream of content. Granted, we got it non-stop, but we didn’t get a more diverse set of understandings when it came to all the angles of this situation. Furthermore, domestic violence was still on the fringes of society. Much like everything else that made us feel uncomfortable back then, we marginalized it or ignored it.

The sheer volume of calls to the Simpson house and the 9-1-1 calls and the Polaroids of a bruised and battered Nicole brought to bear a sense of how horrible he had been to her. At the time of the trial, most of that got lost in the discussion of “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” and Mark Fuhrman’s “N-word-palooza and framing shop.” The escalation of abuse clearly showed she lived in constant fear for her life and that any reasonable person in today’s day and age would not have difficulty seeing that murder could be a logical denouement.

For O.J., however, it was always just a “situation” that “happened” because she was doing something wrong.

A cycle of abuse is easy to see only when you’re not the abuser, something our beloved legislators should consider. Over the past half-decade, the abuse the Republican majority has heaped upon the educational system in this state has shown little regard for the men and women who work there. Legislators like Scott Fitzgerald see nothing of the sort when they talk about education. Instead, they paint the “situation” more plainly: If you just did what you were supposed to do, we wouldn’t have to hit you so hard.

Case in point: In the wake of troubles with the Milwaukee Public Schools, Fitzgerald issued the following “Bitch, don’t make me hit you” statement:

 

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Republicans were so frustrated with MPS they may push for dramatic changes to how the state’s largest school district operates.

“Unfortunately, I think the only hammer is, ‘Listen, if you’re not going to participate, if you’re going to try to work around the law and we’re going to end up in court over this thing, then you’re probably going to see some significant reduction in revenue for MPS schools related to the opportunity schools.’ And I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I can see already that it’s kind of being teed up that way,” Fitzgerald said Thursday in an interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha” on WISN-TV.

 

Some people may feel the comparative between domestic violence and the legislature is a bridge too far or that it demeans one or the other of the situations. I understand that, but before you dismiss this out of hand, unpack that statement carefully:

  • He uses the phrase “the only hammer.” The idea of a hammer is just hit them harder until they submit. It’s a blunt tool and it doesn’t lend itself to nuance. The old line of “If at first you don’t succeed, hit it with a bigger hammer” comes into play here.
  • The approach: “Listen, if you’re not going to participate…” The “listen” notion conveys power imbalance. The “if/then” moment conveys threat.
  • The “don’t you dare call the cops” moment: “…if you’re going to try to work around the law and we’re going to end up in court over this thing, then you’re probably going to see some significant reduction in revenue for MPS schools related to the opportunity schools…” In other words, if you attempt to do something other than what I want or avail yourself of another option (courts), you are going to get hit hard.
  • The power dynamic: The schools rely on the state for money. They can’t get it anywhere else. They can’t leave, they can’t fight (thanks to Act 10) and they can’t afford to do what the state wants. Fitzgerald knows this. So do the schools.
  • The conciliatory conclusion: “I hope it doesn’t come to that” is a statement of false hope. It’s the one that has people in abusive situations thinking, “Maybe if I don’t burn the roast next time, he won’t hit me” or “Maybe I did look at that man when I shouldn’t have.”

 

I have not personally experienced the violence of an abuser, but I have studied it as a scholar and from an outsider’s point of view, the elements aren’t all that dissimilar. Even more, this is the latest in a long line of public beatings educators and the state’s educational system has taken. When I read this, I cringed the same way I did when I watched that film series. It was the same way I cringed when I read the cycles of abuse and destruction on the “Art Is Survival” site. It’s the same way I cringe when I see people at the store that I KNOW are in bad situations and the man says or does something like this and the rest of the family just freezes.

It all comes back to that one common thread:

“Please don’t hit me.”

 

Fun with statistics: Scott Walker Edition

The old adage goes that there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. In the wake of yet another “no confidence” vote against Gov. Scott Walker’s handpicked board of cronies regents and his “please don’t hit me, I won’t burn the roast again” system president, Ray Cross, Ol’ Deadeyes came out swinging this week.

In advance of the UW-Milwaukee vote on a no-confidence measure, Walker issued a press release that was packed with numbers and data to show that faculty are out-of-touch crybabies who lack a sense of reality. He then peppered it with a couple great quotes:

“The facts speak for themselves,” Governor Walker said.  “The bottom line is UW System funding stands at an all-time high, spending per student at UW-M is up more than 40 percent since 2002-03, and faculty is spending less time in the classroom.   We want to preserve the world-renowned quality of the UW System while protecting students and taxpayers.”

SNIP

“Some faculty bodies, including faculty at UW-M today, appear more interested in protecting outdated ‘job for life’ tenure than about helping students get the best education possible,” said Governor Walker.  “The University should not be about protecting the interests of the faculty, but about delivering value and excellence to Wisconsin.”

Walker has two problems here: 1) The numbers only work out in his favor in a few key situations, including places where he cherry picks data, doesn’t reveal where he got his data or generally oversimplifies things and 2) While painting this as a systemwide situation in general, he’s only looking at UWM numbers specifically, thus leading people to the erroneous conclusion that the whole system is exactly like Milwaukee.

Since data is kind of my thing and since I wanted to have a meaty post this week (because, hey, who wants to grade finals when you’re already being told you’re a lazy, useless asshole), let’s unpack the majority of these Walker-isms one at a time.

Student enrollment has dropped nearly four times more than faculty from 2010 to 2014. 

It’s unclear exactly what he was measuring here, whether it was overall headcount or FTE (full-time equivalency), but let’s go with “students enrolled” given his statement. First, how does something drop “nearly” four times? It either drops or it doesn’t. The magnitude of the drop is probably more important than what you’re getting in terms of a drop. Let’s look at the numbers:

2010: 182,090

2011:  181,269

2012:  180,969

2013:  179,828

2014:  180,979

 

In short, this “enrollment drop” a) has stopped and b) comes out to a 0.6 percent decrease in overall enrollment in the UW System. Here’s a look at FTE numbers:

2010: 156,039

2011:  155,163

2012:  154,843

2013:  153,252

2014:  152,773

Bigger drop. Nearly 2.1 percent over four years.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, a four-year span is a pretty weak sample to examine, for a number of reasons Governor Deadeyes would have figured out if he stuck around long enough to pass statistics. The larger the sample size, the less likely any one item is to lead to an anomaly. The governor used larger spans to help make other points, so let’s pick out those years and do the math here to see how the latest year stacks up against them:

Year           Headcount     % Change      FTE                 % Change

1994:              155,197         +16.6              127,494         +19.8

2000:              160,567         +12.7              135,205         +13

2002:              165,055         +9.6                140,000         +9.1

2004:              166,245         +8.9                142,209         +7.4

If you want to see a real trend, look at these charts, which go back to the 1970s. You’ll learn two important things:

AllEnroll

UWMEnroll

 

  • Enrollment is still on an overall incline. In fact, the overall UW enrollment number for the 2014 year is the third-highest enrollment year since 1973. If you only count FTE, it’s the sixth-largest over that time.
  • The highest year on record was 2010, the somehow crucial year that Scott Walker chose as a point of comparison.

 

In terms of UWM, the data does show the drops from 2010 to 2014 again, but the data still holds to the pattern outlined above: The long view shows we’re getting more kids now than years past when the state actually was putting in a much more sizeable chunk of cash. (If you want to have fun, feel free to play with this graph toy to look at all the campuses. If not, you probably have a better life than I do.)

 

The number of students per faculty member has dropped slightly from 2000 to 2014

 

Again, relying only on what the governor said, this doesn’t make sense. If we pull the number of faculty (not instructional staff or anyone else) from the same site he did for the two years and the students for those years throughout the system, you get this:

 

Year                Faculty                        Students                     Ratio

2000               6,103                          160,567                     26.3 to 1

 

2014               6,384                          180,979                     28.3 to 1

 

 

Even if you want to do it FTE, it still doesn’t make sense:

Year                Faculty                        Students                     Ratio

2000               6,103                          135,205                     22.1 to 1

 

2014               6,384                          152,773                     23.9 to 1

 

 

The only way this works is if he’s only talking about UWM, where the ratio went from 35.2 to 1 in 2000 to 34.4 to 1 in 2014. Even so, that’s a ridiculously high ratio of students to faculty when compared with the overall system. So even if their ratio “dropped slightly,” it was from “Unbearably Large” to “Slightly Less Unbearably Large.” UWM’s own self-serving numbers puts this at 18-1 while the AAUP puts it in the 20-something range. It’s unclear where those numbers came from or how he did this, but sufficient to say, not every number points to Walker’s talking point about fewer kids and more bloat in faculty.

 

Spending per student increased more than 40 percent from 2002-03 to 2015-16.

 

Right! But not the way Walker wants you to think. This idea makes it sound like the state keeps dumping money on students across the board. However this isn’t what the STATE spent on STUDENTS, but rather what STUDENTS spent ON COLLEGE. In short, look at this nifty graph:

uwfundingbysource

 

 

 

 

That’s right. Almost EVERYTHING went up in terms of spending and funding, from scholarships to tuition to donation money and more. State spending, on the other hand, took a nose dive ever since… wait for it… right about the time SCOTT WALKER TOOK OFFICE.

 

 

Faculty average student group contact hours, hours spent in classroom instruction, have dropped 20 percent from 2000 to 2013.

 

The UWM numbers bear this out, but the AAUP response makes a good point: The university shifted to a Research I institution, which requires far more research from the professors and thus less classroom time. RIs are more prestigious and often come with a 2/2 load. Places that are purely teaching based can go upwards of a 4/4 or 5/5 load, depending on needs. Thus the drop from 7.9 hours on average to 6.1 totally makes sense.

 

To have a better sense of things, it’s more instructive to look at the numbers for the cluster of comprehensives (the majority of your UW schools that turn out four-year degrees) to see what happened there.

 

2000:              11.9

2013:              11.6

 

There’s virtually no change in that, even though more of the universities have been pushed to be in the “research added” category, where more scholarship is expected of them.

 

Perhaps an even more important thing is that we HAVE TO get people past this idea that the only thing you measure is time spent in the classroom. That would be akin to saying, “Firefighters don’t deserve to get paid what they do because they’re only fighting fires a couple hours per week.” Or “Police don’t deserve their money because they didn’t solve a murder today.” (I’m not equating danger of job here to faculty.) Add in the prep time, the grading, the individual meetings, the student group advising, the student course advising, the research, the meetings, the course building, the accreditation crap and everything else and you start to get a better idea of what we do in a day/week/month. There’s always an email to answer, a paper to grade, a kid to help, a situation to fix and a colleague to assist. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t working or thinking about work. I also have no memory of any day where I went in, taught a course and left, doing nothing else work-related that whole day.

 

Focusing only on the time spent in classrooms is disingenuous at best and a purposeful con at worst.

 

Full professor salaries averaged $101,700 in 2013-14 school year. Average annual pay for all workers in Milwaukee County was $49,539 in 2014.

 

Again, we have no idea where exactly these numbers came from and Walker hasn’t been forthcoming about that either. It’s always easiest to spin a narrative that contains numbers when other people can’t see how you ended up with those numbers. Walker pulled a similar trick when he first started killing unions in the state with his claim of “thousands” of emails pouring in that supported his moves during the Act 10 fiasco. When the AP and State Journal sued to get them released, it turned out his numbers were total bullshit.

 

Also, we even GRANT him that these numbers are accurate, keep in mind this is only full professors, or people with the highest rank on campus. It’s, again, unclear if he’s going after UWM or the whole system, but consider this: At the four next-largest campuses (after UWM), here are the number of full professors who supposedly make AT LEAST that amount that Walker touts as an average:

 

24 at UWO

7 at UWGB

29 at UWL

24 at UWW

 

And in case you were wondering, almost all of those are in business or nursing, two fields that are in the highest demand for faculty.

 

Let’s look at a few other fields and specialties:

 

The highest paid full history professor at Whitewater makes $75,386.

The highest one at Oshkosh? $71,606

 

The top of the mark at UW-LaCrosse’s English department’s full professors gets $74,192. The best-paid professor in Theater at UW-Green Bay makes $71,611.

 

No professor of journalism at UWO makes even 90 percent of that alleged average. Same thing at UW-Eau Claire.

 

When it comes to associate and assistant professors, things are less rosy, with many of them being hired at around that Milwaukee County Average he’s touting. (Our previous two hires were brought in with doctorates and received less than $50K each.) It’s also kind of unclear who counted in his “Milwaukee County Workers” argument. It’s unclear if the kid cutting grass in the park for the summer is lumped in here or if it’s office staff, garbage collectors or what.

 

And for what it’s worth, Scott Walker makes $147,328, which doesn’t account for his free housing, free vehicles, free bodyguards and more. All that without ever having graduated college.

 

Pretty good work if you can get it.

Saturday Odds & Sods: All The Things You Are

Spectators

Spectators by Jim Flora.

We’re knee-deep in the El Nino season of 2015-16. I have a love-hate relationship with it: I love El Nino during hurricane season and hate it during the winter. The New Orleans metro area had a hellacious storm front last Tuesday. The city wasn’t impacted directly but there were nine confirmed tornadoes in the area that wreaked havoc in the outlying communities of Convent and LaPlace. It was like being an Okie for the day only without Jim Inhofe as your Senator. Of course, I have a whore monger and an empty suit as my Senators. so who am I to judge?

Before being uprooted for six weeks in 2005, the weather wasn’t a frequent topic of conversation in my house. For obvious reasons, I am now obsessed with the weather; so much so that I had twinges of PSTD when the wind was howling outside my door. Unlike Della and Oscar, I can’t hide under the bed when the weather sucks. I wouldn’t fit. Time for a brief meteorological musical interlude from the Brothers Finn:

I don’t really have a dog in the hunt in this year’s Oscar races. I suspect that wearing a beard and looking dirty and smelly will win Leonardo Decaprio his first Oscar. Handsome leading men have to ugly themselves up to be taken seriously viz George Clooney in Syriana. It’s a pity that Leo’s star turns in The Great Gatsby or The Aviator weren’t Oscarworthy but his duel with a bear in Revenant is. Of course, tangling with a bear did wonders for Daniel Boone’s career. Oh well, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Paul Newman won their Oscars for the wrong movies too. It’s a funny old world, y’all.

This week’s theme song, All The Things You Are, was composed in 1939 by Jerome Kern and features lyrics by his Show Boat writing partner, Oscar Hammerstein. It was long a favorite of Jazz musicians because of its melodic and harmonic complexity. Here are four distinctive takes on the song from some Jazz greats:

Now that I’ve provided you with a Kernel of substance, it’s time for the break after which I plan to Hammerstein it up some more.

Continue reading

Let Them Eat Cake: Student-Loan Edition

Yeah, this is totally what students need to save them from debt:

Gov. Scott Walker announced a legislative package on college affordability Monday that would eliminate the cap on student loan interest that borrowers can deduct from their state income tax, putting an average $165 extra in taxpayers’ pockets.

The package of bills drawn up by Republican lawmakers also provides students with additional information about their student loans so they can make smart financial decisions, emergency assistance so they can stay in school and internship opportunities to connect students with Wisconsin employers.

 

First, this is pretty much like trying to kill an elephant with a spitball. The state ranks third in the country in terms of student loan debt, with 70 percent of the class of 2014 reporting an average debt burden of nearly $29,000. That $165 bucks per year isn’t going to scratch the surface of what these kids will be paying back.

Second, and this may be unclear to our “let them eat cake” legislators, but students don’t take out massive loans due to a lack of education. It’s not as though they sit back and think, “Loans? Those are the free-money things, right? Gimme a bunch of those.” The cost of college continues to rise, even with this alleged “tuition freeze” Walker keeps touting. Fees continue to increase and compound, books cost a ridiculous amount of money and it’s not getting any cheaper to live on or off campus.

Students don’t want to take out loans any more than other people want to live off their credit cards or use those Kwik Kash places. They do it because they are desperate and they lack options.

This is the true cost of people who rage about their taxes going up by pennies and the state turning the higher education system into a political punching bag. By cutting state funding to state colleges and universities, you continue to saddle students with more and more debt. This makes it cost-prohibitive for them to enter certain fields, make certain purchases and become productive members of society.

All of which, of course, gets then blamed on overpaid professors and all those damned philosophy and women’s studies majors.

If the state really wants to have an impact on the cost of higher education, it needs to provide a sizable portion of aid to its colleges and universities. Nearly 40 years ago, the state provided about 44 percent of the system’s budget. This year, it’s down to 17 percent. One organization notes that if this continues on its current pace, by 2040 the state will contribute nothing.

It’s doubtful that will happen, as the state has a vested interest in contributing as little as possible to the system while still being able to lord over it. I imagine it will level out at about 4 percent in 20 years and hold steady.

At which point, legislators will once again cluck their tongues at those irresponsible kids who continue to take out bigger and bigger loans with no thought to how that debt will impact their futures.

The More We See, The Less We Know

Digital technology was supposed to make life easier for us and in many ways it has. Letters used to take days to arrive. Now, emails and texts bounce back and forth in seconds.

Phones used to be anchored to walls. Now, we carry them everywhere.

Typing used to require multiple carefully reworked drafts, as white-out and typos looked ugly. I rewrote that sentence three times in the time it would have taken for me to reinsert a piece of paper into my old IBM Selectric.

And yet, when it comes to video, it’s almost made our lives worse, especially when it comes to our judgment of others.

There is that “obvious” fumble that Cris Collinsworth shows us over and over and over again, his nasally whine berating the guy who got six-tenths of a second to make the call on the field. There are the umpires with Princess Leia Earmuff Headsets talking to New York if something was or wasn’t a home run (Jeffrey Maier be damned…). I’ve heard “Secaucus, New Jersey” so often on NBA broadcasts, I think I want to move there.

The ability to capture a moment allows us to see and analyze every instant of a moment and pass judgment. And yet the more we see, the less we really know.

Two things happened this week that had me pondering this issue and why it is we seem to be getting worse as we become more informed.

The first was, obviously, the “Making a Murderer” series on NetFlix, which follows the trials of Steven Avery. He was first convicted of rape, spent 18 years in prison and then was exonerated based on DNA evidence. He maintained his innocence throughout the process and even the old news coverage shows the police and sheriff’s officials were sketchy in their work at that point.

After being exonerated, Avery sued for more than $30 million. In the middle of the depositions, he was accused of murdering Teresa Halbach, a photographer who went to Avery’s home the day she disappeared. He was tried and convicted, with Avery, again, pleading his innocence.

I’m not going to re-litigate the case or post my thoughts about the issue here, if only because it would take away from the primary point I’m trying to make. However, I will say that based on what I saw of the documentary, I just pray to God that my life is never in the hands of the criminal justice system. I don’t think “clusterfuck” is a strong enough word to describe what happened throughout the process.

The documentary has come under fire, as it portrays Avery in a sympathetic light, according to some, and because it “left things out,” according to others. Ken Kratz, the Cyril Figgis of the DA’s office, slammed the documentary for missing out on all sorts of important things that would have clearly shown Avery was guilty. Of course, he a) declined to take part in the film during the TEN YEARS the producers were making it and b) declined to explain how some of the most basic things the documentary revealed didn’t sink his case (as in why the victim’s DNA wasn’t on her own car key, an item only recovered after the eighth search of Avery’s home and only after the Manitowoc cops were alone in his trailer, something even they admit they shouldn’t have been allowed to do).

In watching this series, I found myself learning about this case (I was too young to remember his original conviction and I was out of state when he was on trial for the murder), so I didn’t have a stake in the game. Interestingly enough, the kids around here all seem to have some connection to the area or have friends who do and it’s become kind of a rage-fest between those who want “justice” (I put that in quotes because it means a lot of different things to the array of people here.) and those who want it to go away. I understand why the Halbach family wants it to go away. I wouldn’t like to have to relive the worst moments of my life and have everyone talking about them. I understand why the cops want it to go away. It was a high-profile case and they got put through the wringer (in some cases, justifiably so; in others, probably not so much).

However, what struck me the most was that the more I watched, the less I knew. I’m watching actual video of a confession that Brendan Dassey (Avery’s nephew) gave regarding the role police said he played in the murder. It’s clear to me this kid has a serious mental defect, and I mean that in a clinical way.

The press conference that Kratz gave when the cops broke Dassey outlines this passionate confession of rape, murder, blood, death, fire and mayhem, as if this kid poured out a George R.R. Martin novel worth of detail.

The video? The kid can’t string together three words without prompting. He changes his story and he’s pretty clearly just guessing at what the cops want to know.

His main concern about confessing to murder? He wants to make it back for his 1:30 class because he has a project due.

His main concern about being in prison for the rest of his life? Wrestlemania is showing on Wednesday and he doesn’t have a TV.

Still, the jury convicted the kid of murder and defiling a corpse. The other jury? It found Avery guilty of murder, but not defiling a corpse even though it was supposedly Avery’s murder and fire.

I keep thinking, “Am I missing something? Or are we just stupid on the whole and the juries’ main concerns were about getting a lunch break?” Comedians for years said they wouldn’t want to be judged by 12 people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty. I sat in a couple jury rooms and there were times I think I might have outpointed the collective IQs of the people in there with me.

Or by seeing so much of this, did I overestimate my own sense of what I really knew?

The other thing that had me pondering this question was the revelation that more than 100 faculty members on the University of Missouri campus have signed a letter, calling for the school to retain professor Melissa Click. You may remember Click as the assistant professor of communication who called for “some muscle” when a reporter attempted to enter the Carnahan Quad during the #ConcernedStudent1950 protests back in November. She was captured on video pushing a journalist, threatening a journalist with an erroneous statement regarding his rights, calling for people to physically “muscle” him off the Quad and then mocking him as he asserted his First Amendment rights.

The letter calls Click’s actions “at most a regrettable mistake” and argues that “the university should defend her first amendment rights of protest and her freedom to act as a private citizen.”

I’ve watched that video more than a dozen times. I’m bordering on Zapruder status in my intent to analyze it and my reading of other stories about Click and this protest. I’m also someone who works with students in classes that deal with exactly the kinds of First-Amendment (someone should tell the letter-folk to capitalize stuff) issues at play in this situation.

I argued that it was interesting that only two journalism faculty signed on for this letter and that there were clearly some issues here that would lead to dismissal. A good friend who is a First-Amendment scholar and the owner of both a journalism Ph.D. and a law degree argued the opposite. His point was that her words didn’t create an imminent threat and that there are differences between direct threats (“I’m going to shoot you”) and indirect ones (“Someone ought to shoot you.”). He also noted that she had a right under the First Amendment to protest.

Again, I keep watching this thing and trying to imagine myself in that spot. If I’m that kid and I’m in the minority (journalists vs. protesters), I’m already on edge. When someone calls for “muscle” I don’t think it’s so that we can arm wrestle to see who should get interviewed first.

If I’m there, I’m scared. I’m also thinking that in this day and age of stand-your-ground, right-to-carry and the general “Fuck You Nation,” it’s a miracle of modern man that no one pulled a gun in this whole thing. If that happens, you’re talking Kent State times 100.

As a professor, I find myself ALWAYS imagining the headline of the story before I do anything that might be viewed as suspect. For example, “Journalism Professor Pees in Dorm Parking Lot” is not how I want to see myself in the public eye. Sure, I like to think of myself as a private citizen, but if I pull off a public act that casts me and my school in bad light (and that borders on illegal and potentially violent), I know I’m going to be job hunting soon.

And yet, maybe I’m only seeing this as a detached journalist? Maybe I’m missing something?

Or maybe Melissa Click’s right to free expression have to stop at the other guy’s nose. Supporting someone who took advantage of mob-sized leverage and then mocked someone else’s rights probably shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt.

Beyond that, the phrase “at most a regrettable mistake” bugs the crap out of me. As a journalism blog covering this issue noted, it’s unclear if she regrets the actions or if she regrets being caught. It’s also unclear if she really regrets either. Or understands what made this such a shit show.

The phrase, “You weren’t there” is one that people often use to excuse away the actions of themselves and others. To be fair, that concept is a double-edged sword. By being “there” (wherever “there” is), you have access to the raw events as the occur. However, you also have but a singular, momentary frame of reference.

I’m sure when she hears the word “thug,” Click doesn’t think of herself in that context. However, through a longer and wider lens, her actions were “thuggish.” She could have loosed even more violent opportunism as she wielded the power of an angry mob against an agent of the press. (A press, by the way, that she and others openly courted throughout the protests.)

I’m sure that people who lived around the Avery clan saw him not as this bearded, dwarflike man who could never catch a break. The documentary makes it clear that the family has been branded as “The Averys,” a clear local euphemism that transcends this group. Every town or area has a “oh… it’s THOSE PEOPLE,” euphemism. Back home, the Edgerton Apartments were where lower-class, lower-income people lived. People who were said to be dirty, redneck trailer trash were said to be “One of the Edgertons.”

The sense that these people were a few fries short of a Happy Meal and shit-box poor assholes comes through in so much of this series. It’s like they basically had it coming when something bad happened to them. Besides, why would the cops go through all the work of framing a guy with the IQ of a salad bar?

However, when you watch this series all at once, you have to ask, “What the hell is wrong with ALL of Manitowoc County?” Between the strange, backwoods coupling that seems to be going on all over the place in terms of marriages and families and the dickhead cops who browbeat a 16-year-old kid, it’s hard to see this as justice, regardless of if he’s innocent or guilty.

An officer of the court told a reporter, that it made no sense to frame Avery. It would be easier to kill him if they just wanted him gone.

A DNA expert tainted a sample with her own DNA and then broke protocol so she could declare the DNA on a bullet a match to the victim’s.

Despite tons of references to blood, blood, blood and more blood, they couldn’t seem to find any of it anywhere other than in the victim’s car.

I kept watching and waiting for someone, ANYONE to explain how that was possible. I read everything I could to find out how all this worked.

I got nothing.

At the end of the day, Avery’s in prison, Click’s probably going to teach again and we’ll all go back to doing whatever it was we did before knew about either of them. However, I can’t help but hang onto that idea that I’m essentially trying to grab a fistful of Jell-O when it comes to situations like this: The harder I squeeze and try to hold on, the more it just seems to squirt away.

Maybe we were all better off when we didn’t see as much.

Bring Out the Dead

We can’t let the corpses lie quiet when there are strip malls need building, you know: 

Madison— Landowners could excavate and possibly develop some of the surviving Indian mounds of Wisconsin — many dating back more than a millennium — under legislation by two lawmakers.

The bill from Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Rep. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) would shift the balance of state law more toward private property rights and away from the preservation of one of the state’s unusual features.

The earthen burial mounds, shaped like bears, deer, panthers, birds and people, can stretch hundreds of feet in length or width and are one of the most enduring forms of art in the state. It’s been estimated that 80% were plowed under or otherwise destroyed to make way for farms and buildings, and those remaining sites that are cataloged are protected from disturbance by state law.

[snip]

Under the draft measure, the Wisconsin Historical Society would be required to give property owners a permit allowing them to investigate at their own expense whether their mounds contain burial remains, either through an archaeological dig or through ground-penetrating radar. If the mounds contained no remains, landowners could use their property however they wished.

There’s really nothing bad that has ever come from disturbing a graveyard. That never goes wrong for anyone.

At this point Wisconsin Republicans are not satisfied with harrying the living and have begun bothering the dead. It’s not enough to pick on university professors, union workers, minorities, women, and children who are going hungry. Now they’ve got to screw with THE DECEASED.

Once they’re done with the burial mounds, maybe they can start bulldozing some cemeteries. There are acres of useful land there, just being taken up by lazy dead people leeching off the taxpayers!

A.

Wisconsin State Legislators (I Mean Their Photos) For Sale

Today in unintendedly hilarious things newspapers do on the Internet:

The Wisconsin State Journal, like many newspapers, offers its photos for sale, for people who want prints of what appears in the paper. But they’ve done this by adding a “BUY NOW” link under every photo. Every. Photo.

Including shots of elected officials.

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Inadvertent fail in attempt to make some quick cash or subtle statement on political corruption? We report, you decide.

Hat tip: Mr. A.

A.

More Guns More Guns More Guns

I have never understood concealed carry.

I grew up around hunters, guys who used guns like the instruments they are, instruments by which food can be gotten and eaten and a poor winter thus survived. Some of those guys went shooting for fun, respected their weapons, and modeled that respect for others. I do not have a gun phobia.

But I don’t get concealed carry.

The argument from the gun nuts goes something like this: If everybody can carry, then bad guys will be too scared of good guys to bring their guns to schools and movie theaters and stuff. If everybody’s armed, we will all be too nervous to cut each other off in traffic or flip off somebody who’s texting instead of paying attention to where he walks. If everybody has a gun, everybody will be safe.

Right?

So what is the point of concealing the gun?

Don’t you want a show of force?

Or is this some Dirty Harry cop-drama fantasy thing where you don’t WANT the supervillain to know where all the good guys are because then like his death ray would I JUST CANNOT: 

People with concealed weapon licenses would be allowed to carry guns inside the buildings and classrooms of Wisconsin’s public universities and colleges under a bill introduced Monday by two state legislators.

The bill would revoke an exception to the state’s concealed carry law allowing technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System to ban weapons inside campus buildings, and comes less than two weeks after a gunman killed nine people at an Oregon community college.

A.

Politicians Have too LITTLE Power in Wisconsin Government, Apparently

This is like giving whiskey and  car keys to 17-year-olds and then, when they wrap the Bronco around the neighbor’s tree, giving them more whiskey and a speedboat:

Madison — Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans who control the Legislature plan to restructure the agency that runs elections by the fall of 2016, when Walker hopes to top the ballot as a candidate for president.

GOP lawmakers also plan to rewrite campaign finance laws for state candidates to put them in line with recent court decisions. As part of that effort, they are considering at least doubling the amount of money donors can give candidates, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said.

Also on the docket this fall is putting limits on the ability of district attorneys to conduct John Doe probes that allow them to compel people to turn over documents and give testimony. The law also gives them the power to bar targets and witnesses from telling anyone but their attorneys about such investigations.

[snip]

Daniel Tokaji, a professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University who specializes in election law, called the accountability board a model for the nation in a 2013 review.

He called the move to restructure the accountability board a “partisan attack.”

“Such attempts at partisan manipulation of the election system are no longer surprising,” he said by email. “The only surprise is how ham-handed the state GOP has been about its goal of making Wisconsin’s election system less fair.”

Which will be super-fun when it is Democrats in power and yes, I said when. Might take a hundred years, but this stupidity will be over someday, and when it is, Robin Vos will be looking up from hell while he is nibbled on by a thousand fire ants, and he will say damn, that was stupid.

Nobody thinks, do they, that this will ever turn around on them, but nobody ever gives up power once they get it. It’s not smart to do so. You never give yourself fewer tools. You never voluntarily relinquish abilities you think you might need some day and politicians always think they will need the ability to fuck with their enemies.

Someday, as he is licked from head to toe by Ebola-infected zombies, Robin Vos will think to himself, I should never have given Gov. Tammy Baldwin the ability to get away with anything just so I wouldn’t die in prison.

A.

An open letter to Scott Walker

Dear Governor Walker,

Congratulations on finally declaring your candidacy for president, which was perhaps the world’s worst kept secret. It’s been pretty clear that, unless you had plans to complete a hostile takeover of Des Moines, you were spending a lot of time in Iowa to start the process of becoming “The Most Powerful Man In The World.” It’s also pretty clear that this is the start of your breakup with the state of Wisconsin. As Dan Bice’s recent story noted, you’re probably on your path to Palin-dom as a political outsider/defender of the faith for Fox News or the chicken-dinner circuit, if this whole presidential thing doesn’t pan out. It’s not us, you’ll tell the good people of Wisconsin, it’s you. It’s a chance to showcase what you have built here for the state, even as you discard it as a “been-there, done-that” event of your life.

Since you’re probably done with Wisconsin, I’d like to ask a question:

Can I have my state back now? I mean, the one I used to have?

Wisconsin was one of the few purple states out there, one in which you had dissent among parties and arguments among family members, but there was always a sense of basic human decency. When Gov. Tommy Thompson tried to take money from the teachers’ pension fund, the courts made him put it back. In doing so, the admonition was enough to let people know that some things were not to be done. When he pushed Welfare-to-Work, some people cheered on the idea of keeping those lazy Welfare Queens hustling for their cash, but others looked into how realistic it was to raise a family with the jobs available to people. Even when Jim Doyle tried to putz around with the tobacco settlement or force furloughs down the throats of state workers, no one really saw this as a great thing. It was just what we had to deal with and the pride of Wisconsin allowed us to grit our teeth and say, “We’re all in this together.”

You changed all of that. You took the purple and separated the red and blue into separate bottles. You created an “us vs. them” scenario on multiple fronts, as you “divided and conquered” those who would oppose you. You led the party that gerrymandered the voting districts so badly that the state is now being sued over this. You made people who once got along, even grudgingly, and made them see the other as an “other.”

Nothing better typified this than your most popular bumper stickers and signs: “I stand with Scott Walker.” For people who embraced this, it was less about slapping a sticker on a truck and more about placing a chip on a shoulder. It drew on the worst of our war-like rhetoric: Are you with us or are you with “them?” This gave people an identity and a feeling of power, even though you’d probably back them over with your campaign bus if it meant another step up the political ladder. Trying to get these people to see this is like trying to get “gun guys” to see that more restrictive laws were better for them if they were, as they always claimed to be, “responsible gun owners.”

Understand, Mr. Walker, this isn’t a Democrat/Republican thing. This isn’t a public-worker/hard-working-taxpayer thing. This isn’t a “I have a Ph.D./you have a walnut for a brain” thing. This is about my state, the one I thought I came home to nearly a decade ago.

In the two other states in which I lived and worked, Democrats and Republicans were constantly at each other. I was in Missouri when people so hated John Ashcroft that they elected a dead guy to the U.S. Senate. I lived in Indiana, a state so conservative that I rarely saw a political ad for the presidential elections. The Democrats were basically going to cede the state to Republicans before a single ballot was cast.

The divides there were more on a local level: The “townies” weren’t thrilled about the “college kids” taking over their local bars or having nicer things than they did. The “college kids” figured they could go out on a date and collectively have more teeth and IQ points than the rest of the diner combined. Still, the kids knew that if it weren’t for the people who lived there, they’d not have a university and the town people knew the university was a major economic driver for the area.

Only now in Wisconsin have I seen this kind of vitriol on a statewide level. It is the reason why, although I spent nine years in college and another 15 in academia, that when people ask me what I do, I tell them, “Oh. I work at the U.” I hope they assume I’m a janitor or something. In other cases, I just tell them that I enjoy refinishing furniture or try to get on to a more comfortable topic. When my dad is bragging to people at a baseball card show or something that “My son is a professor at the U,” I do my best to redirect or deflect the conversation to something safer.

I fear the rage, the disgust or the “hmmph” I’ll get for being “a college professor.”

You have helped galvanize that and direct that rage and you haven’t done so for the benefit of a better state, but rather for your own personal gains. You spoke to the echo chamber until it echoed back what you needed to move on with your life.

Please understand, governor, I’m not threatening to leave this state. I’m trying even harder to get kids to come to my little state-run school. I’m calling former colleagues and trying to get them to apply for jobs here, which is a lot like trying to convince someone to submit to a blowjob from a piranha.

I don’t condone or agree with Sara Goldrick-Rab’s recent Twitter fiasco, because it obscures the real issues. No one is like Hitler, probably not even Hitler himself at this point, given how we tend to attribute anything we don’t like from politicians to umpires as being Hitler-like. I also hate the idea of people saying, “I’m taking my ball and going home.” She’s a brilliant scholar, but she’s coming through to the outside world as a cross between a huffy academic and a screaming cat lady. I feel her anger and I feel her pain, but a 140-character battle of wits with the Internet isn’t the answer.

Understand instead that unlike you, I’ve lived elsewhere. I’ve gone other places and done other things for reasons beyond getting a passport stamp or a false-front understanding of the complexities of international negotiations. I also know that while you apparently want out, I want to stay here.

A few times during your tenure, I’ve been offered jobs in places that were run better, that had more money, that gave me more freedom and that didn’t have a governor who saw me as the enemy. (That last one isn’t entirely true, as I did get an offer from LSU as well…) I’ve thought long and hard about grabbing that lifeboat, setting sail and never looking back. It seems like it would be so easy, but I turned down each one.

The reason is simple. This is my home. It’s where my parents live. It’s where my grandparents are buried. It’s where I learned the value of getting along with people who aren’t like you and where I teach some of the best kids in the world. It’s where so many of my values (shut up and do the work; don’t whine about shitty outcomes; improvise, adapt, overcome; work harder and you can overcome any problem) are exemplified in almost every kid who sits in my class. They come from the families of people you have convinced that I am a lazy Satanist who masturbates to Karl Marx and works 21.8 minutes out of every week. They see me work hard and watch as I force them work hard. They become better. They become inspired. They become grateful. It is in that generation I see hope.

I finally found a home with a workshop and a car for the summer. I finally have a friend who stops by to check in on my wood projects and with whom I drink beer in his garage. I have kids who take classes because I teach them, not because they have to.

I have a life and for the first time in a long time, I don’t have wanderlust.

You don’t get to take that away from me. I won’t let you.

So please, sir, enjoy your run through the primary. Battle it out with the intellectual giants in your party like Donald Trump for the right to face Hillary or Bernie in the second round. Continue to burnish your reputation by telling the story of how you brandished a musket and fended off 1.4 million protestors who were attempting to gut your wife like a deer. I wish you well.

Just give me back what I once had on your way out the door. Sure, it’s a lot worse for wear, but now that you’re essentially gone, maybe we can start fixing it.

Best of luck,

Doc

Scott Walker’s Lex Luthor Party

One thing we have to do immediately is prosecute whistleblowers: 

The state budget passed this week by the Legislature repeals a law that encourages whistle-blowers with evidence of Medicaid fraud to come forward.

Wisconsin has recovered millions of dollars from lawsuits initiated by whistle-blowers since the law was enacted in 2007.

The repeal of the law — no more than a few words and a reference to a section in the state statute — was included in an omnibus motion on Medicaid by the Joint Finance Committee and drew little attention.

There were no hearings or even public discussion by the committee.

Funny, I thought the GOP was all about rooting out fraud in expensive federal programs OH WAIT:

In the largest and most promising lawsuits, the federal government frequently intervenes and takes over the litigation.

The federal False Claims Act has resulted in settlements with pharmaceutical and other health care companies that have totaled billions of dollars.

This isn’t the GOPSexy kind of fraud, where a poor woman lies about her benefits to bilk the state out of $250. This is the kind of fraud their friends do!

Cross represented a whistle-blower in a lawsuit that recently led to a $31.5 million settlement with PharMerica, which provides pharmacy services to nursing homes and other institutional customers as well as other services in 45 states.

The lawsuit alleged the company illegally dispensed drugs, such as OxyContin and fentanyl, without valid prescriptions, and falsely billed the government for them.

Cross also represented a nurse in a lawsuit against Odyssey Healthcare Inc., one of the country’s largest providers of hospice care and now part of Gentiva Health Services, that led to a $25 million settlement.

In another recent whistle-blower lawsuit, Extendicare Health Services Inc., a nursing-home chain based in Milwaukee at the time, and a subsidiary agreed to pay $38 million to the federal government and eight states, including Wisconsin, to settle allegations that it improperly billed Medicare and Medicaid.

It is excellent that we are no longer protecting people who want to help stop that kind of thing.

BONUS Wisconsin stupidity: Don’t drink and legislate.

A.

They Tell You What They Are: Wisconsin Republicans and the Open Records Attack Everyone Saw Coming

Wisconsin Republicans say SORRY NOT SORRY they were about to gut the state’s open records laws, and we’ll convene a committee to decide when to do this later so there won’t be so much  attention paid, and now let us get back to talking about how university professors are the root of all evil: 

Faced with a swift and fierce backlash, Republicans Saturday abandoned a plan that would have gutted the state’s open records law.

In a joint statement issued Saturday afternoon, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders said the provisions relating to any changes to the law would be removed from the state budget.

“After substantive discussion over the last day, we have agreed that the provisions relating to any changes in the state’s open records law will be removed from the budget in its entirety. We are steadfastly committed to open and accountable government,” the statement read. “The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents’ privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way.”

The announcement came from Walker, but it was also attributed to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette). Darling and Nygren are co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee.

Read Doc’s post from Friday, if you please. 

Newspapers across the state were absolutely outraged. Journalists were up in arms on Twitter. Everyone was so, so angry.

The Wisconsin State Journal, Friday: 

Aren’t Republicans supposed to favor responsibility? Apparently, Wisconsin Republicans do not.

Among several troubling passages inserted into the state budget Thursday night is this doozy: “No provision of the state’s public records law that conflicts with a rule or policy of the Senate or Assembly or joint rule or policy of the Legislature applies to a record that is subject to such rule or policy.”

In other words, state lawmakers do what they want, when they want — and taxpayers will be in the dark.

Paging the tea party: This is just the sort of government arrogance it should despise. Who is in charge here? The people or the politicians?

The Wisconsin State Journal, endorsing Scott Walker: 

Walker’s pledge to stop a modern, high-speed passenger train — one that’s already paid for — is disturbing. So is Walker’s excessive pandering to social conservatives on issues such as embryonic stem-cell research and abortion.

But Walker is no extremist. The Republican has been repeatedly re-elected in a hugely-Democratic county.

The Wisconsin State Journal, “analyzing” that protests against Walker and his cronies are so, so awful and passé: 

Is it possible that some Capitol protesters have jumped the shark?

Now, before you form a drum circle outside our office and start a petition to recall OTC, hear us out. When the protests started, they were in many ways inspiring. No matter your politics, seeing thousands gather peacefully for a cause while remaining reasonably civil throughout was impressive.

But increasingly in the past few weeks, groups have interrupted committee meetings and press conferences, as well as Assembly and Senate sessions, dressed in costumes and acting out plays that seem to undercut the seriousness of the issues. And more often than not, someone is trailing them with a camera phone or some other kind of recording device.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Friday: 

The proposals would hide from public view a slew of records created by the Walker administration and other state agencies.

This eyes-wide-open attempt to blind the public was, of course, never discussed in open session. And state Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), co-chair of the powerful budget-writing committee, wouldn’t say who inserted the changes into the bill.

Nygren assures us, though, that the changes will be good for the public.

Just who does he think he’s kidding?

Secrecy may be good for powerful legislators such as Nygren or for his co-chair, state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). And secrecy may be just fine for legislators who don’t want the public to know what they are doing or with whom they are working.

But secrecy is a plague on citizens. These proposals would set back by decades the cause of open government in Wisconsin. Any representative who votes to approve a budget containing such broad limits on the public’s right to know is not fit to hold office.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, endorsing Walker in his RECALL election: Yeah, he’s a scum-sucking liar but real democracy is messy and rude and why does everything have to be so mean all the time?

Even if you disagree with Walker’s policies, does that justify cutting short his term as governor? And if so, where does such logic lead? To more recall elections? More turmoil?

It’s time to end the bickering and get back to the business of the state. We’ve had our differences with the governor, but he deserves a chance to complete his term. We recommended him in 2010. We see no reason to change that recommendation. We urge voters to support Walker in the June 5 recall election.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, deploring the recalls:

Enormous amounts of money have been raised on both sides; much of that, again on both sides, is coming from folks and interests outside Wisconsin. Our guess is the ads will be ugly and divisive, especially once we move past the primary. This recall is seen by some here and elsewhere as part of a larger struggle taking place across the country. It also carries the potential, as Walker told the Editorial Board this week, for setting the stage for a constant recall election cycle.

And we still maintain this is all unnecessary because it essentially boils down to one issue: last year’s legislation that severely curtailed bargaining rights for most public employees. Politicians, regardless of party, should not be recalled over one issue or one (or even several) votes.

Which is why we hope that state Sen. Robin Vos reintroduces his bill to make it more difficult to conduct recalls in Wisconsin. It’s just too easy now, and Wisconsin needs to curb this fever as soon as it can.

Republicans showed Wisconsin journalists time and time again who they were. They showed journalists they didn’t care about openness and learning and their constituents and working people.

In the face of those demonstrations, journalists chose to whine about protesters in costumes and the mean, mean ads in elections and engage in magical thinking about how Republicans would govern as “moderates” even though THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED EVER. With all the information available to them, editors of Wisconsin’s largest newspapers decided they’d continue to endorse Republicans.

And then came journalists, shocked and appalled. Attacks on open records and investigative journalism! Untruths! Lies! Perfidy! They were utterly gobsmacked by the temerity and arrogance of these Republican legislators. Never before had there been such an assault on freedom!

Not since the last time, anyway. Or the time before that or before that or before that. When those same newspapers’ editorial pages were significantly less outraged.

Lest it seem like I am blaming the victims here, no, this is not okay because it results in the coming home and roosting there at of chickens the state’s largest newspapers pretended did not exist until covered in chicken shit.

The majority of the people who would have been hurt by these changes to Wisconsin’s historically lenient open records laws would not have been prominent journalists whose FOIAs got denied but ordinary citizens who could not access basic information pertaining to their own lives. These changes should have been deplored and opposed.

Just like attacks on the public’s right to know when Republican legislators were demonstrating contempt for the state university system’s ENTIRE EXISTENCE and reason for being.

Just like Republican lawmakers’ contempt for openness when they were talking about secretly sabotaging protesters. 

They told you who they were, time and time again. They told you what they believed and what they wanted and when they wanted it, and they told you they didn’t care. And now you’re shocked? Now you’re appalled? Now something had to be done? Now the backlash was swift, and fierce?

Where was it four years ago, five, six?

Presumably it was busy opining that really, hippies are smelly, and protests are like, so over.

A.

Understanding Tenure

This might be the last post I’m able to accomplish for quite some time. I’m not sure what the future holds, now that the UW Regents brought to you by Carl’s Jr…. er… Scott Walker have failed to fight back against the plan to eliminate the state statute that protects professorial tenure. Those who have supported this move in the statehouse, especially Alberta Darling, whose name is an anagram for “Blaring Alert Ad,” have said this isn’t the elimination of tenure. Instead, it’s simply moving it from the state law to the regents’ control, so it’s the same basic thing. This is true, much in the way that if you love the smell of the $158 Calvin Klein Eternity, you’ll love the 50-cent version of this “impostor fragrance” spurted on you from the machine in the truck stop bathroom. The classic scent of a “harmonious blend of white flowers and creamy woods” is so much like the spray of cheap alcohol and cat piss you get at “Cum-N-Go” fuel depot.

I understand why people who feel that professors are lazy or don’t do work or generally sit in their offices in tweed coats and smoke alabaster pipes all day think tenure is bullshit. Truth be told, those of use who view tenure as a shield hate people who use it as a sword to fend off actual work and shared responsibilities. However, you shouldn’t get rid of the whole system simply because a few useless assholes are taking advantage of it. That’s like throwing away your Cadillac Escalade because somebody jammed gum into the ashtray.

The purpose of tenure is to provide faculty with the ability to fearlessly study, publish, promote and question ideas, topics and institutions that might not sit well with everyone else. It also allows professors, who are seen as the experts in their fields, to self-define what makes for worthwhile scholarly and professional endeavors. Thus, a professor who wants to understand how pornography shapes the minds of adults and influences heavy users in their sexual relationships later in life can do so without some half-wit popcorn farmer waving a “Gentlemen Prefer Bridget” DVD in their face and then pink-slipping the scholar.

It’s also why I get to do this. Each week (OK, I’ve been slipping a bit recently…) I get to find a topic of interest, create a post, include links, post the material, read the responses, track the readership data and examine the influence of my words. It also allows me to go back and analyze my own writing to see my influences over time and the ways in which certain topics either emboldened or cowed me in my approach to coverage. I was lucky enough to have a friend/colleague/co-asylum-dweller who had a successful blog who would let me post and give me the chance to see how this all works in a real-life scenario. This is basically the world’s coolest writing lab on a platform a lot of my students will need to understand if they hope to be employable.

I’m not sure how many people think this way about these posts or this blog or anything else they get on the Internet. In fact, I’d bet many people think I do this so I can kill time on a Friday while saying “fuck” a lot in front of other people.

And that the whole point of tenure: I got to decide what mattered and play in that sandbox in hopes of bettering myself without fear of getting fired for it or for lack of “a direct and measurable productivity and output statement.”

This is not, as some people say, “a job for life.” You can be fired as a tenured faculty member, but it just makes it a lot harder for hair-brained, hair-trigger idiots to do so. The people who WANT to fire you must show “just cause” under the state law, which means that professors who act all weird instead of teaching, have “crime-based” issues or view students as a smorgasbord of pussy (that one was for you, A), can and are shown the door. It also means that when you write, as I have, that my governor looks like that creature from “Dreamcatcher,” or that he has the IQ of a salad bar, or occasionally looks like Johnny Drama after he rubbed his boner up against Brooke Shields, no one can activate a trap door under your desk and drop your ass into the Rancor pit.

When a state law demands something with strong punitive measures to inhibit lawbreakers (think of speed limits in Rosendale), people tend to take that shit really seriously and think twice before doing something stupid. However, when it’s only supported by a smaller group with little authority and almost no tangible negative associated with it (think of when teachers on the last day of school yell, “No running in the halls!”), nobody really takes it seriously.

What the new policy will look like, no one here knows. The general reassurances of state officials, regents, system administrators and more are nice, but I’ve seen people fired for far less than what has been written here. It’s sad, but what we have held onto by retaining the Wisconsin Idea, we might be unable to accomplish because we now have people fearful of supporting that Idea.

An educational “outing” for the Republicans in the State of Wisconsin

It’s tough living with a secret that could force people to look at you in a different way. Friends and colleagues give you that “I thought I KNEW YOU!” look as they ponder their new reality. Some will denounce you for being that which you vehemently opposed. Others will quickly scramble to defend you with false-front excuses or seek to help you find a way to “repent for your sin.” Knowing all of this, many people with these deep secrets do their best to keep them quiet or disclose them only in passing to a few trusted members of an inner-circle.

One of the harsher ways to break this cycle is when someone decides it’s time to “out” you. The person lays bear your darkest truth in a raw, unvarnished fashion to the world at large.

In some cases, the results are disastrous, as it was when 18-year-old Tarence Mitchell murdered his older gay lover, who threatened to out him when Mitchell tried to end their two-year relationship.

In other cases, it forces someone to deal with a horrible thing that eventually leads to progress and important outcomes, as was the case of Arthur Ashe. Ashe, a championship tennis player, feared that USA Today was about to “out” him based on his HIV status. Although he stated he didn’t like being forced into a corner on this issue, he later stated he was no longer forced to lie.

In many cases, though, it shatters the illusions that a hypocrite weaves for their own benefit, as was the case with “the Rev.” Ted Haggard. The notoriously anti-gay Haggard was outed by a gay prostitute, which led to other accusations of sexual “improprieties” from other men.

Outing is risky, today, as lawmakers in the state of Wisconsin take up the UW System budget, I felt compelled to try this last-ditch effort to try to stop the madness of Gov. Deadeyes’ $300 million cut.

Republicans own 63 seats in the 99-seat assembly, which guarantees they can pretty much drive home whatever anti-intellectual crap that it seems the Clevons of this state want. It’s easy for them to kick the UW system around because it makes for good applause lines for people who think college kids sleep until noon, party all day and smoke “the mary jane” all day. It’s even easier to kick those lazy, overpaid professors who never do anything of value, making the point of pursuing a degree pointless.

I dug through the list of biographies of every Republican state officeholder for their level of education, assuming erroneously that the reason this seems to be a party of anti-education was because none of them could hack it.

I was wrong. Way wrong.

Here’s what those hard-working, every-man Republicans DON’T want you to know:

They have UW degrees. Lots of them.

Of the 63 seats listed as being Republican controlled, 21 of them are occupied by people who earned degrees at UW System schools.

Lest we confuse the issue, this doesn’t count the Republicans who got degrees from out of state or those who “attended” one of the various UW branches for a year or two.

These are people with diplomas on their walls from UW schools who are not standing up against the idea of screwing over the very places from which they matriculated.

And lest you think that they got those “real degrees” that are supposed to give you “real world job experience,” consider this:

  • Eight of the 21 majored in political science, a field often derided with the line of “Why try? Go Poli Sci!”
  • One of those eight (Kathleen Bernier) got her degree as a returning student, thus demonstrating both her resolve to get the degree and the esteem in which she must have held it.
  • Four of the 21 completed their degrees at that liberal hell hole known as UW-Madison
  • History and philosophy, two degrees parents hear about and say “What the hell are you going to do with that?” claim one Republican each (Rob Hutton and Warren Petryk)

The rest of the list is below (majors in parentheses when available):

  • Scott Allen – UW-Milwaukee (political science)
  • Joan Ballweg – UW-Stevens Point (elementary education)
  • Kathleen Bernier UW-Eau Claire (political science)
  • Janel Brandtjen – UW-Milwaukee (business/finance/marketing)
  • Ed Brooks – UW-Madison (agricultural economics)
  • David Craig- UW-Milwaukee
  • Mary Czaja – UW-River Falls (finance)
  • Cody Horlacher – UW-Whitewater (business)
  • Rob Hutton – UW-Whitewater (history)
  • Andre Jacque – UW-Madison
  • Samantha Kerkman – UW-Whitewater (political science)
  • Mike Kuglitsch – UW-Whitewater (business)
  • Amy Loudenbeck – UW-Madison (political science/international relations)
  • Jim Ott – UW-Milwaukee (bachelor’s and master’s degrees)
  • Warren Petryk – UW-Eau Claire (philosophy)
  • Romaine Quinn – UW-Green Bay (political science)
  • David Steffen – UW-Madison (political science)
  • Gary Tauchen – UW River Falls (animal science)
  • Nancy VanderMeer – UW-Lacrosse (psychology)
  • Tyler Vorpagel – UW-Green Bay (public administration and political science)
  • Robin Vos – UW-Whitewater (political science)

When you look at the senate, things deserve even more attention:

Of the 33 seats, Republicans control 19 of them.

Of those 19 seats, 12 are occupied by holders of UW degrees.

How toxic would it be for Republican voters to know about this? It’s clear that for some people, it’s scary as hell.

Mary Lazich, the senate president, lists many of her accomplishments in her official state biography, but never once mentions that she not only graduated from UW-Milwaukee, but also that (gasp) her degree was in social work or that (double gasp) she graduated summa cum laude.

Tom Tiffany and Leah Vukmir also fail to mention their status as proud graduates of state institutions. In Vukmir’s case, she has a master’s degree in nursing from UW-Madison.

Below is the whole list of Republican UW grads in the senate

SENATE

  • Robert Cowles – UW-Green Bay
  • Alberta Darling – UW-Milwaukee (secondary education)
  • Scott Fitzgerald – UW-Oshkosh (journalism)
  • Mary Lazich – UW-Milwaukee (social work)
  • Howard Marklein – UW-Whitewater (accounting)
  • Steve Nass – UW-Whitewater (bachelor’s; master’s in school business management)
  • Luther Olsen – UW-Madison
  • Roger Roth – UW-Oshkosh
  • Duey Stroebel – UW-Madison (bachelor’s in business administration; master’s in real estate appraisal and investment analysis
  • Tom Tiffany UW River Falls (agricultural economics)
  • Leah Vukmir –UW Madison (master’s in nursing)

For many Republican voter, this would likely be some sort of a shock.

“But… but… but… We shot things together! We laughed at fart jokes! We talked about Jesus and how he called you to run for office! How can we trust you now?”

Relax, guys and gals, you can still dress in blaze orange with these nitwits and laugh when you fart in an elevator. Taste and moxie aren’t necessarily anathema to education.

However, this message is for those of you on the list above:

You need to stop denying who you are.

You aren’t people who “tried college once but found that it wasn’t for real Americans.” You graduated. You saw it all the way through.

You aren’t people who “don’t know better” like the people in some of these hinterland outposts of our state who once saw a black guy on TV. You went to those “inner-city hell holes” like UW-Milwaukee and those “liberal dens of debauchery” like UW-Madison.

You can’t tell stories about how you “worked flipping burgers” to pay your way through college (if you’ll admit to the college thing) without seeing that it was a hell of a lot cheaper/easier/supported when you went through than it is now.

What you can do and what you should do is stand up when others around you disparage the UW System, propose draconian budget cuts and generally beat up on your alma mater.

Tell the people in your own party, “I’m a UW graduate and I did pretty well in life because of it.”

It’s time to come out of the closet on this one.

The Golden Handshake

My father often spoke in somewhat wistful tones about the concept of The Golden Handshake. It was offered on rare occasion to the men and women of his factory, an opportunity of a lifetime in many cases.

The Golden Handshake was a buyout plan, but it was never pitched that way back at the factory. It was a “thank you” to a lot of the old guys and gals (usually guys, given the era) who had given a lot of their lives to the factory. It was a chance to retire with a bonus and a chance to leave on your own terms.

We give you a big chunk of money and move you into retirement. You agree to retire now so we can move some people around. It always sounded so reasonable.

When Dad decided to retire, I can’t remember if he got that Handshake or not. I do remember that he went to the HR guy and told him he was quitting (this was in November or something) and the guy actually told him not to.

“You’re going to finish up your two weeks and then you’re going to take all your vacation,” he told Dad. “Then on Jan. 2, you’re coming in for a day, punching in and then going on vacation until mid-March. That will use up all your benefits, keep you on salary and then we can move you to retirement money.”

It was an odd and purposeful gaming of the system that helped Dad stop working and yet get the better of the deal.

That’s not what I remembered about The Golden Handshake, however, when I heard that another couple UW campuses are offering it to some of the older faculty. The UW is applying some of those “business-conscious efforts” that private enterprises use when they need to cut costs. In this case, it’s because of Governor Deadeyes’ threat of a $300 million throat slash to the system.

What I remember about The Golden Handshake was what happened to people who didn’t take it.

Dad would tell stories about foremen shifting these old guys with tons of seniority to third-shift work. The guys often had their work reviewed by supervisors with who had keener eyesight and sharper pencils. The workload rules of “It will get done” became “It must get done now. Or else.”

In short it was “Resign or be prosecuted. Any way you want it.

I have heard more than a few stories of professors who have outlived their usefulness on various campuses. They rest on their laurels, they show way too many movies (most of them on VHS) and they kind of coast toward retirement.

We derisively referred to them as ROAD (Retired on active duty) while my buddy from the military used call them RIPs (Retired in place). I’m sure that each of these campuses have a few barnacles they’d like to scrape from the side of their hulls.

However, the problem is that these aren’t the people who will likely take the deal.

When I talked about stuff like this with my chair, we discussed a colleague who might have an opportunity to “handshake out.”

“No way he takes it,” my chair told me. “Why would you take half the money to do no work when you can get ALL the money and do almost no work?”

A similar RIP in my wife’s area loudly declared that if they offered something like that in her area, she’d flatly refuse. “I’ve got more money to make,” she noted.

And the downside as far as these UW campuses are concerned is that there are limited sticks they can use when the carrot fails. They could move class times to be less appealing or force older faculty to teach newer courses. However, in most cases, there isn’t a breaking point that would force the faculty’s hand. And when this happens, these people become the examples held up by legislators as the “lazy, tenured professors” who are milking the system.

It is unclear the degree to which these buyouts will work in improving quality while cutting costs. However, my great fear is that the best and brightest of those elder statesmen and stateswomen will take the money and run while what is left will be a long and winding ROAD to worse conditions.

GOP Don’t Care

Neil Heinen, ladies and gentlemen: 

 What is most disturbing is the image…the image of three Republican state legislators being escorted by security past protestors at the State Capitol Tuesday evening. And once again the nation watches news from Wisconsin and wonders what is going on in that state? It’s hard to imagine this is the impression Republicans are hoping will convince people to invest in Wisconsin.

But by once again ram-rodding divisive policy through the legislature and short-circuiting the public-hearing process, lawmakers have created an atmosphere of frustration and anger. Frankly the suggestion that the protests were a public safety risk is offensive. The largest risk is the risk to democracy by limiting the rights of citizens to be heard on laws that affect their lives. But embarrassing images and bad-faith governing are not things that concern this legislature any more.

But they used the words “credible threat!” Just like on CSI or something! It was all terrorist-speak-y!

Honestly, why should they care what they look like? There aren’t any electoral consequences for them. Mr. My New Boyfriend up there aside, most journalists have been treating the debate over the Right to Work (For Less) bill in Wisconsin as OH THIS IS ALL SO BORING DO WE HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT PROTESTS AGAIN?

Witness this, which Jude sends me because he worries my life is too calm and my blood pressure may be too low:

54ecda6a8c80c.image

HARDY HAR HAR NOTHING MATTERS REALLY. Both sides are noisy but it’s all so lamesauce.

The national press is too busy jerking off about Walker 2016 to pay attention to the actual business of governing. So the Wisconsin GOP looks like a bunch of goddamn clowns. Who’s going to impose any kind of consequences for that?

Anyone?

A.