You Are Losing Your University

No confidence vote warns public: the UWM you knew will be lost.

By - May 17th, 2016 12:36 pm
UWM Union. Photo by Dave Reid.

UWM Union. Photo by Dave Reid.

Last week, the UW-Milwaukee faculty unanimously passed a vote of “no confidence” in the UW system and its Board of Regents. They hope this extreme measure will call public attention to the negative consequences the current state budget will likely have on the university’s ability to continue conducting high level research. Their vote comes just as the Carnegie Foundation rated the quality of UWM research as “R1,” its highest designation, earned by just two percent of American universities and colleges. Much to the faculty’s chagrin, the university’s current budget is being slashed so deeply that much of what they accomplished in the last half century is now in danger of being undone. Now, after receiving such a high national ranking for its research function, is the time to expand, not cut, the scope and scale of these activities.

Contrary to the view of Gov. Scott Walker and many legislators and regents, major research universities operate quite differently from the way business firms do. In a conventional firm, talent is arrayed from top down, whereas talent resides at all levels in research universities, from the recently hired young scholar to the seasoned professor. To be considered for a position as an assistant professor at a top-tier research university requires graduation from a top doctoral program with high grades and evidence of future research productivity. Once hired, the assistant professor usually has six years of probation in which to produce a significant peer-reviewed research record and evidence of strong teaching performance. Only then is an application for tenure made. The tenure review process will take several months and involve evaluation by scholars from around the world as well as from the home university. The granting of tenure provides the right to work hard after half a life of working hard. In an effort to create new knowledge, professors routinely reach far beyond the boundaries of their campus, state, and country; this is referred to as the “peer-review” research process. Professors who can function at this level of professionalism produce great benefits for the state, and currently we are at risk of losing far too many of them.

There are many educational benefits for students at R1 universities, many of which are not readily apparent. The professors who produce the R1 level research also maintain the curriculum in line with professional standards. They design the syllabus, choose the textbooks, and hire the professors in accordance with such standards. Students can have R1 scholars teaching their classes and mentoring them and directing their research projects. They can earn a letter of recommendation from professors who are well recognized in their profession and are able to provide trusted assessments in support of the student’s efforts to study at a top graduate school, law school, medical school, or to work at a major agency or think tank.

Cuts in the UWM budget bring lost opportunity; among the losers will be those advanced business and cultural enterprises whose prosperity relies in part on bringing to Wisconsin people that are on the leading edge in their fields of expertise. These cuts will become a cause for exodus, not attraction. Of course, the biggest losers will be those many excellent students for whom UWM is the only university within their financial grasp. Numbered among UWM graduates are architects, artists, business executives, educators, engineers, entertainers, healthcare professionals, religious leaders, and scientists. Many of these successful individuals were the first in their family to attend college; most of them needing loans and part-time employment while enrolled. UWM is a great institution for upward economic and social mobility, and its graduates enhance the cultural and economic growth of the region.

UWM is a high-return asset for the region and the state. It has been built by faculty and staff over many decades and funded by our taxpayers, tuition-payers and donors. The Carnegie Foundation designation is a signal that now is the appropriate time to invest, not cut, UWM’s budget so that the level of excellence achieved can be maintained.

William L. Holahan is emeritus professor and former chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Charles O. Kroncke is retired dean of the College of Business at UWM. They are co-authors of “Economics for Voters.”

Categories: Education, Op-Ed, Politics

6 thoughts on “Op-Ed: You Are Losing Your University”

  1. Thomas says:


    Cutting funding and compromising tenure at the UW system at the time when UWM earned R1 research status is ignorant and insulting. Smart money should be placed on a winner. Misers the likes of Dicken’s Cratchet deny funds to those with promise at their peril. The distinction of the UW system has been a cash cow for our state. Diminishing that distinction could cost us money in addition to loss of status. Furthermore, it is insulting to those who care about the pursuit of knowledge to dismiss that pursuit.

  2. Greeley Miklashek says:

    I am a retired UW-MSN trained MD and psychiatrist. In the 4 yrs. of my retirement, I’ve written 2 archaeology books and a 400pg. book on stress: “Stress R Us”, available as a free PDF on a Google search. I moved back to Wisconsin after retiring from my 40yr. medical practice in Michigan. I grew-up in Ohio, where I attended a small Lutheran liberal arts college, before entering a summer cancer research fellowship at McArdle Labs, and, then, entering Med. School. I fell in love with the intellectual fervor that could be found everywhere at UW-MSN in 1967-74. I moved back to a small town outside MSN 2 years ago, but only to find little of the intellectual life so prominent back in the 60’s and 70’s. The average countryman outside MSN today is poorly educated, in a state with a governor who dropped out of college and who shows no sincere interest in liberal arts education for his citizens, which is no surprise for a man lacking in education himself. Madison has become a denizen of stressful living in a crowded urban center, with one thing on its corporate mind: commerce. What a shame and what a painful loss, for me now, and for future generations of Wisconsin citizens. Undermining the Wisconsin educational system, that put the state on an international map, is a huge mistake, but, then, an uninformed citizenry seems to have made many of those lately. In my view, our current governor’s blatant transfer of $300 million to his cronies in Milwaukee, for a private professional basketball team, is corruption at its most blatant and should have landed him in prison, not re-election. Maybe it’s time for Wisconsin citizens to lay off the beer and seriously consider what kind of state they want for their children and grandchildren. Other than cows and milk products, the natural beauty of Wisconsin, and the DNR charged with protecting it, is the one other great asset, along with a once great educational system, that distinguishes our state. As for the research establishment, it is a bloated monster that specializes in soaking up taxpayer monies to produce meaningless pseudo-scientific papers for the sole purpose of gaining further wasted grant monies. At least, that was my personal experience at McArdle Labs, dedicated to basic molecular biology research, none of which had a damn thing to do with cancer research. My mentor changed the data that I generated to fit his hypothesis and produce a paper for the next grant. No-one at the once great Medical School will even talk to me about my independent discoveries, listed in the above mention book, and explaining the bases of nearly all human disease and causes of death: stress. Thank you for this opportunity to spout off! Greeley Miklashek, MD

  3. A Bus Driver says:

    @Greeley Miklashek: I totally agree with your comments. I still can’t believe Walker was not sent packing. I no longer live in Wisconsin & have become embarrassed to claim it sometimes. The level of ignorance disappoints.

  4. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Nutting new, ever since I went to UW in 1959 to Pharmacy school, I have heard the same whines. “We need more of the taxpayers money, they have plenty.
    Funding is way up the last 50 plus years and still they moan.
    UW needs to be reorganized, about 1/3 of ancillary and management staff needs to go,lots of worth less programs need to go, along with duplication etc. The place will run better.
    Hire people that will actually teach that is what is our first priority.
    We need some political variety and more debates instead of far left socialist rhetoric, multi political instead of multicultural..
    I really do not blame them for leaving; How would you like to work under slave conditions, have to teach 10 or so hours per week, scary, salary much bigger than ours, along with pensions, health, dental ,days off,actions holidays much more. That is killing pace.

  5. Penrod says:

    Greeley Miklashek: “I fell in love with the intellectual fervor that could be found everywhere at UW-MSN in 1967-74.”

    1967-74 may have been the most virulently anti-intellectual years of the 20th century. Totalitarian poseurs posing as intellectuals in favor of free speech and guerrilla cookies for them, riots and bombs for anyone who disagreed. The so-called Peace Movement, or Anti-War Movement, which was neither: they weren’t antiwar: they were rooting for the other side.

    That intellectual fervor?

    From the article: “UW-Milwaukee faculty unanimously passed a vote of “no confidence””: that in itself should be a yellow flag, if not a red one. “Unanimously”? Really? Exactly how does that even suggest anything approaching an intellectual climate? Not a single intellectual among hundreds disagreed with colleagues? Say, now, THERE is some intellectual ferment, of the “we are all so right so you shut up” variety.

    “Unanimously” all by itself suggests the regents were correct to cut funding.

  6. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    We must reorganize this giant porkbarrel, drop unnecessary courses, eliminate duplication, cut administration asap. This is world wide, unanimous started by the NY Times and Economist.

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