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2016
Scott Walker’s March Through the Academy

Wisconsin’s public universities are beginning to offer buyouts to their employees in response to Governor Walker’s budget cuts. From the Journal-Sentinel:

Two campuses within the University of Wisconsin System announced Tuesday they are offering employees a voluntary retirement buyout with a one-time payout equal to 50% of an employee’s annual base salary. […]

Tuesday’s announcements bring to four the total number of campuses seeking to reduce their workforce through voluntary buyouts in the face of state budget cuts. […]

Earlier this year, we said Walker’s announced $300 million budget cut to the University of Wisconsin system was smarter than many people realize. Universities, with their armies of administrators, tenure-shielded academics, far-left politics, and often arcane fields of study, won’t find it easy to convince a public facing tax increases and government service cuts that there’s just no budgetary fat in the entire university system.

That could also put him in a sweet spot for the GOP nomination fight next year. His “throne of skulls” will already be piled high, so he’ll potentially have to do less work than other candidates establishing his conservative credentials. That, in turn, could allow him to gain ground with centrist voters without alienating the right.

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  • fastrackn1

    It’s refreshing to see academia get it’s long-overdue comeuppance….

    • Ellen

      Yes indeed. Tenure should be thrown out. All those superannuated 1960’s radicals couldn’t survive anywhere but in the fleshpots of political correctness, which require groupthink rather than original thought. This is the opposite result of what the tenure system was supposed to produce.

      Good for Scott Walker. As many of the professors as he can get rid of, that is the number of votes less for the third term of Barack Obama.

  • WigWag

    Bravo Scott Walker. The two sectors of the economy most in need of reform if Middle Class people are to thrive are higher education and health care. My only quibble is that public universities are actually the smallest part of the problem. It’s the universities that we call “private” that are really bleeding Americans dry. Of course these private universities aren’t really private at all. Most of their financing comes from government and the exorbitant tuition they charge is only possible because of student loans subsidized by government.

    The featherbedding that takes place in private universities is enough to make even Hollywood Unions blush. Fire half the useless administrators who work at universities and thirty percent of the professors. That might make things better.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Why would we believe that adjuncts will teach students a “proper conservatism”? Such adjuncts, after all, ARE living in the conservatives’ reality and they know it to be a crock of baloney.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Nonsense! Adjuncts (and I hazard to guess that I have far more experience with them than you do) are living in the liberal fantasy land…tenure, political correctness, lack of accountability….they are just discovering that all things come with a cost…

        • FriendlyGoat

          The adjuncts you “have experience with” have tenure?

          • f1b0nacc1

            No adjuncts have tenure….but they work in an environment where ‘their betters’ do. The same could be said for pay, benefits, and job security. As usual, you have missed the point of the argument.
            Academe is run by the left, from the professors to the administrators. In that fairyland, those at the very top (tenured profs) have the goodies, and everyone else has nothing. This is the inevitable result of leftist thinking, as there are simply never enough resources to give everyone the pay, benefits, security, etc. that are deemed ‘acceptable’, so it is given out upon connections or other arbitrary criteria. In an similar way, freedom of speech (even of thought) is apportioned to those who have the political power in academe…the rest go hang.
            Are you seriously suggesting that modern academe is anything other than a lefty enclave? Even if I were to take seriously your suggestion that it was ‘a conservative reality’, just who do you think is running it?

          • FriendlyGoat

            If the state universities in Wisconsin were really as “controlled” by lefties as you allege, you wouldn’t have a Scott Walker cutting their budgets by $300,000,000. State support of state colleges has been trending downward for a long time and the lefties in legislatures are not the driver of that.

          • f1b0nacc1

            All Governor Walker can do is cut their budget (with the cooperation of the legislature), he cannot alter their tenure arrangements, their promotion practices, their hiring practices, etc. Given the strong support that most state universities have (you don’t think that they know how to lobby too?), that is a whole lot harder to do that it seems. As for the downward pressure on state colleges, you had best take a real look at the numbers….some schools (mostly community colleges and some lower-status schools in state university systems, certainly not the flagship schools) get minor cuts, but for the most part, what is called a ‘cut’ is a reduction in growth, the common obsfucation used by the left to hide what is really happening. This is exactly what is going on in CA, NY, WI, etc. The bulk of these so-called cuts are just reductions in growth, or cuts to ‘downstream schools’ that none of the elite’s kids are ever going to see.
            And the real dirty secret in all of this is the massive growth in college administrator (so-called ‘deanlets’), who are the big drivers of increased costs. A lot of this is driven by the ever more complex regulatory environment that colleges exist in, but a lot of it is also a matter of bureaucratic empire building, hardly unique to academe. This is a direct result of what our host likes to call “The Blue Model”, so if you wish to blame it on something, leave those of us who aren’t statists out of it.

          • FriendlyGoat

            In most states I’ve ever heard of, Governors and legislators can and do appoint Boards of Regents (or equivalent) who DIRECTLY control the policies of state schools.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Actually conservatives often end up in that adjunct world….deeply closeted of course (if you have any interest in staying in academe, you must hide your real thoughts….it would be funny if it weren’t so sad…), though the roughly 90+% of all primary and secondary teachers who are women likely contain few conservatives.
            The truth of the matter is that you can find plenty of conservatives in teaching, mostly in private schools, working for less money, often in far less appealing (benefits-wise) working conditions. What they do NOT have to deal with is the suffocating hand of the unions, political correctness, and the endlessly deadening hand of bureaucracy. If you bothered to actually look at these people, you would find that they rarely (if ever) turn to the dark side of the left, while many of the lefties move decisively to the right…

          • FriendlyGoat

            You don’t have to tell me about the dedication of some teachers in some Christian schools. I have been a LOT closer to the inside of that than you would ever imagine. Those motivations are often uniquely spiritual.

            But conservative-minded people in public schools do not have less of a desire to earn a decent living than liberals do, and they do not appreciate being perpetually berated for doing the best they can with difficult students. You can imagine what you want about how they aspire to be career adjuncts or endure perpetual test-based “evaluation” by their Republican
            governors/legislatures. Your vision of them seems to suggest you think they are a tad dumb about the precariousness of their circumstances under right-wing political leadership. I think most of them will/would wise up.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Quite the opposite. I assume that people who make choices to teach in the private sector do so out of genuine dedication to the craft, and accept the tradeoff of fewer benefits, etc. as acceptable. These are called ‘choices’, and you don’t seem to understand that. The superior outcomes of those private schools vs their far more highly compensated public brethren should be an indicator of the determination that lies behind their choices.
            No sane person aspires to be an adjunct, in fact if you ask any adjunct (and I know many), they ALL want the goodies that the tenured faculty at the end of the rainbow get. The sad fact of life is that there simply isn’t enough money in the world to pay for them all to get there. The same way that an endless number of talented athletes sacrifice themselves in pursuit of the few hundred openings each year in professional sports (they have a better chance hitting the numbers than becoming an NBA star), adjuncts pursue the pointless goal of being a star professor. It is truly sad to watch, but it is a choice that they make themselves.
            Adjuncts are not stupid, but often they are dupes of their profs who tell them that there is a pot of gold waiting for ‘those who can make it’, when there really is not. If you are in a non-STEM field these days, you are better off buying lottery tickets. There are always some winners, certainly, but all you need to do is look at the miserable existences of most adjuncts to see how pointless the pursuit is. HOWEVER….when there are 100 applicants for each tenure-track opening (and there are often more than that, particularly in pointless fields like Grievance Studies), those who choose to work in the ‘runner up’ fields as adjuncts are going to get the dregs. That is how markets work, like it or not.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You have to admit that there are a LOT more adjuncts than there used to be and a LOT less opportunity to become a full-time educator with benefits at a college (even without tenure).

            So, whose cockamamie idea was it to devalue education professionals in such a manner?

          • f1b0nacc1

            The profs…the whole system was a Ponzi scheme from the start.
            Here is how it works: 1 Prof teaches students…in theory by the time they get to grad school, the average prof is responsible for anywhere between 3-8 grads (conservative estimate, forgive the pun!) in a given cycle, and out of those, most (if you are in a non-STEM field) are expected to end up somewhere in academe. The problem is that even if the prof retires immediately, he has created more than enough to replace him. So only if the educational establishment keeps growing can the whole thing stay afloat.
            What has happened is that the growth has slowed down due to cost and the lack of suitable students. What was a very good bet in 1970 was questionable in 1990 and simply delusional now. The problem is that the profs can only justify their existence by maintaining large numbers of grad students (otherwise you get too many profs chasing too few students, and you cannot support their salaries/benefits), which means that they have a built-in incentive to lure more and more students into the field. Eventually you saturate the available market demand for ANY field, though with some (say, Grievance Studies) that market is smaller than others (say, Chemical Engineering). The result is that you generate tons of extra grads who have no real options but to pursue less and less desirable positions in the world of adjunctdom.
            Now, add to this the general frivolousness of modern academe (degrees in puppetry?), and the market distortions introduced by federal funding (most of which is dependent on FTEs and graduation rates, which only exacerbate the problem by massively incentivizing institutions to inflate their student bodies, and retain students at any cost), and the situation just gets worse. Finally, toss on the growth of careerist administrators (a mess driven by increasing government regulation – after all, someone has to fill out those forms! – and overall organizational dynamics), and the disaster is complete.
            Educational professionals have largely done this to themselves, but in fairness it is hard to see how it wouldn’t have happened eventually anyway. In the long run, the system will collapse (is collapsing), and we will end up with what economists call ‘market clearance’, i.e. dropping back to a stable equilibrium. That is going to be very, very, VERY unpleasant for a lot of people.
            You seem to think that I take some sort of pleasure in this, and I do not. Many of those who will suffer are my friends, and ex-colleagues, or (worse still) students who I care about. I do not see a whole lot of hope to fix the situation, as it is inherently unfixable. What we can do is to stop making it worse, and to hope that we can limit the damage. Pretending that there is a big pot of money somewhere if we just look hard enough, or that if we don’t ‘devalue’ educational professionals (just read the CHE…they have made themselves look far more ridiculous than I ever could) is only going to make things much worse in the long run.
            Give up on the fairy tales, they aren’t good for you

          • FriendlyGoat

            Some of this sounds as though Walmart or McDonald’s could not POSSIBLY operate if they were not allowed to demand that their people accept ever-crazier and ever-crazier part-time and on-call and short shifts.

            College instructors in the adjunct category need the force of collective bargaining to end being abused. When colleges are told by either government or their own workers that 90% of classes WILL be taught by a full-time teacher, PERIOD, then it might be possible to blast professors and administrators out of their ivory towers. The market principles of conservatism are not fixing life for those colleagues and former students you worry about. I’m not saying any of this is easy, but someone has to set some guiding principles and conservatism is not doing that job.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Compared to academe, Walmart and McDonalds are worker’s collectives. If you think that the odd shifts that McDonald’s often uses are bad, you should see the way adjuncts are scheduled! But then again, just who do you think is running this circus? Top to bottom, lefties all…. The conservative governors and legislatures do not appoint the senior management of these institutions, and the trustees are rubber stamps. That doesn’t even begin to discuss the private schools, which while not as bad as the public ones, are plenty bad enough. Like it or not, you simply cannot realistically pin this on anyone other than your own tribe…
            Ah, but now you introduce the standard trope that if they would just form unions (who, pray tell, is stopping them?), then all would be well. In what fantasy land do you think that any business at all with 100 applicants for every opening is going to be amenable to unionization? The adjuncts who have jobs won’t vote for it, and those who hope for jobs aren’t in a position to be represented in the first place. As for the government regulating universities, just how do you propose them doing that? Universities faculty and staffs are overwhelmingly (over 90%) Democratic in campaign donations and public support….if there was anything threatening their operating model, do you honestly believe that they wouldn’t simply make a few calls and kill it?
            Lets even pretend that it was possible…what would it solve? You dont’ seem to be wrapping your head around the notion that there are 100 applicants for every position….lets pretend it was 20…that would still leave 95% of these people with NO HOPE AT ALL of any employment in their field. And this would cost money to do (adjuncts are way cheaper than full-time staff, do the math), and where will that come from? Higher tuition and fees is where, and guess who that impacts. Little Justin and Jenna (more likely, their parents) is who, and they have enough problems paying now. Likely you would reduce the number of people getting a college education (starting with the poor, the group you are most concerned with), and putting even more faculty out of work.
            Hey, there are no bad fairies, don’t be a homophobe!

          • FriendlyGoat

            Last sentence is a distraction out of context, okay? Fairy tales have another meaning. The tales we are living are not good. Certainly 100 applicants per FT opening is out of balance, but the answer to that is not engineering ways to continually reduce the number of FT openings by increasing part-time as the norm. Conservatives EVERYWHERE support that, you know. When did you EVER hear a conservative candidate say he/she wishes to reverse the trend to “temp nation”?

            As much as you want to pin the problems of education on the liberal tribe, Walker in Wisconsin is not a liberal and he is not proposing better jobs for educators, is he? As for temp workers having no collective bargaining power anywhere in academia or anywhere else, who kills that at every political opportunity?

            A $60,000 instructor (less than a prof, more than a FT adjunct) teaching the equivalent of a class of 20 students for a calendar year costs $3,000 per student. We need to observe that as a fairly modest sum and focus our attention on where the OTHER college costs are going rather than insist we can justify and afford everything but the teacher. Most Dems I’ve ever known would welcome that study.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Apparently you don’t talk with many conservatives. Actually most conservatives (myself included) aren’t crazy about ‘temp nation’, but we acknowledge that the trends (techonology, globalization, etc.) are all leading us that way. The Libertarians on the right acknowledge it as an unfortunate part of reality, and are looking for ways to make it less painful (giving people more choices inevitably has a good as well as bad side), while the more traditional right (people I think you would find most unpleasant) take your approach that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.
            Walker is the latest WI governor, and is dealing with a grossly overstuffed system. He knows that it isn’t going to get better the way it is, and is trying to shrink it to size in order to meet the state’s needs as well as those of academe. In truth I find it interesting that you point to him as the villain, ignoring the DEMOCRATIC governors of NY, CA, etc., all of whom have much larger state systems in much deeper crises. Are you so committed to this bizarre vengeance thing that you cannot even see that the problem here transcends just blaming the GOP?
            Temp workers have no standing because they are either not employed at all (i.e. no contracts for the adjuncts) or simply not employed enough (enough hours, etc.) to be represented the same way that full timers are. This is the essential problem with unions, they represent their members, and ONLY their members….that is why we pay teachers based upon seniority, not skill…. The GOP doesn’t support mass unionization for many reasons, but nor do most Americans, if it comes to that.
            You show your ignorance of academe when you talk about the sole cost (or even the major driver) being the pay of the instructor. For universities, you have ignored the costs of research, and you also ignore productivity (while a professor may earn $80k/yr – a loaded cost of closer to $120-150k/yr – they only teach a small number of classes, so they are not going to be ‘responsible’ for 20 students….more like 8-10, and that is a VERY optimistic assumption), and pretend that it is going to be possible to some extract all of those other college costs. It isn’t going to be easy at all to come up with those numbers (the colleges have fought every attempt at this by the DOEd, and they are far better connected than any group of crats you could dream of), and even then they are likely to be of less value than you think.
            But perhaps we don’t even have to go that far. MOOCs are rapidly improving, and they do away with the ‘non-teaching’ part of the expense already. Here is some disappointing news for you though…they also do away with most of the instructors, as a MOOC can let you provide a teaching experience at a much higher level of efficiency than traditional colleges do. Rather than your 20:1 ratio, the current discussion is at least 2 orders of magnitude better, which only makes the circumstances worse for your adjuncts. This comes back to the original point…what are you going to do with those 99% of the grads who you just made redundant? Seems that I am more concerned about that than you are….strange how that works out?
            Keep in mind that most adjuncts these days make between $20-30k/yr if they are very, very fortunate, and a lot of them make much less than that. Lets pick $25k/yr just for an example. Roughly 60-70% of all instructors are adjuncts (the actual number is likely closer to 80%, but as there is a lot of debate about the subject, lets go with the lower number) and you are talking about increasingly the cost of that part of the market by AT LEAST 140% You are going to have to do a whole lot of cutting to make those numbers balance out.
            Look, none of this is going to end well, and the truth of the matter is that there is no avoiding the pain. The best way is to try to ramp down the expenses (budget cuts), encourage alternatives to the current system (MOOCs, certificates and competency-based education, etc.), and reverse idiotic rulings like Duke vs Griggs which caused the whole mess in the first place. Making college a prerequisite for joining the middle class has given us fewer welders and more Grievance Studies majors, a huge misallocation of resources that helps nobody other than the Grievance Studies professors and the endless administrative hangers-on. If you really care about these people (in and out of academe) you should be thinking about how to open up opportunities, not keep the zombie that is the higher ed system shambling forward while desparately trying to blame your preferred boogeyman.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Let me know when Corporate America stops asking applicants for their college degrees. We can all be expecting that most any minute, right? Or should we believe it will happen right after you slash corporate income taxes and eliminate capital gains and estate taxes altogether?

          • Tom

            I take it you’re not familiar with Duke v. Griggs…

          • f1b0nacc1

            He probably isn’t, but I rather doubt it will make much difference if he finds out. He will simply blame it on the evil conservatives….

          • f1b0nacc1

            Actually most of corporate America would be pleased to do so. Even the Chamber of Commerce has called for a reversal of Duke vs Griggs, the case that started it all. The most rabid capitalists on the planet (the IT industry) are famous for not caring much about college degrees, and base their hiring practices on skills and potential, not credentials. You really do need to get out more…
            As for capital gains, estate, etc. taxes (and of course corporate taxes), why should they be considered sacred? This income is taxed already, you are simply objecting to NOT taxing it twice? As for its effects, we have seen in the past how removing these taxes affects the economy, both in the US and elsewhere (hint: it helps immensely), and we do know that the American propensity for very high corporate income taxes has been a major factor in driving capital overseas. This evidence isn’t disputed even by economists on the Left….I thought you loved evidence-based thinking?
            Do I suggest that if we just lower taxes magic will happen? Nonsense, and watch out that you don’t get an injury while you are trying to burn that strawman. As long as you have a rigid regulatory regime, you can lower taxes all you want and nothing is going to happen, you will have to work on that side of the equation as well. As I have pointed out to you already, these complex regulatory environments benefit only big businesses that have the ability to navigate them or bypass them (= lawyers and lobbyists), and stifle the small businesses and individuals that are the engine of economic growth. Aren’t you supposed to be the friend of the little guy? Eliminate restrictive licensing regimes (why should you need a license to braid hair, for instance?) that disproportionately impact small businesses (especially minorities, as it happens), end the pointless drug war and its associated banking regulations that make it hard for the little guy to establish credit, and push back against the out of control tort system which has devolved into a shake-down racket against anyone without a permanent legal department. Rein in the lunatics at the EPA (no, I don’t mean shut it down…though personally I would prefer that for other reasons, here I am talking about simply restraint of some of its more ridiculous excesses), and the some of the other federal agencies, and push back against the over-credentialization of the American work force (once again, reverse Duke vs Griggs, preferably by legislation) and you will see results.
            None of that requires a vengeance filled jihad against people who succeed, or a sad obsession with preserving a legacy that never really did much. You seem to think that only your hate figures have ever done wrong, and that your heroes are spotless and unsullied. Neither is true, but you won’t find it out if you sit in a corner with your eyes closed, your fingers in your ears chanting “lalalalalalalalalala I can’t hear you!”

        • Andrew Allison

          Well yes, most of what the Goat posts is socialist nonsense, but that’s why there’s no point in engaging in discussion with him.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Yes, I tend to agree, but I am trying an experiment and letting him give it his best shot. I haven’t seen anything yet of import (read this thread, he really does seem to be completely incapable of acknowledging, much less understanding, anything outside his own set of talking points), but at the same time, one only learns by experiencing alternatives.

          • Andrew Allison

            You are mistaken. A true believer has no interest in the facts.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I really don’t know what I’d do if you didn’t tutor me with the “alternatives”. I do sort of wish they were fleshed out with realistic details, though. There’s always this feeling that you might not really know the side effects of the prescriptions you recommend.

          • f1b0nacc1

            I keep giving them to you, you keep pretending otherwise. When you can start consider others, perhaps you will learn

          • FriendlyGoat

            Details, implications and ramifications are always missing from those, my good man.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Oh please….I give them to you, and you simply ignore them. Not accepting your definition that ‘deregulation = a return to a Dickensian state of oppression’ isn’t ignoring that there are implications, for instance, I simply reject your hysterical assertions, and suggest that without some sort of evidence to support them, you cannot be taken seriously. I have offered numerous examples in fact of just how such things might work in practice, the positive and negative consequences of them, and how specifically one might implement them. If you choose to ignore that, that is your problem, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t being told.
            Finally, I am not ‘your good man’. If you choose to address me, Sir will work fine, or perhaps f1b, but at the very least, show a modicum of manners. You really aren’t in a position to patronize anyone here.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Before you wear out your high horse, go back and take a look at the insults you have been hurling at me personally.

            Seriously, f1b, you have been asking me to accept myself as being quite a load of adjectives and not-nice nouns. I do understand that’s the “conservative way” of trying to put down liberal views—–for lack of better logic in your whole movement—but if you were on the receiving end of your own rhetoric, you wouldn’t be too happy. If you don’t like talking to me, don’t. Andrew Allison or Jacksonian Libertarian or maybe others may be more to your taste for agreeing with each other.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Not for you.

      • Andrew Allison

        Um, there appears to me to be no reference to adjuncts (who, presumably, would have been infected with socialist nonsense) in the comment to which you replied.

        • FriendlyGoat

          Because adjuncts are the bulk of the teachers.

          • Andrew Allison

            And your point, in the context of the thread, is?

          • FriendlyGoat

            The implication of the article puffing Walker and WigWag’s idea to fire thirty percent of the professors is that the supposed lefty tilt can be run out of colleges. What does that leave? Adjuncts, right? I was just wondering whether a bunch of over-worked, under-paid, under-appreciated people will—–over time—–teach students a proper appreciation of conservative ideals.

  • johngbarker

    Isn’t the larger question, what are the outcomes of a college education supposed to be and do we need such a long and expensive process to attain them?

  • Anthony

    Academia makes a convenient target (perhaps justifiable in some instances) but underlying impetus remains “economic growth” and Academia fungible role in changing U.S. society. Academia (Universities/Colleges – public and private) finds itself in crosscurrents: budget and tuition issues, relevance, demographics, transformation, model concept, etc. Similarly, Scott Walker represents (reflects) a historical social and political attitude that gains traction in America when economic growth is either stagnant or (for some) declining vis-a-vis relevant social comparisons – “for economic growth to foster greater tolerance and fairness and democracy…the mechanism at work must cut deeper than just the difference between tight and slack job markets. What matters is how rising incomes shape the perspective and attitudes of those who warn them, and their families, and how the resulting impact on enough individuals’ attitudes in turn brings about change in a country’s political institutions and social dynamics.”

    Academia is caught up in the throes…and Scott Walker….

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This will actually strengthen Wisconsin’s higher education system, as all of higher education is bloated, excessively expensive, and faces an existential challenge against the MOOC’s. By cutting now Wisconsin is doing what has to be done by all eventually.

  • Curious Mayhem

    The most serious problem is the gross inflated academic cost structure, and the single largest contributor to that is the explosion of non-academic professional positions at the dean and provost level — all those offices of diversity, sustainability, and so on — oh yes, and now the sex police. It’s astonishing what it’s done to university budgets.

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