Fish’s blog in today’s New York Times includes some insights that more folks in Madison need to be cognizant of. Most importantly: “The erosion of support for public higher education is a part of a larger strategy designed to deprive public employees of a voice and ensure the triumph of conservative/neoliberal policies.”
While I adamantly oppose the corporatization of higher education, Fish is right– universities are more corporate in spirit every day. At my own institution, the climate is increasingly one in which faculty do not feel free to express their views, for fear of reprisal from administrators (to wit: The Sifting and Winnowing blog contains anonymous entries from faculty mainly because those taking “unpopular” positions are loathe to do so publicly). While hiring and firing decisions may not be made on ‘ideological’ grounds per se, there certainly is a sense that they could soon be made based on allegiances.
Faculty must have a say in how research and teaching gets done and they need to be assured that their say is more than simply advisory. Recent (and pending) events threaten the shared governance system that UW-Madison holds so dear. Given that unionization of university faculty now appears no longer an option in Wisconsin, we at Madison should protect Chapter 36 at all costs — risking its disappearance into the new public authority (as it transforms to Chapter 37 under the leadership of Scott Walker) is just plain crazy.