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Scott Walker Declares War On Academia

Who needs all that fancy book-lurning or research grants anyways?
Scott Walker Declares War On Academia

Scott Walker is due to release his 2015-2017 budget next week, however, has been leaking parts of it to help keep his name in the news as he starts his bid for president. As one might imagine, his budget is not geared to what is good for the state but what is in the best interest of his presidential campaign.

One of the many horrific things that came out is Walker's proposal to slash $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system and then to cut them adrift. The proposal would have devastating results for the school as well as the state as a whole:

Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that University of Wisconsin System faculty and staff could increase their workload to reduce the impact of his proposed $300 million budget cut.

Walker announced this week that the proposed cuts, along with a two-year tuition freeze, would be part of his two-year budget proposal to be delivered to the Legislature on Tuesday. In return, the UW System would be converted into a public authority with more autonomy, though it’s unclear how much money that would save.

University officials have said they might have to lay off employees in the short term, and then raise tuition starting in 2017.

UW System President Ray Cross sent a memo to his administration employees Wednesday saying the proposed cuts would require cost-containment measures, beginning immediately with a hiring freeze on non-essential state-funded positions, a moratorium on out-of-state travel and a halt to any salary adjustments or promotions until further notice.

Walker has described this proposal as being the Act 10 for higher education and that it would have the same "benefits" that the original Act 10 had for local schools. Those "benefits" included thousands of teachers laid off, larger class sizes, programs being cut and whole schools being closed.

Walker, being the chump, er, champ that he is, offered a solution - teach more classes. Only problems is, the professors are already working long hours and are bringing in tens of millions of dollars in research grants:


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“They might be able to make savings just by asking faculty and staff to consider teaching one more class per semester,” Walker told reporters Wednesday in Madison. “Things like that could have a tremendous impact on making sure that we preserve an affordable education for all of our UW campuses, and at the same time we maintain a high-quality education.”

Vince Sweeney, vice chancellor for university relations at UW-Madison, said the most recent survey data found UW-Madison faculty spend 50 to 70 hours per week teaching and supporting students, participating in research and other activities.

“It should be noted that many also bring in millions of dollars in grant funding that is a direct boost to the Wisconsin economy,” Sweeney said. “Many create their own companies, which go on to create state jobs. We value their work greatly.”

Grant Petty, president of PROFS Inc., the professional group representing UW-Madison professors, said he doesn’t know any UW faculty who don’t already spend 50 hours a week or more doing what are considered the “essential duties” of their job.

“As Governor Walker knows from his own family background, a pastor’s job doesn’t start and stop with the Sunday sermon,” Petty said. “The same is true of university professors and the classroom.”

Petty, a meteorology professor, said a three-credit course typically requires 10 to 15 hours per week of preparation, grading and meeting with students to help them understand the material. He teaches two classes, and also works one-on-one with graduate students, often competing for federal grants to help support those students. He also is expected to stay current with issues and publish in the fields of his expertise.

“I was not able to tell from the governor’s statement which of these things he thought we should do less of to make room for more of something else,” Petty said.

Now, no one can say for sure why Walker is doing this. He might be nursing a grudge from his own school days at Marquette University, where he got booted for cheating. It might be because he was a lousy student. It might be because he is sore at people like Professor William Cronon, who wrote an illuminating story on ALEC and the influence it had on Republicans.

Or maybe it's just Walker following the orders of his corporate overlords.

On a final note, Walker has made it clear that he is not satisfied with crippling the UW system. He's been going around on the squawk radio cycle saying that he feels that this sort of things should be going on nationwide.

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