Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This You Gotta See

Outgoing UW Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin appeared on Here and Now last night. This is a must-watch. (Boy, she doesn't look happy, eh?)

Watch the full episode. See more Here and Now.

Listening to Chancellor Martin left me with several questions. Among them:

(1) Why is it that she feels she cannot answer hypothetical questions? They are a widely accepted rhetorical strategy for ascertaining one's values-- something many are still struggling to do with Biddy Martin.

(2) What exactly did she mean when she said she wished for a more “flexible, differentiated” discussion of the NBP? In fact, the discussion was quite differentiated, given that it occurred among different groups of people given widely disparate access to data and relevant information.

(3) She suggests that the public authority model made the provision of flexibilities seem like a compromise position. Is she trying to insinuate that public authority was offered as a distraction-- as a way to get the job done?

(4) She speaks of Amherst as being more aligned with her "values" and notes that that college serves a higher percentage of Pell-eligible students than does UW Madison. Is she also aware that the total number of low-income students she will be serving at Amherst is less than 400 (given undergraduate enrollment of about 1,700) compared to just under 7,000 at UW-Madison?

(5) She said she added 80 new faculty lines after 10 years of cuts in the number of faculty members in response to student needs. How are we to juxtapose this with the evidence that the number of faculty at UW-Madison was basically steady from the mid-90s through the first decade of the new century? The decline occurred in the early 1990s and was the reversal of a spike in faculty hiring in the late 1980s. There's little evidence that the most cost-effective solution to the problem of undergraduate course access was to hire more professors.

(6) She says that the research infrastructure has begun to be re-organized, that is "not complete, but we got it started." Does she recall the faculty uprising over the Grad School restructuring, and does she think it still ought to move forward as planned?

(7) The need for boards to oversee individual campuses in the UW System, she says, is "to help them generate revenue.” What, I wonder, is the reason why people (alumni) are only willing to support their institutions if they have leadership positions on boards? What is it they feel they need to control?

Yes, I too wish I could have a week without thinking about Biddy Martin and the issues she's raising. Unfortunately, she may be on her way out, but we are stuck with Scott Walker and "his" big ideas.

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