Fearless Sifting v2.0

Since I’ve started blogging there have been several things I have wanted to do with my blog that having it hosted at wordpress.com has prohibited me from being able to do. Most of them are minor changes that wouldn’t have been too noticeable to you the readers, but there have been enough of them to drive me to pursue alternative hosting for the blog. After about a week of searching, learning about site design and working on a new site, I am finally ready to announce that the blog will be moving to http://www.fearlesssifting.com The design looks the same for the most part, it’s still wordpress, and all of the previous content has been transfered to the new site. Thus as of this point on, I would appreciate it if all comments and viewing of the blog would move to the new location.


Is way to save money on chancellors to invest in professors?

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Outgoing UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard thinks so.

But when we asked outgoing UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard “what has to happen so that Wisconsin doesn’t have to lose five chancellors at a time,” he responded by saying faculty compensation is a bigger issue than chancellors’ pay. The school’s “peer institutions,” universities in other states that the Legislature says are comparable, paid professors 5 to 6 percent more when Shepard took office in 2001, and the gap has grown wider.

“It’s as though the Green Bay Packers … said, ‘We’re going to keep a cap on our salaries that’s 20 percent below the league’s salary cap,'” Shepard said in an interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette editorial board last week. He said the state has done a good job of attracting quality young faculty through the UW System’s reputation, but the salaries are not enough to retain the best of the best as they gain more experience.

The problem, in other words, is not finding talented professors, but keeping them. Extending the sports analogy, the UW System has begun to serve as a “farm league” for top faculty and university leadership as salaries grow at the top of the profession.

I have to agree with the sentiment he expressed. Biddy took a substantial pay cut to come here and I think she would have taken the job for even less. After meeting all of the candidates in person and keeping a close eye on the chancellor selection process, I think that as long as we are paying a somewhat respectable amount we can easily find a qualified chancellor. There are so many other reasons to want to be chancellor of UW-Madison that we can find one person to whom money is a secondary issue. Some old comments on the issue from the BH come to mind.

Despite the five departures systemwide and a lower-than-average salary, Wiley said UW-Madison will find a perfectly capable individual to replace him. He doubts compensation will play a role in the chancellor search as whole.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, agreed, adding a major reinvestment is needed for the UW System in general and dealing with budgetary issues will provide a challenge for the next set of chancellors.

“I think that’s been one of the biggest challenges that’s been ongoing,” Pocan said. “While I’ve been in the Legislature, we’ve had far more bad budgets than good budgets for the UW System. Funding in general is important.”

UW is already working with state legislators to push their initiatives for the 2009-11 biennial state budget.

The chancellors leaving are just a symptom of what’s going wrong,” Pocan added.

I think people don’t do the job strictly for the pay and a lot has to do with doing it at this institution,” Pocan said.

Wiley pointed out that UW-Madison holds the title of the nation’s 2nd-most successful research institution, a factor that is particularly important in an era when corporations are putting much less emphasis on research, relying on universities to pick up the slack.

People want to be the chancellor at elite universities and the way to have an elite university is to invest in the best professors. Professors’ salaries are also a different matter because of the number of professors. Finding one qualified person willing to come to be the chancellor of UW-Madison for less money is not nearly as difficult as finding and keeping over 2,000 faculty members and 6,000 other academic staff members not to mention teaching assistants while offering below average salaries. Unfortunately, the other UW-System schools don’t happen to be as lucky as UW-Madison in this respect.

Now this looks familiar

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In comments strikingly similar to ones seen on this blog, two members of the Assembly from Madison, including mine, condemned Steve Nass’ distribution of the National Review article. This is an attitude from our state legislators that I can happily endorse.


State Representatives Terese Berceau (D-Madison) and Spencer Black (D-Madison) today expressed their deep disappointment with Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) over his office’s efforts to undermine the newly selected Chancellor for the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Earlier this week, Representative Nass’s office was responsible for widely distributing a negative online news article attacking the new Chancellor of UW – Madison, Carolyn “Biddy” Martin. The article called Ms. Martin “obscure, self-indulged and theory-laden” in addition to leveling other personal attacks on her.

Berceau said she was particularly concerned about the personal nature of the attack on the new Chancellor. “It is incredible to me that a legislator would seek to trash the new chancellor, and it is even more galling that he would set such an ugly tone before she has even started her new job,” Berceau said today.

Black noted that Nass, who is Chair of the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee, has a history of disparaging attacks against UW. “The attacks by Nass can cause great damage to our state,” Black said. “The University is crucial to our state’s future and we must be able to compete for the most talented people in a very competitive environment. The kind of fierce attacks launched by Nass threaten the university’s key role in Wisconsin’s economic future.”

Berceau added, “Most Wisconsin citizens support the UW and recognize it as one of Wisconsin’s greatest assets — a public university that educates our young people and is recognized all over the world for advances in medicine, science, the humanities and so much more.”

Don’t like the recent actions by the Board of Regents? Here’s your chance to vote for a candidate of change

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The vast majority of members of the UW Board of Regents are appointed. However, there is one position that is an elected office. The state superintendent of public instruction is an elected office, whose office holder is an automatic member of the Board of Regents. One UW-Madison alum was so disgusted with the actions of the Board of Regents at the end of last week that he has decided to run for said position in an attempt to bring sweeping change to the Board. Van Mobley has announced his candidacy for the April 2009 election of the next state superintendent. In the letter describing his motivations for running, he discusses the economic context of the recent Board of Regent’s decisions and makes an interesting comparison between the UW System and Bear Stearns, but the following passage is the crux of his criticism of the Board of Regents.

To lead the state into the future the university must have the best faculty and researchers in the country. But the administrators who flitter around in administrative halls don’t teach, and they don’t research.

Ask a real live teacher or researcher and they will confirm that a large percentage of their valuable time and energy is consumed wrestling with layers and layers of overpaid, meddlesome, and unproductive administrators.

If the regents had more insight into the university system they oversee they would be slashing the university’s bloated administrative sector and redirecting valuable resources thus liberated into more critical areas – such as teaching and research. Instead, they have chosen to exacerbate the administrative bloat by giving top administrators a massive pay raise, while at the same time neglecting the people who teach the classes and do the research.

As justification for this indefensible choice the best they could do was say “we can’t compete and win as a university, we can’t do for Wisconsin what needs to be done, if we’re not attracting and keeping the best talent we can find. And that includes our academic leaders.”

Hello, Regents. You just gave the UW-Madison chancellor a 33 percent raise and the faculty and staff a 1 percent raise. Do you think the faculty and staff won’t notice that disparity? Is that slap in the face designed to attract and keep “the best talent we can find” in the ranks that really matter – i.e. the faculty and staff researchers and teachers? Or has this ridiculously high pay raise for administrators been combined with an insult to teachers and researchers with the specific intent of demoralizing the “best talent we can find” among their ranks and thereby encouraging them to start shopping their CVs?

There just might be more opposition than you think

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Over in my last post about Biddy Martin, a comment from Bucky Joe started a discussion about the perceptions of recent UW actions by your average Wisconsinite.

People are *pissed* about the new Chancellor hire, the massive raises she and the UW President just got, and the new raise in tuition — all happening in the same week.

Imagine how this looks to the average Wisconsinite:

– We hire Biddy Martin, a weirdo from the coast (in their view, not mine), who’s scholarly fame is based on post-modernist interpretation of lesbian literature. In German. Clearly someone who wouldn’t have made it in the “real world”.

– Then the Chancellor is offered nearly $500k for salary, and the UW decides to raise all of the top administrators salaries by about 20% — including Reilly (can he possibly justify this based on his performance?) and others.

– This happens just as the Regents pass a 5.5% tuition increase.

– And it happens the same week that over 2000 people were informed that they’re going to lose their jobs at GM in Janesville.

Despite some very correct responses demonstrating how reasonable and justified the actions were, he is right on this one. Browsing the comment sections of the stories from around the state reveals that Nass and company are not faring too poorly in the PR battle.

Check out these comments from a story in the Green Bay Press Gazette about Biddy, but not even one about her salary

Of course the UW’s intent may have been to conspire with the press to deflect criticism to this bogus topic and away from real issues. Biddy Martin has campaigned for higher faculty salaries for the past 8 years at Cornell, not for controlling costs. Biddy Martin has instituted, or attempted to instituted pet projects that amount to affirmative action. Biddy Martin will earn $110,000 more than the last chancellor.


I don’t care what sex they are. There is no way anyone deserves $110,00 more than what was being paid. Way to raise tuition for all the kids jerks.

or these comments left in the Cap Times story

Why do these people need this much money?? Does the chancellor work 24 hour days? Are they on call on weekends?? Do they work 100 hour weeks or something? I would bet that nurses and doctors combined work harder than these people and I KNOW nurses don’t make $400,000 a year. Teachers work harder and they don’t see that kind of money either. I will NEVER understand why someone needs THAT much money a YEAR regardless of their job description.

and this one

“Martin’s salary is almost exactly the median of what chancellors are paid at UW’s 11 peer institutions, the UW System said.'”

This is the problem. This is the same way that CEO’s salaries have become bloated beyond proportion. The elite keep making the claim that they are better than average and therefore deserve a better than average compensation package. And it keeps spiraling up from there. (In this particular case she fits right in the median, but in a range that’s already inflated.) This makes sense if your average CEO or Chancellor or whatever was a lifetime employee of that organization, but there is usually a 5-10 year turnaround. Each time there’s a new hire everything gets inflated all over again. Just wait, in a couple of years from now the UW will be complaining that she needs more money because she needs to be at the median. Show me a study that shows the relative salary ratios of the cleaning staff compared to the chancellor and I’ll show you something that’ll make you want to think twice about the way things are heading. Bottom line – the middle class student can’t afford a public education anymore.

Or in another Capital Times story


for a PhD in german and teaching ‘wymans’ studies.

Yeah.. and were not over taxed.

absolutely unbelievable.

or in the article about Kevin Reilly’s pay raise in the Appleton Post-Crescent

in the meantime…students go deeper and deeper into student loan debt!!! Unless they are minority or illegal, or a GREAT athlete….

Now these are all extreme examples and for every one of these comments there were multiple rebuttals. Still there is no denying that recent events have cast the UW in a negative light in the minds of some Wisconsin residents and that the news of Biddy’s recent salary increase over what Wiley earned has probably just made her job dealing with the state legislature that much tougher. This also demonstrates an important lesson for Biddy when dealing with the state legislature and the people of Wisconsin: it’s not always about what you do, how it is perceived is crucial.

At least the state legislators aren’t overpaid

While UW professors’ salaries lag at the bottom of their peer group, it’s at least a little bit comforting to know that the state legislators aren’t underpaying professors while overpaying themselves. They’re at the bottom of their peer group (full time legislators) too.

Not surprisingly, full-time lawmakers in nine states earn the most. The highest paid are in California, where the session runs all year and legislators earn $110,880 annually. The lowest salary in that group is in Wisconsin, where elected representatives earn $45,569 a year. The median income for the nine full-time legislatures is $57,619.

State legislator pay

Student apathy towards ASM’s incompetence continues

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Remember how ASM was looking for people to sit on the Constitutional Committee and fill vacant SSFC and SAC seats a month ago? Well, they’re still looking.

What used to say

Resume and Cover Letters are due by Friday May 16th at 5pm

Now says

Rolling Nominations to continue until Sept. 10th. 2008

And look at all of the positions they are still trying to fill

1 Student Council L&S Representative (unpaid)

3 Student Service Finance Committee (unpaid)

1 Student Service Finance Committee Acountability Liason

1 Press Office Members

2 Constitutional Committee Members (unpaid)

If I remember correctly the same 4 SSFC positions were available a month ago. I guess no one applied. According to this listing of L&S reps there are two spots open, there are only 10 of the 12 there. The fact that 2 of the 6 at-large positions for people outside of ASM on the Constitutional Committee and 1 of the 5 press office jobs is still open means one of two things. It’s possible that ASM just did a terrible job of advertising these positions and the people who would have been interested never heard about them. Or maybe it’s just that no one is interested in filling any of these positions, even to pad their resumes. I would say it’s both.

Either way, it’s pretty clear that ASM has failed to translate any of the momentum that was building for reform into more student engagement and involvement. The letter pledging reform was a good step, but ASM has taken several steps back since then. Gallagher’s resignation, the failure to find anyone to be the Chair, and now the failure to find enough people to fill these positions.

Now not filling all of the seats doesn’t mean that the Constitutional Committee will fail in its task. It does have 12 other members after all (assuming enough ASMers wanted to serve, which might not be a given considering recent events). But, this is definitely a signal of the lack of enthusiasm from the student body at large and a failure on the part of ASM to generate that enthusiasm. The biggest part of ASM that needed reform was its public image. The aspect of the current setup thats driving the reform push is its failure to engage average students and make ASM meaningful. It’s far to soon to say the committee has failed, but this is definitely not a positive sign.

The vacancy in the press office is a whole different matter, the opening definitely reflects upon its success. From what both ASMers and others were saying the press office was supposed to be experienced, highly competent people. It was supposed to be a big time job that upperclassmen would be competing to get. The fact that there is still an opening after the first deadline to apply had already passed likely signals that is not the case. Maybe ASM engaged in a highly specific targeted advertising campaign, that I never heard about, to journalism and communications juniors and seniors and found exactly 4 extremely qualified people, but I doubt it. Unless that is the case, I don’t see how the press office is any improvement over the now defunct Campus Relations committee (which still has a webpage by the way). Another issue that I think contributed to the current state of the press office is the lack of pay for the positions. If ASM was serious about fixing their image on campus they ought to be willing to give a couple of people 10 bucks an hour to improve their relations will all of campus, not just the press. 3 of the 5 positions being unpaid is not going to cut it.

This also leads into another problem with ASM’s communications that I’m desperately hoping the press office will fix. There is no way to find out anything about ASM other than talking to someone in it unless it’s covered by the campus press. The website is terrible. Updating it doesn’t seem to be a concern of anyone. I’ve already pointed out one page in addition to the Campus Relations committee page I pointed out just now. There is no way to find out anything about the press office or constitutional committee. Even if I wanted to read through the minutes of the meetings, the ones they have posted are from last year. And those are just the things I’ve found just no. I would venture to guess there are many more aspects that could use improvement. I guess I could email Jessica Pavlic, Brittany Wiegand or some other member with their email address posted, but how many student would take the time to do that? Such basic and up to date information should not so difficult to find. It is the job of ASM to communicate with me, not the other way around. If getting some better people to run the website isn’t a part of the press office or some other reform, it ought to be. Making those updates Student Council members wanted from the Constitutional Committee throughout the summer available on the website would be a start (or at least email them to me 🙂 ).

By the way, if I was wrong about any of the above it just is further evidence of the failings of ASM. They weren’t even able to communicate what was going on to a student who is reasonably informed about ASM and who was actively seeking out the information.