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UW-Madison Spends Nearly $9M To Keep Faculty

Funding Took The Form Of Research Support And Pay Raises

okandasan (CC-BY)

An open records request by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has found that the University of Wisconsin-Madison spent $8.72 million in retention packages last semester to keep faculty members from accepting outside job offers.

The majority of that money took the form of research support, such as funding for research assistants or new lab equipment. Less than a million went toward pay raises.

Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology-Occupational Therapy, accepted a retention package of both research support and a pay raise from the university.

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“I was a finalist for a dean’s position at a private university. This was not a position I applied for. I was contacted by the university,” Farrar-Edwards said.

After news spread that state Republicans were lifting tenure protections in state law, and cutting the UW System budget, Farrar-Edwards said she and many of her peers started getting calls from other institutions.

“Because this is a big change, other universities have basically gone shopping,” she said. “We have a very, very competitive faculty and our salaries are substantially lower than those of our peer institutions.”

While state law no longer protects tenure, faculty members can still receive it under university policy. However, tenured faculty can be now fired if their program is discontinued.

“When you put the ambiguity for the tenure policy together with the salaries and the opportunities that come with being recruited, it makes other places seem pretty attractive,” Farrar-Edwards said.

The retention packages range in size from $5,000 to more than $50,000. Anna Haley-Lock, a professor in the School of Social Work, did not negotiate a retention package when she decided to take an offer at Rutgers University. She said offering large retention packages to some faculty will cause damage to faculty morale as a whole.

“These are folks that can land wherever they want. I think it’s a divisive strategy,” she said, stressing that the faculty members receiving retention packages would likely be able to find jobs at other universities. “I think that targeted retention is missing the boat when you’ve got a gutted tenure policy, limited to no shared governance and deep budget cuts that are dramatically affecting more than our campus. We need a very different management strategy to repair that damage.”

Meanwhile, the UW Board of Regents plans to meet on Thursday to finalize systemwide policies on tenure.

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