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1407, 11 Jun 15

Ending Tenure

Here is my column from the West Bend Daily News last Tuesday.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is in the final stages of putting together the state’s next biennial budget for the full Assembly and Senate to consider. Assuming that they do not try to cram the proposed deal for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks into the budget where it does not belong, the final remaining major piece is the transportationbudget. The committee has resolved the portion of the budget concerning the University of Wisconsin System. Intended to allow the university more flexibility in managing its budget, one of the provisions passed by the committee is to remove tenure for professors from state statute and allow the UW to decide how, when and if tenure should be extended.

The reaction from academia has been predictable. Throughout the halls of higher education, cloth is being rent and teeth gnashed as professors predict the waning of academic freedom and demise of UW. As the beneficiaries of the tenure system, academics have a vested interest in protecting the status quo, but that does not mean it should persist.

Tenure is the right of someone to hold a job permanently. While overcoming the protections of tenure can occasionally be overcome in the event of gross incompetence or criminal behavior, it is almost impossible to fire a tenured professor once it has been granted.

The argument for tenure is that it empowers academic freedom by protecting professors from a retaliatory job action if the professor challenges prevailing thought or ventures into unpopular subjects. The expansion of thought and learning is a fundamental and necessary element for a university and, indeed, for our civilization to advance.

While the goals of tenure are laudable, the real world effects of it are less so. Although the iron protections of tenure occasionally might protect a professor who chooses to color outside of the lines, more often it protects professors who may have been brilliant at one time but have tumbled into the crevasses of laziness and idleness that is the preferred trajectory of most humans. Many tenured professors teach few classes, work few hours, conduct little or inane research and contribute little to advancing thought while continuing to collect all of the pecuniary benefits of full-time employment.

The concept of tenure is a relatively new one. It is an American creation of the 19th century, intended to protect teachers at a time when political, racial and other forms of retribution too often found good teachers out of a job. Most of the elite people of thought and learning throughout human history plied their skill without the benefit of tenure. In fact, only a miniscule sliver of the knowledge that underpins modern civilization came about from a tenured professor — and even most of that which did was never under threat to require tenure protection.

The reason that state lawmakers have included the removal of tenure from state statutes is because the maintenance of tenure is expensive. Not only is the university hamstrung to manage its budget when it has to pay for professors whose useful life has long since passed, but they are also forced to lay off more productive, non-tenured staff when the budget gets tight.

By removing tenure from the statutes, the Legislature is not ending tenure altogether. The Board of Regents is free to enact tenure as a policy of the university, which they have already done. The difference is that the Board of Regents is also at liberty to adjust the terms of tenure instead of state lawmakers. Should this provision pass into law, the right and responsibility of tenure, for good or ill, passes into the hands of the leaders of the university.

Tenure is an outmoded concept whose time has passed, if it ever existed at all. It is a protectionist racket that shields people from the just consequences of their behavior. Permanent employment is a socialist’s dream that is ill suited for a free society. State lawmakers are right to remove it from statutory protection.

(Owen Robinson is a West Bend resident. He can be emailed at ).


1407, 11 June 2015


  1. Kevin Scheunemann

    Ending arrogant liberal entitlement—-that is a great thing!

  2. Mark Maley

    Your kids don’t need to be taught by experts or even TA’s

    Literally anyone could come off the street and teach almost any class

    Said absolutely no one except our republican legislators .


  3. Owen

    And even they didn’t say that. That’s a statement that only exists in a liberal fantasy.

  4. AnonyBob

    Owen, you’re talking about something you have no clue about here. My wife and I moved from Wisconsin to Texas 1 1/2 years ago. She is a tenure track professor at a prominent university in your former state. Attaining tenure is a grueling process.You have to demonstrate expertise in your field, publish extensively (the coin of the realm in academia) and demonstrate commitment to public service in your field. Many don’t make it and have to move on. It is not a guarentee of a job for life, it is freedom to pursue your expertise. John Sharpless noted it protects conservative scholars in Wisconsin. Few abuse it. Why do you conservatives always project on to others what you’d do to take advantage of a situation? Changing the ground rules in Wisconsin will do nothing but hurt the reputation of the UW. What does that mean? The downgrading of one of the biggest assets of Wisconsin, the UW system, the economic engine of the state.

  5. Kevin Scheunemann

    “…it is freedom to pusrsue your expertise”.

    No one should have that freedom at the forced taxpayer expense of others.

    If you want “freedom to pursue your expertise”, free of economic and social consequence, (which is really what this is all about) raise the funding yourself.

  6. Jadedly Unbiased

    Am I to believe only liberals are tenured? I think we are starting to get into dangerous territory. Act 10 was one thing but to continue the attacks on teachers especially when no one can offer a legitimate reason for the actions is only going to cause problems down the road. Maybe we should do away with the WDPI and the UW system. That would leave more money for prisons and new arenas.

  7. Kevin Scheunemann


    Name 1 conservative, tenured, UW Professor.

  8. Kevin Scheunemann

    ….that is if the conservative professor wants to be outed on a hateful liberal campus that will destroy, harass, and verbally flog any non liberal professor.

  9. Jadedly Unbiased

    How about John Sharpless. He is a tenured history professor and long time Republican. He is also outspokenly against ending tenure. Look him up. Many other republican professors are coming to his side in opposition to ending tenure.

  10. Kevin Scheunemann

    Assuming for a minute, John is not a “Mary Panzer” republican, taking tenure out of state law and letting UW system decide tenure is a problem for him?

    Disappointing reaction for an alleged Republican.

    If he is scared that taking tenure out of state law ( the only state that does this) will cause him to fear for his job…., the liberal war against free thinking on campus is even worse than I thought.

    I can fully understand that position then. Liberal campus hate is constantly nauseating.

  11. Mark Maley

    Slowly killing public education is not a fantasy .

    It’s the wet dream of the right .

  12. Jadedly Unbiased

    You pulled this same garbage when you asked me to name republicans that supported dress codes. When I proved they existed you denied Iowa even had republicans and completely discounted the proof you asked for and I provided. You challenged me and I provided what you asked for. Tenure crosses political lines and in the end could cause some educators that happen to be republicans to resent the party. I’m concerned the party may be digging to deep and should be prepared for the all ready existing backlash from fellow republicans. If you would like the names of other tenured UW republicans that have and still are coming out against this… Stay tuned.

  13. Jason

    Jaded said: “You pulled this same garbage when you asked me to name republicans that supported dress codes. When I proved they existed you denied Iowa even had republicans and completely discounted the proof you asked for and I provided.”

    No you didn’t, and you couldn’t even refute it when I debunked your statements.

    For your further education “AKA, my wasted effort”… the Iowa republicans were supporting the empowerment of local school boards to decide on if a dress code was warranted. There was nothing in the bills submitted that said “We want dress codes”, but rather “We want local communities to decide for themselves if they want a dress code”. I fully expect that you still do not understand that distinction as your track record in understanding topics in-depth is severely lacking thus far.

  14. Jadedly Unbiased

    Here is MY exact quote from May 27, 2015 @ 2:20pm under the thread ” Madison Schools Crack Down on Free Expression”.

    “In March 2011 the Republican led Iowa House voted 91-9 approving a bill that would allow school districts to approve restrictive dress codes and giving districts first time power to require uniform standards”.

    So Jason…
    Maybe you should know what you are talking about before you put yourself out there. All your wasted effort was based on your inability to read. You can now take your opinions and shove them as far up YOUR ass as you can reach. You are a fool amongst fools.

  15. Kevin Scheunemann


    You are still on Iowa thing? That bill allowed school districts to regulate dress so students could be flagged for inappropriate dress as the districts choose. It was a good bill given that some of the public school kids around here attending public school seem to forget to get dressed in the A.M. to some reasonable sense of decency and decorum.

    It was not about school uniforms…unless the local school board wanted to make a school uniform mandate. Has any school district in Iowa adopted a school uniform policy mandate?

    Jason was correct.

  16. Jadedly Unbiased

    You are as big a jackass as Jason. Can you read? When all you have is to twist and manipulate the words of others your battle is lost. Grow up. You ask for me to “Name 1 conservative, tenured, UW Professor”. I did and you clearly can’t except the fact that once again your arrogant self centered swollen head can’t deal with being wrong. Now fuck off, you hypocritical asshole. Don’t give me any of your that’s not Christian bullshit either because after listening to your crap for months it’s clear you are full of shit and your Christianity is a convenient wall to hide behind when your politics fail.

  17. Kevin Scheunemann


    The tenure bill does not wipe out tenure. That is the point. It only takes the state law protection of tenure out and makes it just like every other state, where tenure is controlled by the University, not state law protection.

    So re-read my 3:03 P.M. response about John S. again with that in mind. Unless he fears liberal campus hate reprisal, his tenure is still safe if this bill passes.

    That’s why I find his reaction disappointing as a “conservative”. If he fears liberal campus hate, that is another matter all together that should be discussed. I could be sold on keeping the extra special state law tenure protection layer if liberal campus hate is a problem. However, liberals keep saying their campus hate is not a problem.

    If it makes you feel better, I’ll say that I was wrong, but you may have to better pinpoint what it is I am wrong about through all that non-church language.

  18. Jadedly Unbiased

    No shit!

  19. Jason

    Wow jaded, I hope you enjoy your bliss.

  20. scott

    Here’s what I’m wondering. Who cared about this law enough to feel the urgent need to change it? And why? As far as I can see, this change by itself affect almost no one. Yet some legislator thought it was so important–even given all our other needs and concerns–that they wrote this provision in. Why? What’s their motivation?

  21. Jadedly Unbiased

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Erasing UW faculty tenure from the statutes while leaving probationary appointments, distinguished professorships, academic staff appointments and limited appointments shows dysfunctional government at its finest. This is just one more step in the systematic dismantling of demonized institution. It’s embarrassing.

  22. Kevin Scheunemann

    Tenure is only important to some silly intellectuals that cannot cut it in the private sector.

    The other 99 percent of us could care less if silly intellectuals have tenure.

    So you over blow the embarrassment for those of us that work for a living and support the free ride of tenure by high taxes. It’s even more silly that the average working Joe wants this extra state law layer of protection for the silly intellectuals.

    Do float in elitist academic circles?

  23. Owen

    As far as I can see, this change by itself affect almost no one. Yet some legislator thought it was so important–even given all our other needs and concerns–that they wrote this provision in. Why?

    If it’s so minor, then why not? Why do people like JU have their shorts in a twist over it?

  24. Jadedly Unbiased

    The question should be “if it’s so minor, then” why? Why not eliminate the rest of the dead weight statutes? Tenure will still exist so why waste time with such dysfunctional mandates that are ineffective. As I asked in a different thread and Scott has asked here “Whats the motivation”? My original point (June 12@ 9:26am) was these attacks on education are starting to piss off and effect conservatives as well as liberals. We are already starting to see some kickback eventually those will translate into lost votes. With all the other problems facing our state is this really a priority? I will always support education above all other tax funded institutions. Teachers are the backbone of that system and deserve our support.

    On a different note… Why can’t anyone manage to have a rational debate without the endless manipulation of facts, twisting of words or false accusations?

  25. Jadedly Unbiased

    My shorts are in a twist not because of the issue at hand but because of the endless attacks on my character and spirituality. The manipulations of statements and opinions to try and shame, discredit and mock are the tactics of those who have no legitimate arguement. I don’t care how insulted anyone is by my choice of words. When someone is acting like an asshole I have no problem telling them to fuck off. I will make my peace with God in my own way and in my own time for my choice of well deserved words.

  26. scott

    I think the reason some people get upset about it is that they hear the dog whistle. While the practical effect of the change may be nothing (as far as I know), the gesture is clear: we’d rather scrap the entire concept of tenure. We hate it. It shouldn’t be a thing. And some people feel strongly about that message, implicit or explicit. Plus, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s a lot of anti-teacher, anti-intellectual and anti-whatever that exists alongside it.

  27. Jadedly Unbiased

    Those who can’t teach or graduate from college make ice cream. Its okay, soon local high schools will offer ice cream making and Kevin can finally teach his skill to all the hard working individuals willing to make $7.25/hr instead of becoming silly intellectuals. I wonder what skill Kevin hopes his children learn in high school that will carry them and their children through life. I bet Kewauskum teachers love Kevin’s stance on this one.

  28. Kevin Scheunemann


    It’s that kind of dripping liberal disdain for business owners that takes this tenure issue from not a big deal issue for me to a, “we definitely need to pass it”. It’s the small business owners that pay taxes that support the so called intellectuals.

    I want kids go to college where tenured professors actually teach classes. Right now, they teach less than 2 classes a semester in UW system on average.

    When those professors actually teach students, then they can make a defense for extra layer of tenure protection through state law.

  29. Jadedly Unbiased

    There you go again with your predictable “dripping liberal” crap. That’s why you are an asshole. My original point was Republicans will eventually cost themselves votes by digging to deep. That concern is anything but liberal.

  30. scott

    As an undergrad I went to a teaching college. Meaning tenure and promotion were not directly linked to research and publishing, but to actually teaching. It was a great experience, as a student. And it was a place for people with PhDs who actually wanted to teach for a living.

    That said, research institutions must exist. All academic fields must…progress. Someone has to do the research, someone has to be publishing. If all professors have to teach full time who’s going to do it?

    (And this isn’t even bringing up the loads of other stuff that universities require them to do besides teaching and publishing.)

  31. Jadedly Unbiased

    Only 20-25% of all UW system instructors are full time tenured or full time on track to be tenured professors. The rest 75-80% are part time or adjunct professors. If you “want kids to go to college where tenured professors actually teach class” you are blindly supporting a measure that will further damage your wants. I take it this is just another one of your hypocritical positions and you will find some B.S. excuse to weasel out of your stated “want”.

    Let’s be honest, this has nothing to do with tenure it’s has to do with a national agenda to systematically dismantle a demonized institution in the name of mass indoctrination and profit…School vouchers. Step by step starting with higher education and working its way down to K-12 public schools are a target. Profit and mass indoctrination will eventually crush the only successful public institution that has developed and nurtured some of the greatest minds ever. It’s not only embarrassing it’s shameful. I’m not fooled by political bullshit disguised as budget adjustments. What’s comical to me is the vast majority of our state legislators are willing to destroy the institution responsible for their success. Fools, absolute fools!

  32. Kevin Scheunemann


    Your dripping liberal disdain for small business owners and insulting my employees has inspired me from being neutral/barely interested on this to contacting my elected reps. to pass this law, and also encourage for further funding cuts of elitists.

    Elitists are never grateful for the tax burden we carry as business owners. The ungrateful elitists should be de-funded.

    They should get their own funding—-like the rest of us.

  33. Jadedly Unbiased

    Working at your shit hole ice cream stands is insult enough for your employees. Having a boss preaching at them all day is the proverbial icing on the ice cream cake. Knowing their boss is content with them making $7.25/hr while he pockets the profits is a slap in the face. Kevin you really are an asshole, a hypocrite and a Christian in name only. You have received public funding, you have attended the UW system and you voted for the assholes destroying public education. If you think any of your elected reps listen to you your crazy. They have the same opinion of you as many others and I know because I have had the conversation. The funny thing is you have completely failed, once again, to defend this position with anything more then your standard rhetoric everyone has listened to for years and are completely bored to death with. When making ice cream becomes an official trades skill maybe kewauskum junior high will give you a call. Until then be careful you don’t get your fat head caught in the blizzard machine that would be an OSHA violation.

  34. Kevin scheunemann

    Appreciate the input. Would be better without the profanity.

    If you can find someone on my staff that makes $7.25 an hour that will be news to me.

    Sure I attended UW, and I’ll give you the same answer I gave the socialist liberal poly sci professor when he put me on the spot about the “welfare”: “I’m here reclaiming stolen tax money.”

    That got professor to move on very quickly.

  35. Jadedly Unbiased

    Gee I’m real sorry(not) but at least I have the balls to say what I mean and mean what I say. I don’t have to veil my opinions in half truths and accusations. I’m assuming the redirect and avoidance of the topic means you have no defense for your position or for those members of the joint finance committee that gave the okay for such an unproductive and unjustified measure to move into the senate. Why was it introduced at the last minute without any public input? What is the motivation behind the measure? Why just tenure and not all the other UW state statutes regarding instructors/professors? Simply saying de-fund elitists isn’t an answer because obviously there are elitists in both parties and at UW working as professors. Again my original concern was actually focused on republicans alienating votes by digging to deep. As I said hardly a liberal position. When I’m continually unjustly slammed I’m going to react. When my opinions and statements are distorted to wrongly justify someone else’s position I’m going to react. When I react and I’m ridiculed I’m going to harshly defend myself. Profanity may offend you but turning me into the butt of your rhetoric offends me. If people are so concerned about “tenure” I hope they are not to shocked when they find out it exists in many other places in the public domain. Teachers aren’t the only ones who receive tenure even in WI. Why aren’t the others being targeted?

  36. Kevin scheunemann


    You do make me chuckle. If you were on the receiving end of your posts….I hesitate to think what your reaction would be.

    I’m barely interested in this tenure issue. You react like someone kicked your puppy.

    Why does this tenure issue get you so excited? Are you a tenured professor?

  37. Jadedly Unbiased

    If someone kicked my puppy I hesitate to think what my reaction would be but I can promise they would never do it again. Just because nobody seems to think its a big deal doesn’t mean its good government. The bend over a take it stuff is getting old. Our reps should be our voice not rogues. When legislation is adopted last minute it severely restricts the peoples voice and that’s exactly what’s happened here. With proper debate, time to weigh the issue, consider the pros and cons maybe I would have a different opinion but without that option it can only add up to irresponsible government intentionally trying to limit the voice of the people. Anytime that happens I become very skeptical. Politicians have a way of f%#^ing things up at our expense and when it comes to education the risks of that can have dire irreversible consequences on young lives. I’m not willing to take that chance without all of the options on the table.

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