An outspoken University of Wisconsin-Madison professor is under fire for finding future Badgers on Twitter and allegedly harassing them — as well as for comparing Scott Walker to Adolf Hitler.
Sara Goldrick-Rab is a professor of educational policy studies and sociology with a national profile in both her field of research and the ongoing debate over faculty tenure in Wisconsin public universities. She has openly said she’s looking for another job because she believes academic freedom is in jeopardy in Wisconsin.
It all started with a photo that a future Badger posted May 31 on Twitter of himself and his friends in their high school graduation caps and gowns, smiling and forming the Wisconsin “W” with their hands.
“On (to) Wisconsin!” the tweet exclaimed. It was tagged @UWMadison #FutureBadgers, and the young man included the Twitter handles of the five other students in the photo.
Six days later, Goldrick-Rab reached out to all six students on Twitter: “I hate to bring bad news but,” her tweet began. She then linked to an opinion piece published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with the headline: “Threats to shared governance and tenure put mission of UW at risk.”
“No one cares sara,” one of the students replied.
“Oh good. I thought you want a degree of value. Too bad,” Goldrick-Rab responded.
“Who are you lol” another student replied.
One student in his reply alluded to a hot-button statement earlier this year by Walker, a Republican presidential candidate: “thanks for sharing, but isn’t it better if professors to (sic) teach more classes? Cuts seem pretty tame w/political environment” the student tweeted.
Goldrick-Rab, a self-proclaimed liberal, replied: “It isn’t the cuts. If this goes through, we are all leaving. No joke.”
She was referring to faculty who are upset about the state budget that Walker signed Sunday, which includes provisions allowing tenured faculty to be laid off “when deemed necessary” for budget reasons or program changes. Previously, tenured faculty could only be laid off in a financial emergency or for malfeasance. The state budget gave the UW System Board of Regents authority to create a tenure policy that specifies what would be required for a layoff to be “deemed necessary.”
As her Twitter conversation with the future Badgers continued, Goldrick-Rab tweeted a link to a New York Times story about the tenure debate in Wisconsin.
“We don’t want students 2 waste their $. It’s info that’s all,” her tweet said. “University is changing as we speak. Maybe look at info?”
A few thoughts come to mind. First, in a normal business, this professor would be fired immediately. She is publicly seeking new employment as she is publicly telling her current employer’s customers to go elsewhere. It’s akin to the McDonald’s employee who announces that he is applying to Taco Bell telling customers at the counter that the food sucks and they should go elsewhere. If she doesn’t find a new job, what kind of education can our kids expect from her in the classroom? She clearly lacks the professionalism to keep her politics out of her work.
Second, since she hasn’t been fired, can we assume that this is the kind of “academic freedom” that tenure protects? Her behavior is merely making the decision by the legislature to remove tenure from state statutes seem like a better and better decision.
Third, any university who hires her now is insane. Who would want this cancer in their faculty? Who would want a person who publicly and aggressively attacks incoming freshman when she gets upset at her job situation?
Finally, check out her scheduled teaching:
She hasn’t taught a class since the Spring of 2013 and she’s only scheduled to teach 2 courses this Fall. She has taught two classes in 3-and-a-half years. What value is Wisconsin getting out of paying this professor? Is this what we’re paying for?