Thursday, February 26, 2009

Here I go again, sending a letter to the editor of my local newspaper in response to what I see as a gross mischaracterization of what goes on at UW-Madison. The column that set me off was here. Tell me if you think my response was off base:

In his Feb. 25, 2009 column, "Make public workers share the pain," Mike Ivey wrote, "head down to the UW-Madison campus, GEF II or the City-County Building, and it's like the Great Recession isn't happening. The conferences, meetings, long lunches and paid sabbaticals go on as usual." He went on to suggest that public employees reduce their supposedly extravagant salaries to balance the state budget. This is not reporting; this is a blanket accusation of waste and fraud based on stereotype and distortion. As a UW-Madison professor myself, I can only speak for my particular state-connected institution, but I would like to remind my fellow Cap Times readers that the state funds less than 20% of the costs of UW-Madison, that our full faculty salaries are $13,500 below the median for our 12-campus peer group (including neighboring state universities), and that the overall UW faculty headcount has declined every year since 2004. Yet in 2008 we admitted over 200 more freshmen than we did in 2004. In short, we are already doing more with less. If Mr. Ivey wishes to suggest that state spending should be further cut in tough economic times, then we his readers can debate whether that is wise given the increased demand for state services (especially health care and education) as the economy slows. Or if Mr. Ivey feels that a progressive tax increase should be levied so that all Wisconsin residents making above a certain income (not just public employees) should pay more to help balance the budget, then we can debate what qualifies as "affluent." But I do not expect to see my work and that of my fellow state-connected employees, especially those at UW-Madison, derided and dismissed as wasteful and fradulent without evidence in the newspaper that claims to be my "progressive voice."