June 12, 2015 — On behalf of the International Advisory Board of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), we are writing with regard to the transition of CHCI administration and operations from Duke University to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
We are especially drawn to the University of Wisconsin because we regard it as one of the great public universities in the United States, and one of the most distinguished universities in the world by any measure. The “Wisconsin Idea”--that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom--has been an inspiration not only to American land-grant universities whose explicit mission is to serve the citizenry at large, but to every institution of higher education that seeks to serve the public good.
More specifically, we believe that UW-Madison’s Center for the Humanities, under the visionary leadership of director Sara Guyer, will provide an ideal location for CHCI and the consortium’s efforts to bridge the global scope of scholarship in the humanities with the local concerns of individual institutions.
With regard to the University of Wisconsin system, those local concerns speak to the very mission of the university as we know it. In that sense, they are not issues of merely “local” import. Recent challenges to tenure, academic freedom, and shared governance in the UW system are matters of grave concern to all members of the CHCI International Advisory Board.
We are aware that those challenges have been mounted by the legislative and executive branches of the government of the state of Wisconsin, not by UW-Madison campus administrators, and we know that they do not impinge directly on the operations of the Center for the Humanities or the CHCI. But we believe that these challenges are inimical to the spirit of academic freedom and intellectual inquiry that animates the disciplines of the arts and humanities. We understand that tenure is not being eliminated in the UW system. But we note with alarm that provision 35 of the omnibus budget bill directs the state legislature to “delete current law specifying that the faculty of each institution be vested with responsibility for the immediate governance of such institution,” and that provision 39 allows the Board of Regents to terminate tenured faculty members in the case of “a program or budget decision regarding program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection, instead of when a financial emergency exists as under current law.” These provisions clearly violate the American Association of University Professors’ Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure with regard to shared governance and program elimination.
The Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes reaffirms its commitment to AAUP principles of academic freedom and shared governance, and to the ideal of free intellectual inquiry those principles seek to ensure. The CHCI presidency will move to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in January 2017 with full administrative transfer to be completed by June 2017.
— President Srinivas Aravamudan and Members of the CHCI International Advisory Board