My eyes are really bad, especially adjusting to distance. So, every time I see the front page of a newspaper now, the first thing I'm trying to figure out is whether the picture is from the Middle East or Madison. If there's no smoke plume, I have to look for the colors of the relevant national flag or something. Yesterday, as you've seen in the media, crowds were getting up to those international stage numbers.
Just one point now for now: We all worry about the lack of good media analysis of anything we know about, and probably especially the highly paid screaming heads. I'd like to call your attention to two examples where the lack of good analysis hurts us badly here, one from the fringe and one from an utterly mainstream source.
--From the right, there's an effort to paint the people at the Capitol as chaotic, with the implication that it's somehow dangerous or out of control. I worked yesterday as a marshal for several hours. That involved doing two simple things, for the most part. First, police told us that there were too many people standing on the bridges of the third floor near the Rotunda. We made and posted signs saying 'please avoid congregating on bridges' and people stayed clear enough that there was surely no more concern. That is, the people in the Capitol are actively working with security to keep order. The busiest sign-up sheet in the TAA (etc.) room looked like it was the trash duty list. Considering how many people have been there for how long, the place is remarkably clean. This is not an accident. Second, I spent an hour or so walking along the seam between the demonstrators and the Tea Party people, with the aim of helping avoid any confrontation. What I saw was some discussion between the groups, basically banter that wasn't always cheerful, but nothing out of line and everything was trivial compared to the interactions at any Badger football game. And note that there haven't been arrests so far. (Let's hope that continues.)
--From the mainstream, check out this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/news/
education/116515833.html. The headline, "Faculty, alumni group divide on splitting UW", makes a claim that's not directly backed up in the article itself: I don't see where an actual disagreement is made explicit. Our University Committee and our deans (in ads in both student papers on Friday) have repeatedly and clearly endorsed the effort to get budget flexibilities. None of them, to my knowledge, have taken a public stand on possible separation from the System yet. As far as I can tell, this is claiming a 'divide' that does not exist. Politically, this is extremely dangerous.
My next message is likely to be passing along plans for Monday. There are meetings today to discuss this and get input -- meetings of union people, meetings of faculty, etc. Again, the lines of communication look very open and clear to me, if not yet perfect. And there's remarkably broad consensus here, which I understand as solid evidence that people realize just how profound this crisis is and how poisonous the budget repair bill would be for our state and university.
On Tuesday, there is almost certainly going to be action from campus, and across the UW System, probably with strong support from the faculty and faculty leaders. This should show the breadth of depth of support from people in public higher education in the state.
I have little idea of things beyond that, in part because we don't know what will happen politically -- e.g. when the D senators will return and what kind of deal might be reached on this bill, leaving aside the devastating NEW budget that is coming. For the moment, just keep that last point in mind: The actual budget for the next two years, as opposed to this 'adjustment' to the existing budget, could include things that damage EVERY person on campus directly, such as potentially far-reaching changes to the retirement system. Faculty not on board with the current activities may be the most vocal when that news breaks.
By the way, this is going to the list of addresses passed along to Mr. Verb and people who expressed interest after getting a forward of yesterday's message. I'll try to write a daily update but can't promise anything at all. People are welcome to pass me stuff to circulate and there are far better outlets -- Sifting and Winnowing, the PROFS website, TAA emails, etc. -- depending on the message and audience. Most importantly, this is a purely personal perspective and from my very limited knowledge of what's happening. Better updates are available from journalists, like here: http://motherjones.com/mojo/
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Below is our morning update from our voice inside the Capitol (more or less). I have just heard that the paragraph about the Milwaukee paper's article on the potential split of Madison from System requires some expansion and clarification. That is likely to appear on the PROFS website this afternoon.