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Attacks on Tenure: An Engineering Professor’s Experiences with Public Policy Actions Impacting Higher Education

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

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Paper Authors


John R. Reisel University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

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Dr. John R. Reisel is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). In addition to research into engineering education, his efforts focus on combustion and energy utilization. Dr. Reisel was a 2005 recipient of the UWM Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, a 2000 recipient of the UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Teaching Award, and a 1998 recipient of the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. Dr. Reisel received his B.M.E. degree from Villanova University in 1989, his M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1991, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1994.

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In recent years, several states have proposed modifications to university policies, including tenure policies, that would potentially impact the foundations upon which higher education rests in the United States. One such state is Wisconsin, in which the state legislature mandated many fundamental changes to the state statutes involving the University of Wisconsin in 2015. The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin responded by significantly changing tenure policies for the faculty. These changes are seen by many as weakening the protections which faculty have grown accustomed to having. The author of this paper is an engineering professor whose role in faculty governance at his institution provided him with the opportunity to both closely monitor how the changes were being made and influence the campus policies that were created in response to the legislative and regent actions.

This paper will consist of three main sections. First, a history of the changes to the tenure policies in Wisconsin will be provided. Second, the author will review his role in the process as an example of how a regular faculty member can influence the making of policies at an institutional level. This review will include the challenges that faculty can face while working to bridge gaps between the visions of different parties while crafting policy. Third, a series of recommendations will be presented for other engineering faculty who either intentionally or unintentionally find themselves in a position to defend or create policies at their own institutions. While these recommendations will be made with an emphasis on tenure policies, they are adaptable to other higher-education related issues as well.

Reisel, J. R. (2018, June), Attacks on Tenure: An Engineering Professor’s Experiences with Public Policy Actions Impacting Higher Education Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29839

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