There is no formal beginning of “academic staff” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That is, as various jobs needed to be done, many employees were hired who were neither tenure track faculty nor in the state classified system. When the student population ballooned in the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s, more and more of these types of appointments were needed, especially to support student services (Admissions, Housing, Financial Aids, Registrar, Student Health) and undergraduate advising. At the same time, research projects and teaching also required added staff. Over time, most of these non-categorized employees became known simply as “specialists,” regardless of academic attainment, scope of responsibility, or duties. Specialists were employed as academic advisors, librarians, some high level administrators, and even world-renowned researchers.
The first effort to identify this group was driven by the merger of the old state university system (Chapt. 37) with the University of Wisconsin (Chapt. 36) into a single system in 1971. Before merger, many academic staff in positions of responsibility were treated as faculty. The blurred lines were drawn by spheres of influence. “Faculty Status” was bestowed on certain academic staff; however, this designation was not by any written rule. As merger was proceeding forward, it became apparent that there would have to be some uniformity in appointments across the system. As a result, the lines separating faculty and academic staff became more sharply drawn. Many persons who had played prominent roles in administration found themselves defined out of spheres of influence because they were not faculty. And academic staff who had never been included in influential roles, now became part of an identifiable group. This latter group was not only de jure excluded from university governance by state statute, but was also excluded de facto. Thus identified as an excluded category, activist academic staff began to seek ways to have a voice in issues that influenced their livelihoods and careers.
During the period of merger, several organizations were formed to advance the interests of academic staff. Early on, a short-lived group named the Specialist Organizing Committee (SOC) gave voice to the interests of specialists. Campus librarians, through their representative body, The Librarian’s Assembly, also promoted the professional interest of academic staff. Already established campus groups, namely United Faculty (affiliated with Wisconsin Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers) and the Wisconsin University Union (an independent union) recognized the common interests of faculty and academic staff. United Faculty formally acknowledged this relationship by legally changing its name to United Faculty and Academic Staff (UFAS). In 1975, the Madison Academic Staff Association (MASA) was formed. It advertised itself, then as now, as the “academic staff’s eyes and ears” on the campus and was the only organization devoted solely to academic staff issues. Among its early missions was the education of legislators-and even regents-who had, at best, only a vague idea of the identity and contributions of the over 6,000 academic staff in the University of Wisconsin System. MASA also promoted a professional identity for academic staff on the Madison campus by publishing a newsletter, sponsoring candidate forums, and detailing issues of interest to academic staff, including the publication of several critical issues documents. Among MASA’s top priorities was the inclusion of academic staff in campus governance. At the time of merger, both students and faculty were included by state statute in the process of governance, but the academic staff were not.
The opportunity to take the first steps towards governance arose as merger required each campus to develop personnel policies for its academic staff. On the Madison campus, this charge was invested in the Academic Staff Advisory Committee, a body consisting of seven elected and four (later three) members appointed by the Chancellor. Campus administration insisted that the committee be partially appointed because it was concerned that not all appropriate voices would get representation. Moreover, although the administration supported the electoral system used to elect the seven members, it would not recognize that these elected members represented a constituency. The approximately 2800 academic staff on the Madison campus, therefore, elected seven of its members to sit on this committee but they were not “represented” by them.
The Academic Staff Advisory Committee was in existence from 1975 to 1987; however, it eventually dropped the word “advisory” from its name and became known as simply the Academic Staff Committee (ASC). Most of the early members served two two-year terms so that it had a stable membership for the first four years. During its years of service, the ASC authored the original chapters of academic staff personnel policies and procedures and helped guide them through the campus, system, and Regents levels of adoption.
While the ASC operated as a de facto governance body of Madison’s academic staff, de jure governance was not a reality until 1985. In the early 1980’s, the promotion of collective bargaining for the faculty and academic staff by some state campuses made the prospect of statutory governance for academic staff considerably more attractive to state legislators and system administrators. Senator Joe Czarneski( Milwaukee), himself a former academic staff member at UW-Milwaukee, championed the cause by introducing academic staff governance language in Senate Bill 322 in 1983. Testimony at hearings by a representative of UW System Administration recommended that governance wait until internal studies of academic titling were completed and a representative of the UW-Madison faculty’s University Committee suggested changes in wording. However, neither the faculty nor the administration went on record as opposing governance rights for academic staff. The original intent of Senator Czarneski to give academic staff governance equal to faculty was, however, altered. As indicated in the language of the statute, academic staff governance is shared but subject to the faculty as well as to the regents, president, and chancellor. Finally, on August 17, 1985, Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter 36.09 (4m) was amended to include academic staff as follows:
The academic staff members of each institution, subject to the responsibilities and powers of the board, the president and the chancellor and faculty of the institution, shall be active participants in the immediate governance of and policy development for the institution. The academic staff members have primary responsibility for the formulation and review, and shall be represented in the development, of all policies and procedures concerning academic staff members, including academic staff personnel matters. The academic staff members of each institution shall have the right to organize themselves in a manner they determine, and to select their representatives to participate in institutional governance.
Shared governance could now become a reality.