BASCOM HILL
SAIYNA BASHIR

The number of attempts by other universities to recruit professors away from UW-Madison declined in the last academic year, after a spike in the previous year officials attributed to budget cuts and controversial changes to tenure policies.

UW-Madison’s hiring of new professors also rebounded after a down year, according to annual recruitment and retention reports released this week.

The university had 92 faculty retention cases sparked by an outside offer or recruitment effort during the 2016-17 year, down from 144 in 2015-16; twenty-three faculty members ultimately chose to leave UW-Madison last year, compared to 29 the year before.

The spike in retention cases during the 2015-16 school year was seen as a sign that other universities had ramped up efforts to recruit top professors from UW-Madison after Republican lawmakers cut $250 million over two years from the University of Wisconsin System’s budget and weakened faculty tenure protections.

Some faculty members who left UW-Madison said those changes helped push them to take jobs elsewhere.

Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf, who said she had heard from peers at other universities that they wanted to “raid Wisconsin” after the changes last year, said the latest figures indicate those raids have subsided.

“I don’t think our press this last year was as bad,” Mangelsdorf said Wednesday, noting that the changes to tenure in particular attracted national media attention, some of which incorrectly implied that tenure had been ended entirely at UW institutions. “I’m hopeful that … we’re sort of returning to what is more typical.”

During the five years before the policy changes and budget cuts in 2015, UW-Madison averaged 100 retention cases and 21 faculty departures.

The university spent $23.6 million on retention packages in 2015-16, which included additional research funding and salary increases, to keep professors. That spending declined to $16.5 million last year.

UW-Madison also offered preemptive retention packages — meant to hold on to faculty who don’t have active offers but who officials suspect could be recruited away — to 40 professors last year, compared to 87 the previous year.

“We did take a huge hit last year, and we really can’t let our guard down,” Mangelsdorf said.

UW’s recruitment increases

Although UW institutions were managing the second year of state budget cuts during the most recent school year, Mangelsdorf said the flagship Madison campus was able to ramp up its recruitment of professors thanks to new revenue it took in from increased out-of-state tuition.

The university made 175 offers for tenured or tenure-track faculty positions, after only making 99 such offers in 2015-16; 105 professors decided to take jobs at UW-Madison in the most recent year.

About 100 professors leave the institution each year, most due to retirement.

Mangelsdorf said the increased recruitment efforts were in some ways a matter of the university catching up after not being able to make as many job offers the prior year.

“We should be doing more hiring,” she said.