Friday, November 2, 2012

Information? Intimidation? It's Hard to Tell

This morning the Dean of Letters and Sciences at UW-Madison sent the following email to all faculty and staff in his college.  Since that time, my email inbox has flooded with concern expressed by staff, students, and faculty who are not sure why he sent it and what it's meant to accomplish.

Subject: [xtmp] Human Resource Design Strategic Plan
Date: Fri, 02 Nov 2012 09:37:26 -0500
From: Gary Sandefur

Dear L&S Staff and Faculty,

 There have been many documents and statements floating around about aspects of the Human Resources Design Strategic Plan.  Some of this information is not factually correct.

To address these misconceptions, campus has developed the attached fact sheet.  You can also find the document at the following website:

 I encourage all employees to read the Fact Sheet to ensure you are accurately informed.  If you have any questions at all about the information in the Fact Sheet or the HR Design Strategic Plan, please feel free to contact the following L&S Human Resource Staff:  [deleted]

You may also want to refer to the general HR Design Website at  for additional information about the HR Design Strategic Plan.


Dean, College of Letters and Sciences
105 South Hall
1055 Bascom Mall
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Madison, WI  53706

As I wrote to Gary in response, there are at least two problems with this email. 

First, the information distributed is titled "facts" but is in fact hardly objective or "factual." At best, it's one point of view, and at worse, it is administrative propaganda.

For example, point 15 is misleading. The stated "misconception" is that HR Design work teams were dominated by HR staff. The statement that the teams had "representatives" from stakeholder groups does not contradict the claim. The fact is that 1/3 of the reps were HR staff and another 1/3 were managers above the HR staff level--only 1/3 were from lower-status stakeholder groups or faculty.  Clearly, the work teams were predominantly HR staff and managers!

Second, the timing of this email is worrisome since right now there is a petition being circulated asking that HR simply provide clear details on planned modifications to the Plan so that the Faculty Senate knows what it's being asked to vote on on Monday.  That petition includes large numbers of L&S faculty and staff who were brave enough to make their request for transparency public. 

It is 11:40 am right now, the petition asks for these details by 12:00 pm today. Nothing has arrived.

Instead, I am now hearing from people who signed the petition and who feel this email was intended to intimidate them.  

Since I'm sure that was not Gary's intention, I urge him to take immediate action to correct that impression and ensure that everyone on campus feels they are allowed to sift and winnow their way through this absolutely crucial process.