Following closely on the heels on the Board of Regents’ endorsement of a plan for greater autonomy for all University of Wisconsin campuses, 13 UW System chancellors signed a letter submitted to the state Legislature urging policymakers to consider the Wisconsin Idea Partnership and to retain the system as a unified body.
All System chancellors except UW Chancellor Biddy Martin endorsed the letter, including UW-Milwaukee’s interim Chancellor Mike Lovell, a campus Gov. Scott Walker said in his budget address could follow the Madison campus in receiving new flexibilities.
“We hope that you will support the Wisconsin Idea Partnership as the best way to provide all UW institutions with new management tools that will help us mitigate the effects of $250 million in state funding reductions,” the letter said.
The letter also said the new proposal, which was previously endorsed by the Board of Regents in a meeting March 10, would provide necessary administrative flexibility to all campuses as a unified system.
The transformation of the Madison campus to a public authority status would also promote increased competition, duplication in administration and weakened collaborative efforts between System schools, the letter said.
UW System President Charles Pruitt said the letter will make the chancellors’ opposition to the split clear as legislators begin debate on Walker’s proposed budget.
Pruitt said as higher education in Wisconsin faces particularly tough conditions in state funding cuts, it will prove necessary for the System to approach these challenges as a unified body.
He also said System officials are hopeful the Regents’ new proposal will be well-received by the governor and the Legislature.
“I think we’re being very positive in terms of being of what would be an important new relationship between the state and the schools,” Pruitt said. “We’re hopeful that making a case for flexibilities is a case that will meet a receptive audience with the governor.”
He added UW-Madison is an extraordinary institution that has thrived in the past 40 years as a member of the system. He said the other campuses clearly benefit from collaboration and other interactions with the Madison campus.
In an email to The Badger Herald, Martin said while she supports greater flexibility for all System campuses, not enough information about the new partnership is available to determine what benefits it could have if voted into law.
She added because the proposal does not involve public authority status, UW-Madison officials will continue to make a positive case for greater autonomy at the university to preserve its strength.
“I am not optimistic that UW-Madison would reap the benefits that are offered by the model that is foreseen for us in the budget bill,” Martin said. “We support [the system schools'] efforts to gain what they need, but … not to the detriment of what UW-Madison has the potential to gain in the way of a new operating model.”
She also said the New Badger Partnership is not an attempt to undercut the autonomy sought by other campuses and university officials will take the time necessary to articulate personnel and policy details after the passage of the budget bill.
–The Associated Press contributed to this report.