Members of the University of Wisconsin and System campus community traded barbs about the possible pitfalls of the New Badger Partnership and the UW System’s Wisconsin Idea Partnership in a public forum Wednesday.
Vice provost for teaching and learning Aaron Brower and UW sociology professor Sara Goldrick-Rab weighed the merits of the proposal for flexibilities for the entire System and the possible effects on student life should the Madison campus be given public authority status.
Goldrick-Rab said UW-Madison stands alone nationally as a public university serving a common good with a valuable relationship to the greater System.
She also disputed the rhetoric frequently employed in discussions of the public authority status, saying funding for UW-Madison is not “swept away” but that student fees reallocated to the state are a part of a reciprocal relationship with the state. She said these funds go to fund other essential services within the state.
Goldrick-Rab added the possibility of a hold harmless clause for protection from tuition increases was not supported by the literature available and the proposal would adversely affect a wide cross section of those connected to UW-Madison.
“Wisconsin residents not in Madison, disadvantaged groups, staff and students stand to lose,” she said. “The world is watching. What we do here matters for students around the country.”
While she advocated a broader investigation of models for flexibilities, including the possibilities of closing one or two UW campuses, Brower said there are risks associated with any proposed model and said the New Badger Partnership is the best way to preserve excellence on campus.
He said the proposal does not change the crucial cornerstones of an education at UW-Madison, including the services provided to students and the ability of faculty members to pursue independent research and topics of instruction.
Although Brower indicated the proposal was not a perfect solution and he would like to see changes to the term limits on the governing board and a Senate approval process for the governor’s appointments, he said the Wisconsin Idea Partnership does not provide concrete details for increased autonomy.
“The Wisconsin Idea Partnership is currently not a proposal. It’s the idea of a proposal,” he said. “It just doesn’t hold water.”
He added the New Badger Partnership is the only plan on the table that provides incentives for innovation in the future.
UW-Madison graduate student Jon Alfuth asked members of the forum why Gov. Scott Walker’s ability to appoint members of the Board of Trustees under the proposal could prove detrimental to the Madison campus when the governor currently appoints Regents to the System’s governing body.
Goldrick-Rab said the Board of Regents provided a voice for all students on UW campuses instead of just at UW-Madison, and said the state as a whole benefits from a united policy making body.
Brower added discontent with the proposed Board of Trustees structure should not be an issue of distrusting Walker but should instead be viewed as a plan which currently makes the most sense for the university.
The state’s current political climate should not be a major concern in considering a new model for administrative flexibilities, he said, and officials from the System and UW-Madison should instead focus on a long term plan.