In what began with quiet disagreement and evolved into polarized debate, the Faculty Senate voted to support public authority status for the University of Wisconsin Monday after representatives emphasized the necessity for the body to take a definitive stance on the proposal.
The debate quickly divided the group between those in favor of financial and political separation from the UW System and those who wish to retain membership as part of the network of public institutions.
Proponents of the resolution said the UW System unfairly reaps financial benefits from UW that it then funnels down to the smaller schools instead of sending back to the top.
Provost Paul DeLuca said while the UW System does help bring more secondary education to native Wisconsinites, it does little to benefit the Madison campus. DeLuca said keeping UW a part of the UW System incorrectly links it to the other schools.
“In no way are we a large [UW-Green Bay] or a more complex [UW-La Crosse],” Deluca said. “We are unique from other UW (System) schools in our professors, our students and our mission.”
Supporters of the proposal also argued continuing to be a part of the System could jeopardize the national and international prestige of the campus.
Others faculty contended a separation from the System stemmed not from a desire to keep UW-Madison academically strong, but rather from a perception of elitism over other System campuses.
“This elitist belief that UW is better than the whole System is part of the reason we’re having these issues,” agronomy professor Shawn Conley said.
Members opposed to the measure also maintained public authority status could mean competition for top students and the state’s waning funding for higher education.
At the meeting, the University Committee presented a plan to neither support nor oppose the controversial proposed legislation, which was met with strong disapproval, as many faculty argued their concerns would not be heard at the Capitol if they remained neutral on the contentious issue.
Faculty members voted to adopt the resolution in support of the public authority proposal through a majority vote, despite lingering discontentment of the measure among critics.Update: A former version of the article incorrectly attributed information and several quotes to political science professor John Coleman. We regret the error.