Following months of polarizing debate among the broader campus community, Republicans leaders said the proposal for public authority status for the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus does not have the support necessary to move forward.
State Republicans said Thursday that the plan to split the Madison campus from the UW System, a proposal which inspired sharp criticism for New Badger Partnership supporters and Chancellor Biddy Martin, will not be considered in the budget and representatives will instead pursue flexibilities for all campuses.
Mike Mikalsen, spokesperson for Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who chairs the Committee on Colleges and Universities, confirmed the proposal did not have the votes needed for approval in the Republican Caucus.
Legislators are now beginning to weigh what forms of administrative flexibilities can be agreed upon for all UW campuses, he said.
The time available to determine what specific flexibilities will be granted to campuses is a “tight window” before the budget leaves the Joint Finance Committee for the Assembly floor in less than two weeks, Mikalsen said.
He said these flexibilities would likely assume the form of changing specific state statues and allowing for other types of authorization from the state, although he said the issue remains how to determine what flexibilities may be most applicable for certain campuses.
“The focus is now on how to allow for these flexibilities,” Mikalsen said. “Not all campuses have the same type of staff or expertise so some [flexibilities] may only benefit UW-Madison or some of the smaller campuses.”
Mikalsen added there was also little support within the Democratic Caucus and said representatives from Madison have remained largely silent on the New Badger Partnership.
He also said he had witnessed legislators disturbed by the “vicious battle in the UW System” which ensued after the Board of Regents voiced support for a counter-plan to keep UW-Madison in the System, the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.
Martin, who has advocated her proposal around the state for more than a year, said in an email to The Badger Herald that the New Badger Partnership is not dead and continues to garner support from around the UW System.
Martin also said the plans for compromise she has been presented contain the elements for increased operating autonomy for all campuses that she previously articulated for a new operating model for UW-Madison.
“To achieve only minor changes on the margins would make the cuts to the UW-System impossible to absorb,” she said. “I would not characterize anything as dead simply because it does not go through on the first pass.”
She added officials remain hopeful that should elements of the strongest plan for compromise be weakened in the negotiation process, the budget cut to the UW System would be reduced.
Working together with all UW campuses will also prove crucial in ensuring a compromise bill with meaningful flexibilities for all campuses, Martin said.
UW System spokesperson David Giroux echoed that sentiment, saying the best chance for success lies in working as a unified system to ensure all institutions benefit from the change.
He said conversations about administrative flexibility with state officials are going very well and the final compromise will likely embody a model similar to the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.
Giroux also said the UW System chancellors and President Kevin Reilly met recently to discuss how to reconfigure the expected $250 million cut to the system.
UW-Madison would likely be expected to absorb the traditional 39 percent of these cuts, a contrast from the 50 percent portion the campus would have been dealt as a public authority, he said.
While some critics of Martin and the New Badger Partnership have clamored for her resignation or other forms of retribution for the Madison campus, Giroux said no one campus would be negatively singled out and UW System leaders did not call for any such actions.
“The unanimous consent of the chancellors around the table was that UW-Madison should not be punished in any way,” he said. “They made a commitment to pass along only the traditional share of the cut and to use these new flexibilities to smooth that out so that no one campus is disproportionally hurt.”