The University of Wisconsin Faculty Senate voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of a resolution that calls on Gov. Scott Walker and the state Legislature to reduce budget cuts totaling $94 million for UW throughout the next two years.
The resolution said the cuts “have had detrimental effects on access to and the quality of education at all levels in the state” as well as provided “repeatedly reduced funding for higher education disproportionate to funding for other state agencies.”
Interim Chancellor David Ward added the recent increase in partisan differences and absence of consensus in politics challenges those working in higher education to prove universities are a public investment, rather than a political battle.
“I don’t think – if I’m to be honest with you – I feel very happy about the political environment we’re coping with,” Ward said. “I think I wish I could have chosen two different years to be back.”
Ward emphasized UW needs to encourage respectful dialogue throughout the university on the state of funding for higher education in order to determine the best ways to handle the cuts and to encourage higher funding for the university.
Ward added most of the “good years” for UW have occurred when both Democrats and Republicans were able to reach common ground for funding for education, citing the years of Gov. Tommy Thompson and President Bill Clinton.
Faculty Senate member Bradford Barham said the resolution is intended to voice UW’s concerns over the reduced funding, which he said could directly impact the quality of education. He added the cuts could lead to decreases in supplies, availability of classes and training to later become employed.
“This is a phenomenal state,” Barham said. “But it’s a phenomenal state that’s going downhill fast if it continues this way.”
Faculty Senate member Sara Goldrick-Rab said UW is trying to prevent raising the direct costs to students by refusing to raise tuition, which she said was the intended effect of the cuts made by the Wisconsin Legislature.
“This is quite clearly the state of Wisconsin passing the buck to Wisconsin families,” Goldrick-Rab said. “I appreciate the chancellor not immediately calling for us to increase tuitions because frankly that’s exactly what they are asking us to do.”
Faculty Senate members added they should also create a second, more positive message on what the university wants to accomplish. Ward said this movement to inform could be a separate resolution for next month’s meeting.
“We could have a follow-up with questions and answers to talk about what changes are coming as a result of the changes in the spring,” Ward said. “But I do think there is a dialogue going on that is addressing the questions. … I think the questions are being raised.”