Responding to recent decisions made by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, the Academic Staff Professionals Representation Organization sent a letter to UW System President Kevin Reilly Wednesday criticizing their choices.
In the letter, ASPRO President William Steffenhagen outlined several problems with the decision to increase salary ranges for UW chancellors and to decrease out-of-state tuition, specifically how the public would perceive them.
"Right now we are heading in the direction where [the UW System is] losing the connection to the citizenry of the state," Steffenhagen said. "We are very concerned that these decisions will come back to haunt us in the next biennial budget."
Steffenhagen said he believed Wisconsin families would particularly have a problem with the decrease in out-of-state tuition.
"I don't know how you tell a family in Wisconsin … you're going to cut out-of-state tuition by $2000 or $2300, but oh, by the way, in-state tuition is going to go up," he said.
Regent Roger Axtell defended the tuition adjustment by saying this decision was made to correct an increase in nonresident tuition made by former Gov. Scott McCallum, which he said resulted in the loss of millions of dollars of tuition paid by out-of-state students.
Axtell said this correction would make the UW more competitive with other schools in the Big Ten.
"More nonresidents will not be taking the place of resident students," Axtell said. "ASPRO, I'm surprised, frankly, that they didn't recognize this. Perhaps they just didn't have this explained to them."
Steffenhagen said in his letter to Reilly that the public perception of these decisions could be that the university system is unfair in their allocation of money. He said this could influence state legislators and could have a negative effect on the upcoming biennial budget.
"It is painful and hurtful and I think it is counter-productive if we are alienating or fighting with our own folks," UW System Communications Director Doug Bradley said in response to the letter. "I would hope we can have a more constructive dialogue as we move ahead."
Steffenhagen also criticized the UW System and campus administrators' ability to demonstrate to the public and the Legislature that they are properly managing the resources provided to them by taxpayers and tuition payers.
"[The legislators] haven't seen from the UW System what [programs have] been cut because of lost revenue," Steffenhagen said. "There is a perception that they haven't gotten to the bone yet."
Steffenhagen went on to say the UW System's priorities should be focusing on thorough analysis of programs and services offered by the system to make "thoughtful decisions about where strategic cuts can be made," rather than dealing with higher pay for administrators and decreasing out-of-state tuition.
Bradley said he disagreed with this assessment, adding that there has been a study group made up of chief business officers and provosts that have looked at the budget "long and hard."
"The tough part here is that we are getting close to the bone — that is, cutting things that directly effect student success," Bradley said. "I just don't agree with that criticism."