After rumors a possible split from the University of Wisconsin System may occur broke out last week, UW officials released documents Wednesday night detailing how a public authority university would function and be governed.
According to the documents, the 2011-13 budget legislation includes making UW a public authority.
A 21-member board of trustees, 11 of which would be government appointees and 10 of which would come from UW faculty, students and staff, would govern the new public authority of UW. The chancellor would serve as a non-voting member, according to the documents.
Under Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-13 budget repair bill, the University of Wisconsin would be split from the UW System and turned into its own public authority.
According to documents published by UW, there is no strict definition of what a Wisconsin public authority is or how one should be structured. The common characteristic of all public authorities that currently exist is their lack of Executive branch state agency status.
The documents said as a public authority UW would be independent from the System and take control of all current UW assets and property.
UW Chancellor Biddy Martin said this is Walker’s way of giving UW the flexibility she has been searching for with the New Badger Partnership.
The documents say the board would create budgets for UW and allocate funds, enact policies, create rules for conduct at the university, deal with campus safety and implement a personnel system.
In an e-mail to The Badger Herald, UW Chancellor Biddy Martin added the board would also set tuition for UW, adding no decisions have yet been made about tuition increases.
Martin said though the board would have to decide for sure, most boards she is aware of decide most matters with a simple majority vote.
Martin explained the majority of governor-appointed members by saying some issues the board will take up, such as liability coverage and sovereign immunity, require a majority of the board be made up of these appointees.
However, she added with the number of other entities appointing board members, including UW faculty, the UW Foundation and students, the board would be much less political than the current UW System Board of Regents.
Another change from the way UW currently functions with the state would be the way the university receives state funding. Currently all funds given to UW by the state flow through the Board of Regents, who direct the money into appropriation lines.
The documents say the public authority of UW would simply receive a large “block grant” from the state.
Additionally, all funding given to UW by other entities is currently considered state funds. In the new model, UW would be authorized to allocate this money internally. Martin said the new block grant system does not necessarily mean any changes for the way money is spent at UW, though she did say UW’s ability to generate its own funds may help keep tuition affordable.
“The good news for students is that flexibility and the ability to generate, keep and more freely direct our own revenues will give us additional sources of funds,” Martin said. “We will continue to make need-based aid a high priority and thereby ensure access and affordability.”
Martin said while the possibility of a split was not something that was kept in mind during the initial planning of the New Badger Partnership, Martin’s plan to ensure more autonomy from the state, after the idea was brought up at public forums it was added to the list of ideas to look into.
She said while it was certainly an item of interest, it was not until NBP planners learned Gov. Scott Walker was interested in the idea that they decided to pursue it.
“For me the question has never been whether there should be a split between UW-Madison and UW-System,” Martin said. “The question is what we can do to preserve and enhance the quality of UW-Madison for the good of the state.”