The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents voiced frustrations over a lack of timely details about the New Badger Partnership and the chancellor’s talks with state officials which some regents said lacked transparency at a Friday meeting.
Chancellor Biddy Martin presented her goals for her proposed new administrative model and fielded questions from UW System representatives on how the other UW institutions would be affected if the Madison campus were removed from the system.
Martin said while she regrets the stress a lack of communication among regents may have caused, the most pressing issue to consider is preserving the strength of the institutions as state budget cuts loom.
She said she hopes the Badger Partnership will maximize UW’s resources by cutting through red tape and levels of bureaucracy on a state and system level which have promoted outdated administrative practices and requirements.
While no officials from the Madison campus have seen Gov. Scott Walker’s final budget bill, Martin said increased flexibility, which would allow the campus to generate, keep and use its own resources, would be crucial to preserving the institution’s quality.
Martin said after years of cuts, no pay plans from the state and furloughs for university staff, the university could still face a 15 percent reduction in state funding, a measure which would prove detrimental to the entire UW System.
“Madison is not going anywhere. UW-Madison is not going anywhere,” she said. “It does not aim, ever, to separate itself from its important relationships with other institutions in the state.”
She also addressed the reasoning behind not informing the other regents she had met with the governor’s staff to discuss the potential split, saying there is a period of any process that requires confidentiality.
The UW System also floated a proposal for public authority status in January, an action Martin said indicated the regents had been informed about the proposal.
Regent Charles Pruitt said the separation has the potential to significantly change the face of higher education in Wisconsin, with a broad spectrum of effects for the other UW System campuses.
He also said while many details on the proposals are not yet available, the regents have advocated increased flexibilities for all UW campuses for years.
Regent David Walsh said the ability for the Madison campus to be able to set tuition is a cause for concern among members of the Board of Regents and the public who are trying to keep the university accessible to students of diverse economic backgrounds.
Martin said tuition has traditionally been a “backed-into” number based on what cuts are handed down at the state level, and although this course of action presents risks for the Madison campus, a tuition cap and no new tools from the state would prove devastating to the university.
Associated Students of Madison Chair Brandon Williams said though the new model would warrant substantial review, he does not view the separation as potentially damaging to other UW System schools.
“We do not see this creating more competition than does not already exist,” he said. “We cannot take the option off the table, and doing so would ignore the higher education needs of Wisconsin.”