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One woman at the public forum speaks during a question and answer session that lasted approximately one hour on the future of UW.[/media-credit]

After the governor’s budget proposal outlined extensive budget cuts in higher education, the University of Wisconsin chancellor clarified the details of a public authority status and said the university must remain a contender among international institutions in a public forum Wednesday.

Chancellor Biddy Martin said the campus will become a public entity independent from the UW System but will still retain close ties with the other system schools and the state government during a forum on the proposal that drew nearly 500 students, faculty and community members.

Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell said while the Madison campus would be the first school in the system to receive flexibilities from the state, the UW System will allocate $250,000 to help the Milwaukee campus develop a plan similar to New Badger Partnership.

Bazzell also said UW officials would not look to offset the budget cuts presented by Gov. Scott Walker solely by raising tuition.

“We have not seen anything of this magnitude in past years, but the 2003-2005 budget provides the best comparison,” Bazzell said. “Other measures were used to offset those cuts.”

He also said there were few faculty layoffs necessary in the wake of that budget, though it was necessary to reassess methods to function within the means proposed by the budget.

Martin said although the proposed budget did not contain any major points that were not already known, many members of the campus community incorrectly interpret the new public authority status as privatization.

She said the Madison campus would remain a public institution of higher education receiving state funding and maintaining strong collaborations, particularly in research fields, with other UW System schools.

In response to public concerns about the possibility of duplication between institutions, Martin said the other comprehensive universities do not have faculty in all areas of study, and the continual pooling of resources benefits all schools involved.

The new governing body for the Madison campus, the Board of Trustees, would be instated soon after July 1, and Martin projected approximately one year for the campus community to consider a direct course of action using the new flexibilities.

Unionized campus employees also questioned whether New Badger Partnership would mark a measure to discontinue the campus’ hiring of union employees.

“When will you say this is a step too far and that you’re not going to buy into this deal with the devil”? American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees local 2412 President Gary Mitchell said.

Martin said without new tools to cope with budget decreases, the Madison campus would be unable to remain an economic engine for the state or continue to treat public employees well.

She also said she did not anticipate a change in tuition remission for teaching assistants in the future, citing the need to protect graduate students to preserve the quality of instruction.

In the current economic climate, Martin said a move in need-based aid in the form of grants would be necessary to combat tuition increases in order to remain competitive on the international stage.

“If you travel around the world, every region is trying to build a world-class research university,” she said. “The international ‘talent magnet’ we are, we need to find ways to take care of [the campus].”