Maintaining her pledge for transparency as the public continues to deliberate the New Badger Partnership, Chancellor Biddy Martin hosted another forum Tuesday and said improved control in human resources issues will prove beneficial to University of Wisconsin faculty and students.
Martin addressed concerns about faculty benefits and the state employee status of UW personnel after the university becomes a public authority on July 1.
Martin said UW will have a year to develop a new personnel system that would allow the university to pay employees beyond the limits currently set by the state.
She also said retention of all university revenue and resources will limit imbalance in funding between disciplines, such as humanities and social science programs which do not receive outside research funding in the same manner as the science departments.
“We need the flexibility to treat our employees well….The system is broken,” Martin said. “We need pay practices that are fair and provide incentive to do great work.”
After the university is a public authority, Martin said members of the faculty will remain state employees for health insurance benefits and pensions but will be considered employees of the Madison campus for research and other purposes.
UW sophomore Beth Huang, a member of the Associated Students of Madison Legislative Affairs committee, said though Martin has spoken widely about plans to increase institutional financial aid available to students, members of the student body are curious about when specific proposals for additional aid will be released.
Martin said her time at UW has been characterized by marked increased in grant dollars and the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates need-based aid as well the UW Foundation’s ongoing scholarship campaign, which continues to exceed its goals.
She added the university will also continue to be more dependent on philanthropy from UW alumni and will work to more widely educate families on how to navigate financial aid programs when they are entering college.
UW junior Ellen Leedle, a recent transfer student, questioned whether the value of a degree from other system schools could decline if the Madison campus was removed from the system.
Martin said the university would work to continue to improve the transfer system and would work to better promote the automatic transfer program between UW and other system.
She also said all schools in the system will suffer and connections between institutions will be strained if quality of education on the Madison campus deteriorates.
Union representatives also voiced concerns the split from the system would be a move toward privatization and would reduce the ability of UW employees to bargain with the university.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 171 member Mark Thomas cited the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery as an example of private employees being hired over public ones, something he fears will happen more as UW becomes a public authority.
“The university is a huge employer on campus, and working conditions here have a tremendous effect throughout the broader community,” he said. “It’s bad public policy to convert a body built up over 150 years to a mutant authority.”
Two local AFSCME chapters, joined by students, assembled about 40 supporters to protest the new administrative structure before the forum.