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At a meeting of the Board of Regents, Vice President Chuck Pruitt hears details about the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, a new plan which would keep UW-Madison in the system and give more flexibility to all schools.[/media-credit]

In a move to provide all University of Wisconsin System campuses with new flexibilities to help combat extensive cuts in state funding, the Board of Regents endorsed a proposal that would retain the Madison campus as a member of the system in a meeting March 10.

The Regents said the Wisconsin Idea Partnership would allow all 26 campuses increased flexibility in tuition setting, human resources, purchasing and other areas to provide tools to cope with $250 million in cuts over two years outlined in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal.

The governor’s budget detailed the separation of the Madison campus from the rest of the system and a new public authority status, which contained many of the tenets of UW Chancellor Biddy Martin’s New Badger Partnership.

UW System spokesperson Dave Giroux said the regents hope to finish articulating the proposal’s fine details before the Joint Finance Committee opens debate on the budget so the new proposal can be added as an amendment.

Under the new proposal, the Board of Regents would remain the governing body for all System institutions, and UW would remain an entity within the board’s jurisdiction, he said.

While Martin said in an interview with The Badger Herald the System’s initial plan for similar flexibilities “seemed to be a bit too late in coming,” Giroux maintains System representatives were unaware UW officials had approached Walker with their proposal as early as November 2010.

He added the total impact of budget cuts at the Madison campus and for other system schools will be relatively equal, and the challenges Martin has said UW faces will prove just as significant for other UW System schools.

“There’s an alternative out there that’s just as good for [the Madison campus] and much better for all students,” Giroux said. “We need tools to preserve equality of education, and all System students deserve the same level of quality.”

At the meeting, all but one regent voted to endorse the new partnership. The board also took a formal stance in opposition of the proposed split of the Madison campus from the System.

UW System President Kevin Reilly said he expects the new plan to be positively received by the Legislature because Walker has expressed interest in pursing new administrative flexibilities for all UW campuses.

He said the System seeks to offer the governor a proposal that is “simple, reasonable and equitable” for all campuses and would not require expansive changing to current state statutes.

Regent Aaron Wingad, a UW-Eau Claire student, said the current form of the New Badger Partnership would be detrimental to the other schools in the System and questioned the transparency of Martin’s talks with Walker earlier in the budgetary process.

“It’s a bad idea for my campus, it’s a bad idea for the Wisconsin Idea, it’s a bad idea because it was formulated behind closed doors,” he said.

Giroux said the proposal to split the System presents a number of pitfalls, including great risks for UW-Madison and all campuses and creating more administrative layers with multiple governing structures.