If Gov. Scott Walker signs into law the current University of Wisconsin System portion of the 2015-17 budget bill—which the state finance committee amended and passed Friday—shared governance and tenure will be greatly modified.
GOP lawmakers controlling the Joint Finance Committee managed to slash $50 million worth of cuts from Walker’s proposed $300 million, but also made sweeping changes both to shared governance and tenure in state statute.
The 16-member, Republican-controlled committee passed the changes along party lines in a 12-4 vote.
Motion passed to reduce UW System cuts, modify shared governance, tenureThe state’s finance committee trimmed cuts to University of Wisconsin System to $250 million, while also making changes that professors have said would Read…
The modifications shift shared governance in state law, pushing students, faculty and academic staff organizations, such as the Associated Students of Madison, from governing roles into advisory positions.
The new language describes these groups as now ultimately “subordinate” to chancellors.
Additionally, student government loses one of its most notable powers—the ability to allocate students’ segregated fees. According to the new motion, the decision of where to assign segregated fees—which are required in addition to a student’s tuition—must be approved by the campus’s chancellor.
Newly-elected ASM Chair Madison Laning said the portion of ASM dealing with segregated fees, Student Services Finance Committee, builds and approves a budget for the fees, which is then turned over to ASM for approval. But if Walker signs the budget as is, students would not be required to be part of the decision making process at all, she said.
“We pay to go to this university and we should know where our money’s going and how it’s being spent,” Laning said.
Laning said especially with looming budget cuts, a student voice is going to be vital. She said without students on board in the budget-making process, segregated fees could increase, which could essentially counteract the two-year tuition freeze for in-state students proposed in the state budget.
For the spring 2015 semester, undergraduate students paid $568.44 worth of segregated fees. SSFC currently allocates approximately $45 million worth of fees to a wide variety of student organizations and services on campus.
UW Educational Policy Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab said having shared governance in the state statute was something that made the UW System great.
“Other schools don’t have it, and that’s why other schools are mediocre,” Goldrick-Rab said.
Unlike the deletion of shared governance, the changes to tenure put UW below the pack on a national scale, she said.
Goldrick-Rab said not only does the GOP motion delete tenure from state statute, but it also sets up new language dictating how the Board of Regents takes up tenure in UW System policy.
Goldrick-Rab, who told the Capital Times Tuesday she was beginning to look for new employment outside the UW System because of the proposed changes, said the new language significantly increases the grounds upon which a faculty member can be let go.
Richard Grusin, an English professor at UW-Milwaukee, said the new definition of tenure puts the UW System far below national standards. The new tenure language violates standards laid out by the American Associate of University Professors, he said.
“A once respected university is now starting to look kind of like a joke,” Grusin said.
Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, said during last Friday’s debate the modifications would benefit the system.
“We are continuing to allow faculty and students to be a part of advising the leadership on campus, but we’re really providing campus leaders the ability that they need to be the leaders on our campuses and we are empowering them to make the decisions that they need to make working in collaboration with the faculty and the students,” Harsdorf said.
Laning said ASM is currently working to inform legislators about the importance of shared governance, in the hopes of changing the language before the budget bill becomes final in a few weeks.
Goldrick-Rab is one of more than one thousand signatories of an online petition asking the Board of Regents to ignore the language in the budget motion regarding tenure.
“I just want people to know they need to wake up,” Goldrick-Rab said. “We’re going to be coming back in the fall to a completely different university.”