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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Explained: Lawmakers seek to restore full shared governance rights to UW

After being changed in biennial budget, legislators, students fight for more than an advisory role in decision-making on campus
Erik Brown

Lawmakers have proposed a bill to bring back University of Wisconsin faculty, staff and students ability to play an active role in campus decision-making through shared governance.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, reinstates shared governance rights that were changed in the state statute in Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget, Hesselbein said in a statement.

The language in the statute downgraded shared governance bodies to an advisory role, essentially eliminating their decision-making power regarding campus issues. The bill aims to restore the previous active participation UW faculty, staff and students had, which Hesselbein said would also be an effective morale boost.


“It will give the university an important recruiting tool that was lost,” Hesselbein said in the statement. “It will build loyalty and improve the quality of decisions.”

What is shared governance?

Shared governance is decision-making power, not merely giving recommendations or advising, Jessica Franco-Morales, Associated Students of Madison shared governance chair, said.

Shared governance allowed students, faculty and staff to have their voices heard when important decisions about them were being made, Madison Laning, ASM chair, said.

UW is one of the few institutions in the country to have had shared governance within state statute in addition to its own policies, Laning said.

Motion passed to reduce UW System cuts, modify shared governance, tenure

Since the budget altered shared governance in the statute, Laning, Franco-Morales and UW faculty, have been working to create a UW shared governance policy to ensure active decision-making and participation on campus, Franco-Morales said. This policy accommodates faculty, staff and students under a broad definition of shared governance rights.

“It’s really difficult to make it just a one-size fits all policy,” Franco-Morales said. “We’re trying really hard to have the same language and the same reinforcement that maintains shared governance and that says it is important across students, faculty and staff.”

A new proposal

According to Hesselbein’s statement, the bill does not address restoring all aspects of shared governance rights. It leaves out faculty tenure, which was rephrased in the new budget, leaving faculty and staff unsure about their job protection. Some, however, say it is still a step in the right direction.

Laning and Franco-Morales agreed the bill would be helpful in reinforcing UW’s shared governance rights and strengthening the work the 75 shared governance committees on campus do.

Laning said the loss of shared governance played a key role in how people reacted to decisions made on campus. Many prominent organizations on campus such as Sex Out Loud, Campus Women’s Center and WSUM were created as a result of decisions made through shared governance.

Faculty Senate approves tenure policy, voices concern over graduate assistant compensation

Laning said many people assumed making decisions through shared governance was more time-consuming and expensive when, in fact, the absence of shared governance sparked more backlash toward administrative decisions.

“Shared governance does not take more time or any more money if anything it makes everything better,” Laning said. “When things are happening behind closed doors there’s a lot more backlash and news articles and a lot more of having to pick ourselves back up than when we would have just made the decision together in the first place.”

Hesselbein has called for bipartisan support in the statement and has been backed by attorney Frank Mohs, former UW Regent and Republican. In addition, Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, has co-sponsored bill.

Franco-Morales said the absence of shared governance was the “biggest threat” to the Wisconsin Idea. She said shared governance still needs more support and reassurance from the administration and more involvement from students.

“I would really like to encourage students specifically to get involved in shared governance,” Franco-Morales said. “I really think they should take advantage of these opportunities.”

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