The university and the public service – the Wisconsin Idea

June 22nd, 2015

The following article from 1911 makes painfully clear how the relationship between Wisconsin GOP leaders and the University of Wisconsin has radically changed relative to a century ago.

(via Google Books) Read the rest of this entry »

JFC goes nuclear in the war on the University of Wisconsin

June 2nd, 2015

On Friday afternoon, a neutron bomb was lobbed in the rapidly escalating war on the University of Wisconsin.  The Joint Finance Committee revealed, and then quickly approved, an omnibus budget motion for UW System that not only sustains $250 million of Governor Walker’s proposed $300 million biennial cut, but for good measure is also larded with elaborate and intrusive non-fiscal policy items, some of which put the future of shared governance and tenure in grave doubt. Read the rest of this entry »

The history of tuition and state support at UW-Madison

February 14th, 2015

Many people are understandably confused by arguments concerning declines in state support, increases in tuition, and total support available for the instructional mission of the university.  This analysis tries to make the relationships clearer by looking at historical data.

When it comes to the basic functions of the University, including salaries and expenses related to instruction, the two relevant funding streams are (a) tuition collected and (b) state support, otherwise known as general program revenue, or GPR.

Other fund sources, such as federal grants and private gifts, are completely irrelevant, because they cannot be expended on anything except what they were designated for, such as research costs, building construction, and similar.  Cuts in GPR or tuition collections cannot be covered by shifting money from other sources. Read the rest of this entry »

A call to pay attention and engage.

February 1st, 2015

You must delve more deeply into the governor’s proposals to cut the UW-System budget by $300 million in the coming biennium and to spin off the university from the state as a public authority (a semi-private entity like the UW-Hospitals and Clinics.)

Deals are being made, and it  is hard to know what they are. There are potential benefits and extreme dangers for our institution and for shared governance.

Ask tough questions. The time for action is NOW – the governor will present his budget Feb. 3 and deals are being hammered out downtown as I write.

We need faculty to speak up at the Senate, to engage their students, and to seed discussion all across campus. To keep yourself informed visit PROFS, (Public Representation Organization  of the Faculty Senate), visit BadgerFutures: Resources for Debates about UW-Madison’s Future on Facebook and follow @GlobalHigherEd on Twitter.

Please post additional relevant resources as comments below.

Sifting and Winnowing comes out of mothballs.

January 28th, 2015

In light of the tremendous challenges dire emergency facing the University of Wisconsin in the form of Governor Walker’s proposed $300 million budget cut to UW System and creation of a new public authority for UWS, we urgently need to expand the opportunities for stakeholders – faculty, staff, students, their parents, alumni, and business leaders – to help shape the public discussion about the future of the University of Wisconsin.

So, after many months of relative neglect, we are bringing S&W back to life and will once again actively seek contributions  from across the UW community and from across the spectrum of ideas.

In addition to unsolicited contributions, we welcome volunteer co-editors who can help solicit and post submissions from a range of contributors.

Please be sure to read the mission statement and the instructions for authors.

And please speak up.

Update: Because the issues that confront UW-Madison are in many ways common to those confronting the other UW System campuses, we are at least temporarily broadening our scope to welcome news and commentary related to the effects of cuts and/or public authority on those other campuses.

Comments and questions about the discussion of splitting the UW System from the state.

January 17th, 2015

If you haven’t done so, please read today’s WI State Journal article, “Splitting UW System, UW-Madison from state being discussed at Capitol,” which I pasted below and once you do so then consider the following questions.

If you objectively look at what took place during and after the “conversion” of the UWH&C you will understand the complexity of any conversion of the UW System. These questions also would apply if compromises are made and then select campuses or a single campus, such as UW-Madison, is proposed to become a public-private authority. Luckily a colleague who was involved in the UWH&C conversion helped me understand a wide array of significant issues which must be discussed. The person also explained that there are other large questions that must be identified and discussed, such as but not limited to: Read the rest of this entry »

Reframing the conversation about tuition.

March 12th, 2014

Chancellor Rebecca Blank has spoken recently of the desirability of raising out-of-state tuition to help make ends meet on the UW-Madison campus.  Her proposal offers one of the few potentially viable pathways to budget stability in a landscape dominated by declining state support and a freeze on in-state tuition imposed by the legislature in the wake of the supposed reserve scandal.  The Chancellor logically assumes that calls for higher tuition only on non-resident students will  be more palatable  to taxpayers and legislators than many alternative solutions might be. Read the rest of this entry »

Sifting and Winnowing goes dormant.

September 16th, 2012

Everyone is busy, and few are busier today than the small group of idealists who conceived of this site at a holiday party in 2007 and then nursed it along over the past several  years.   We are simply unable to put in the time anymore, so either someone else would have had to pick up the torch, or Sifting and Winnowing would have to go dormant.  By “dormant,” we mean no new postings, and when the commercial internet hosting contract expires in a year or so, the lights will go out completely.

An invitation was extended privately to several trusted individuals to take over management of S&W, the sole condition being that it would continue to serve as an open forum for anyone with an informed opinion about campus affairs, no matter what specific position they took.   Perhaps not surprisingly, no one else had the time either.  It’s not too late for someone to step up, but that no longer seems likely.

One long-time contributor suggested that S&W served its purpose during a particular moment in this University’s history, and “now it is time to lift the lid, toss it into the cybercloud and soon enough something else will fall out of the sky.”

We’ll all be watching for that “something else.”

Thanks for reading!

State-ordered study of the Wisconsin Retirement System recommends no changes.

July 2nd, 2012

Today, the much-anticipated (and, by some, much-feared) report on the Act 32-mandated study of the Wisconsin Retirement System was released.

The introduction to the Executive Summary reads as follows:

The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) is an efficient and sustainable retirement system. According to the analysis prepared by Gabriel, Roeder, and Smith (the independent consulting actuary for the WRS), the WRS is insulated from large swings in annual contribution rates or funding levels due to the plan’s cost-sharing and risk-sharing features. For example, since the market collapse of 2008, annuities have been reduced by almost $3.2 billion. As a result, the WRS was able to weather much of the financial storm. Read the rest of this entry »

The missing message about universities and society.

June 28th, 2012

The role of public higher education in a rapidly changing world rose to prominence  last week with two developments:  the University of Virginia’s governance debacle (see local commentary here) and the announcement of Gov. Scott Walker’s Flexible Online Degree initiative.

As noted in the previous article by another contributor, these two events have more in common than one might surmise from the above.  Both highlight the growing problem of affordability of four-year degrees, and both have their roots in the notion that the traditional model of university education has become outdated and inefficient.  In both cases, online education as a substitute for bricks-and-mortar lecture halls is/was touted as a solution. Read the rest of this entry »