It’s great to see that Sifting & Winnowing has spoken up about the New Badger Partnership, and the coming discussion at the Senate. As the preface to Faculty Document 2244 makes clear, huge plans about the future of our University are being made and we have no details. I have no inside information of any kind, but have heard repeatedly that the ‘flexibilities’ being pursued by the Chancellor include bedrock changes in our relationship to the state, for example along the lines of the “Virginia Model” or by making the UW a public authority. In the hopes that it will prompt better informed people to speak up, a few comments are below about these options.
The Virginia Model was a deal that universities there worked out to allow greater flexibility in budgeting, including tuition. It hasn’t been around long enough for anybody to have clear data on whether it helps them, but the state has already failed to live up to its side of the bargain, as discussed in the press. (See this local link.)
We know more about what a public authority means, since that’s how the UW Hospital operates. Basically, the hospital is ‘state entity’ but not a ‘state agency’, which means far greater flexibility in procurement, salary, etc. It is governed by a board, balanced between people from UW and people appointed by the state government. Hospital employees are, as I understand it, still in the retirement system, have the same health plans, etc.
But there are serious differences and big questions that the whole University community needs to know about. For example:
- Would this involve the whole UW System or just the UW-Madison?
- The hospital once got a tiny amount of funding from the state, but no longer does. What would this plan mean for getting our basic funding?
- Especially in the current climate, how do we know this would not become a chance to really decimate our funding?
Even if somebody can give us good answers to these kinds of questions, including which model is being considered, a lot of us are getting very uncomfortable about the process involved. By law, we have a major role in running the university:
Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 36.09 : (4) FACULTY. The faculty of each institution, subject to the responsibilities and powers of the board, the president and the chancellor of such institution, shall be vested with responsibility for the immediate governance of such institution and shall actively participate in institutional policy development. As such, the faculty shall have the primary responsibility for academic and educational activities and faculty personnel matters. The faculty of each institution shall have the right to determine their own faculty organizational structure and to select representatives to participate in institutional governance … .
Given that, shouldn’t we be active partners in what is being negotiated and how? And, while we’re at it, what happens to this piece of code under any new model?