More questions about the New Badger Partnership

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?

This entry was posted in Shared governance, State-University Relations, The University Budget, The University System, The UW-Madison Campus. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to More questions about the New Badger Partnership

  1. CB says:

    You should attend one of the numerous public and very transparent forums Biddy Martin, et al have held re: the Badger Partnership. Additionally, there is a Badger Partnership Working Group with several student representatives who would field these questions.

    If that wasn’t enough, there is a Badger Partnership website that addresses many of these “questions”. With all due respect, I think this post is playing on naivety as a thinly-veiled attempt to obfuscate your inherent disagreement with the proposal. I’ll chalk whoever you are as one who believes Steve Nass and Scott Walker should have more control over UW-Madison than Biddy Martin.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Previous commentor said, “I’ll chalk whoever you are as one who believes Steve Nass and Scott Walker should have more control over UW-Madison than Biddy Martin.”

    I hope the author of the original article will respond to the other points, but the this remark in particular struck me as a stretch. I think the fear some people have is PRECISELY that the administration is negotiating with the likes of Walker and Nass for the future of the University, and yet the campus community doesn’t have a clear picture of what is being given away in exchange for the flexibility Biddy Martin is seeking.

    I for one applaud some of the things I know about the New Badger Partnership but am uneasy about the things I don’t know and about the fact that I may never know them until the University is on an irrevocable new path.

    Time will tell whether it’s justified, but there is growing paranoia among some people I speak with on campus that the websites and forums just don’t reveal the most important parts of the story. And paranoia, justified or not, is the natural product of the perception that the faculty, staff, and students are being shut out of key parts of the process. Why else would members of the Faculty Senate feel it necessary to put the document described in the previous article ( on the agenda?

    Yes, there’s a Badger Partnership Working Group. I know nothing about what goes on in that group, but I do know that not everyone I talk with is confident that that working group is being given the whole story either. Unjustified paranoia? Again, time will tell.

    It all comes down to trust. Trust was dealt a setback during the Graduate School Restructuring episode a year ago, when it appeared the Administration was trying to make an end-run around our unique and deeply cherished tradition of shared governance.

    Whether trust deteriorates further or is resuscitated depends in part on how the Administration proceeds with the New Badger Partnership. If it turns out that they’ve been transparent all along and have kept shared governance bodies fully apprised of what’s being set into motion and, better still, allowed those bodies to help shape priorities for the future of this University, then that will be a welcome revelation and the paranoia will seem silly in retrospect.

  3. Starved for Information says:

    CB makes it sound like the questions raised in the post have been answered and seems to imply that the author is just ignorant of the answers. If so, what are the answers? I’d be especially curious about the Madison vs. System question … that’s huge for the whole state.

  4. Admin says:

    Minor correction to the comment by Anonymous: It’s the the University Committee, not “members of the Faculty Senate”, that is sending the document in question to the Faculty Senate for consideration.

  5. Admin says:

    For readers’ reference, here is a link to a useful Jan. 17 Badger Herald article covering the public NBP discussions:

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