Politics and UW-Madison: Confronting the new reality

It is easy — indeed, it is natural after a series of crises to mistake a momentary calm for a return to normalcy. We, of course, want the threats to subside and to return to the way things once were which, even if they weren’t quite perfect, were familiar.

In that vein, we’d like to look back and regard the events of last semester as an aberration and not indicative of the life we live now or how we will live in the future. We’d rather not consider all of the facts and face the new reality: that we no longer know what life will be like in the future other than that it will probably be worse in some distinct but as of yet, unknown, ways. But “the facts get in the way” of our attempts to ignore our new and discomforting reality.

The fact is that as of August when the new health and WRS deductions go into effect, we will have a cumulative 20% loss in real income over the last 10 years (21% increase in cost-of-living and a 1% increase in compensation). And except for a small fraction of the faculty that might receive a retention award, no increase is in sight for the next two years regardless of inflation.

Or that Walker’s attempted putsch to control UW-Madison will not deter him from his goal of controlling the University. If the Democrats do not win control in the Senate as a result of the recalls, it is likely that Walker will attempt to change (through statute) the terms of the Regents to give him immediate control of a majority of the Board. A deeply conservative ideological Board will then appoint the new Chancellor for our campus.

Whether a “public authority” was or was not created may make little difference in the balance of power between the State and University. (As UW Regent Walsh mused, “What’s a public authority? It’s anything you want it to be.”) The UW Hospital is a “public authority” but unlike the University, it receives no funding from the state. Nonetheless, new law inserted into the budget prohibits Gyn-Ob residents from performing abortions despite the fact that the training is conducted off-premises of the Hospital with no public funds. (See Wisconsin State Journal: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_803d71f6-9c51-11e0-b739-001cc4c002e0.html) The Governor declined to veto this budget item explaining disingenuously that he believed the state should “not fund abortions.”

Abortion politics aside, the political power at the other end of State St. feels empowered to decide what is taught and probably not far off, the content of our research. Clearly, that’s the motive behind their attacks against the Havens Center, the Extension’s School for Workers and most recently, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy.

The political leadership has sought to implement policies to control the university with as little opposition as possible. The administration’s move to defund (and in the process “de-fang”) all of the campus employee organizations by terminating automatic dues deduction is an unabashed tactic to quash organized opposition. While the administration previously argued that it would not deduct dues for organizations that engage in collective bargaining, it has now extended the same prohibition against any employee association or advocacy.

Yet despite these concerted attacks, tumultuous protests and likely challenges in the future, the vast majority of faculty and staff remain unorganized and thus, relatively incapable of responding to on-going challenges. With the exception of the TAA, no organization was capable of mounting a response to the loss of state funding or collective bargaining rights. Though a petition was circulated among faculty in support of collective bargaining, a concerted campaign in conjunction with other campuses could not be conducted. (In fact, the major organization for academic staff, ASPRO, remained opposed to collective bargaining.)

I raise these issues as means of setting the discussion of some fundamental questions:

  • How can we respond to these formidable current and future challenges?
  • Is the current mix of organizations appropriate to the tasks ahead?
  • Should the traditional divide of faculty/academic staff/ classified staff continue or does the new reality (classified staff will be unrepresented) require new forms of organization?
  • What would an organization(s) do that is different from what is happening now?
  • What should be the relationship of these organizations with the existing shared governance institutions? Should they be part of, aligned with or separate from them?
  • What should our relationship be with organizations of faculty/staff on other UW campuses? Should these relationships be a primary goal of a “Madison” organization?
This entry was posted in Collective bargaining, Compensation, State worker benefits, State-University Relations, The University Budget, The UW-Madison Campus. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Politics and UW-Madison: Confronting the new reality

  1. Frank says:

    Yes, and some die-hards still try to fault Biddy for not “fighting harder” to get more money for the UW. We all know that was a non-starter. She cut the best deal she could and it would have been a better deal for Madison than what they got. Now the BOR kept the control of all base tuition in a pool that it doles out to Madison’s loss. If you want to know why the attacks by Reilly and the other campuses on Madison were so harsh follow the money if you can. It had nothing much to do with all the grand statements about being a “System” and all that nonsense. It was about keeping Madison under control through the power to take away tuition money and give it to Superior and the rest.

    Walker already has FULL CONTROL over Madison. What about that do you not understand? What he appeared to be willing to do was get Madison out of the control of the UW System. That was worth getting. Now he’ll just remove positions from System until nobody is left but Reilly and he can coddle the Regents by himself.

  2. Frank says:

    Frank, Frank, Frank,

    Come on you are the fact based guy, right? The rest of us are emotional and head in the clouds leftys, no? Here are the most important facts that we on campus have to deal with. Biddy’s deal cut UW-Madison $62.5 million each year of the biennium. The Wisconsin Idea Partnership (System’s) deal cut to Madison was $47.5 million. Not hard for me to figure out which one I’d take,

  3. Frank says:

    Money is always nice but getting out from System control is nicer. Also there would not have been any gain in UW self-control if the NBP were not advanced. The compromise plan the System came back with AFTER having no plan still gained considerable freedoms for the UW Madison. Things that were never even seriously considered before under other admins in the Capitol. The only thing major item Madison did not get was full control over tuition. That is due to the Robin Hood policy of the BOR.

    “7.General tuition revenue (to cover regular budget increases under the standard 65% General Purpose Revenue and 35% fees split) should continue to be pooled system wide. Special fees may be earmarked for particular institutions and/or programs increasing those fees.”(Why have that policy other than to redistribute the tuition $$$$? which according to a high level UW Madison Dean is exactly what is done now)

    So enjoy the new benefits that came out of the NBP and were incorporated in the final budget agreement. But remember who fought for them too. It was not the System until well after the fact.

  4. High Level Dean says:


    You are correct that tuition is redistributed, but I am quite sure you’re wrong about the direction you think it goes. Just ask the provost or VCA. I have.

  5. Crazy Harry says:

    I watched Mike Knetter explain how the System sucks up money from the Madison campus and distribute it to our poor cousins. Knetter did this when he was Dean of the Wisconsin School of Business.

    Thank God for Biddy Martin! Without her, the System would not have gotten any flexibility in the Budget. Reilly claims he pushed for flex for a decade plus. Either he is admitting that he is extremely ineffective or he is lying — take your pick.

    Think about it. You had the Governor’s BFF (since age 5, no less) \serving\ as President of the Board of Regents and he couldn’t get Diamond Jim Doyle to give the System any flexibility while Doyle was slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in four consecutive Budget bills?

    Take a look at the System’s last Budget proposal. Groveling for more $$$ was top of the fold on the first page and flexibilty was buried inside the proposal!

    Folks, you can’t make this stuff up! Without Biddy, the eunuchs at System would still be up Excrement Creek.

  6. Frank says:

    HLD–I’d like to see some proof. And if Madison gets more than it sends to System that is just as wrong. But I have heard its the other way from two deans of major UW units. And it does not pass the smell test of why UW System insists on a tuition pool from all the schools. You don’t do that for no reason.

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