Wisconsin Idea Partnership

Statement to Joint Finance Committee

Date:           7 April 2011

To:              Wisconsin Legislative Joint Finance Committee

From:          Charles E. Clark, Vice Chair, Faculty Senate, UW-Stevens Point

The separation of UW-Madison from its sister institutions in the UW System, while potentially taking the “UW” name with it, has been presented as having the benefit of flexibility and efficiency for the Madison campus.  While this effect may obtain for UW-Madison as a result of such a “spin-off,” the remaining campuses of the current UW System will be left with inefficiencies and inflexible practices, along with a loss of an essential identity as “The University of Wisconsin.”

The entire UW System, remaining in one piece and retaining the University of Wisconsin “brand,” needs to be assigned the benefits that are outlined in the proposed “Wisconsin Idea Partnership,” as presented by a majority of the UW chancellors and recently endorsed by current and past CEO/deans of the UW Colleges.  Such benefits include:

  • a General Purpose Revenue (GPR) “block grant,” allowing institutions to allocate funding among budget lines, as needed;

  • Regent ability to establish tuition for the various UW campuses;

  • greater flexibility in recruitment and retention by providing the ability to set more competitive compensation packages;

  • greater flexibility with and campus-level responsibility for non-GPR and non-General Fund Supported Borrowing projects;

  • Board of Regent oversight of program revenue and interest on that revenue; and

  • consortium agreements among the UW campuses and with other higher-education institutions on purchases and contracts.

The UW-Stevens Point Faculty Senate, in its 16 March 2011 resolution on the biennial budget, is in agreement with the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.  In this resolution, the UWSP Faculty Senate stated that:

WHEREAS in 1971 the University of Wisconsin merged with the Wisconsin State Universities to create the University of Wisconsin System, including the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP); and

WHEREAS over the last 40 years the System has evolved into one of the nation’s premier university systems, with over 182,000 students and over $1 billion in research, and into a key contributor to the economy of the State of Wisconsin; and

WHEREAS institutions of the System, including UWSP, have experienced a steady decline in state resources needed to provide access to quality higher education in the state yet, at the same time, we operate in highly competitive national, and often international, markets for students, faculty, staff, and financial resources; and

WHEREAS, in light of these budget reductions and the competitive higher education market in which all System institutions operate, all System institutions, including UWSP, need significant management flexibilities in human resources, tuition-setting, budgeting, purchasing, and capital projects; and

WHEREAS System institutions’ need for increased management flexibilities has long been sought by UW leaders, and most recently affirmed by the System’s Tuition and Financial Aid Working Group, as well as the Competitive University Workforce Commission; and

WHEREAS the importance and need for these flexibilities for all System institutions has been championed by business, community, media, and higher education leaders around the state; and

WHEREAS other public universities possess many of the flexibilities that System institutions seek, and other states are proposing increased flexibilities for their public universities in order to manage reductions in public funding and better serve their states; and

WHEREAS the proposed 2011-13 Wisconsin biennial budget bill reduces funding for System institutions by $250 million dollars, including $8.4 million dollars at UWSP, and a cut of this magnitude, without flexibilities, creates significant challenges to all System institutions’ ability to provide access to quality higher education for Wisconsin residents, create more jobs, and support communities; and

WHEREAS the budget bill provides for major cuts to all institutions in the System, including UWSP, but allows for increased management flexibilities only for UW-Madison, and further separates UW-Madison from all other System institutions through the creation of a new UW-Madison public authority; and

WHEREAS the creation of one or more separate public authorities would fragment the System and encourage more competition between System institutions; add new bureaucracy due to duplicative administrative and academic structures; and  increase the total costs borne by state taxpayers, students, and families; and

WHEREAS fragmentation of the state’s public university system will result in less collaboration between UW-Madison and other System institutions, including UWSP; and

WHEREAS fragmentation of the System will eliminate a shared set of policies and procedures that aid research and teaching collaborations between institutions and that make it easier for information and research to be disseminated and partnerships to take hold; and

WHEREAS faculty, staff, and students from institutions throughout the System, including UWSP, have voiced concerns over what the creation of a public authority for individual institutions would mean to current governance rights and structures, access for Wisconsin residents, affordable tuition rates, and academic freedom in teaching and research, and

WHEREAS the UWSP faculty and academic staff are deeply concerned about the proposed split in the UW System and lack of flexibilities extended to other campuses, and

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents is proposing an amendment to the 2011-2013 budget bill in support of the Wisconsin Idea Partnership which allows management flexibilities to all campuses within the current Board of Regents of the UW System governance structure;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point faculty and academic staff fully support and endorse the Wisconsin Idea Partnership and the amendment the Regents are proposing to Senate Budget Bill 27, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the System Board of Regents should delegate the new flexibilities directly to each UW institution, while ensuring transparency and appropriate levels of board oversight and public accountability; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the flexibilities be granted to all UW campuses, preserving the current UW system with the oversight of current administrative and shared governance structure.