UW chancellors seek flexibility

UW chancellors seek flexibility

Story by Haley Zblewski

A proposal that would give more flexibility and autonomy to all campuses of the University of Wisconsin System and keep UW-Madison as the flagship of the system is being supported by nearly all of the UW System chancellors, according to an article in the “Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel.”

The chancellors, with the exception of UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin, sent a letter to state legislatures on March 23 asking them to join them in support of the proposal, called the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.

According to the UW System’s website, the proposal would change the way that the universities receive their funding in order to help all UW campuses overcome the major budget cuts that Gov. Scott Walker presented in his 2011-2013 Wisconsin State Budget.

“One of our primary goals was to get more flexibility on the way we can use our resources,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich.

“(With the Wisconsin Idea Partnership) We’d be able to stretch the dollars that we have further,” he said. “The more limits you have on the use of the resources you get, the more difficult it is to maintain classes, the quality and the personnel that we need in order to maintain an extraordinary university.”

The UW-Eau Claire Student Senate saw benefits in the proposal and on Monday unanimously voted in favor of a resolution supporting the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.

Academic Affairs Commission Director Mark Morgan was one of the Student Senate members who submitted the resolution.

“For the past 10-20 years you’ve seen a state university system where the state has maintained 100 percent of its control, but has continually decreased its amount of funding,” Morgan said. “Currently, if the university has carryover balances, if they don’t spend a certain amount, most of that money gets rolled back into the general fund. In other words, it goes back into the system and then back to the state.”
Freshman Garrett Hull said that individual campuses having more control of where funding is spent would be a good thing, as long as it serves to benefit students.

“It’s good because it keeps checks and balances since the state is taking funding away,” he said. “But, when you give this power to the administration, which is very much a government in itself, there’s a chance they might use the money for themselves, such as increasing their salaries, and not for the benefit of the students.”

Levin-Stankevich said that receiving funding in one block grant rather than having it allocated to specific things would allow the university to decide what the money is spent on and would keep the funding within the university.

“(The university) would be able to redirect resources to the most important things on campus instead of having money tied up in basically lock boxes that we can’t touch,” he said.

The Wisconsin Idea Partnership would make it possible to spend funding on things such as new improvement projects and the transfer of technology from other UW campuses, Levin-Stankevich said.

Among other possible ways leftover funding could be spent, Morgan added, was that the university could create a private financial aid program within the university, which could create more incentive for students to want to come to UW-Eau Claire.

Along with their support, the Student Senate added in their resolution that the Wisconsin Idea Partnership should include student approval for raises in tuition.

Hull agreed that students should have more of a voice when it comes to how the university’s money is spent.

“A good portion of funding comes from their tuition and the taxes that their parents pay,” Hull said. “The students’ needs should definitely come first because without them there would be no university.”