UW-Madison in talks to leave System

Story by Ben Rueter

The Board of Regents met recently to discuss both the possibility of UW-Madison splitting from the UW System and the current budget cuts proposed by Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday.

The issue at hand pertained to UW-Madison seeking more independence from the UW System and becoming a separate state “public authority” enterprise. UW-Madison wants to have more control over its expenses and how it’s able to move its money around.

UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin explained a revised version of the New Badger Partnership, which outlined this idea. Constitutes and other System members were then given the opportunity to comment on the proposal.

Following this, Walker proposed a budget bill targeting a large part of the reductions aimed at higher education towards Madison and UW-Madison.

This is a formal bill that Walker proposed and if he holds the majority of votes, this bill could become a law. UW-Madison does not get a say in this, and if it passes it would create a separate authority for UW-Madison, said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich.

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow said this move could set an important precedent.

“This is very important because state funding cuts have forced campuses to compromise the quality of the educational experience we provide to students,” he said, “and we desperately need the ability to mitigate some of this damage by drawing more support from tuition.”

UW-Stout Chancellor Charles Sorensen said one of the opinions expressed was for “allowing Madison to become an authority campus with the flexibilities outlined in the proposal.”
Levin-Stankevich said that it’s uncertain how UW-Madison’s potential departure will affect the System and Eau Claire.

“It depends on what structural changes might be available to other campuses and what degree of flexibility from regulatory environment is given to both the remaining system as a whole and each campus within that system,” he said.

Levin-Stankevich said that if UW-Madison does break from the System, it would only affect Eau Claire and other UW campuses in how they interact with UW-Madison. Things like shared software and library resource allocations would take a few years to work through, as would fixing similar problems and establishing some new ground rules.

Sorensen said he isn’t that worried about how it would affect the university’s image.

“It would not devastate the school (UW-Stout) nor would it, in my opinion, the brand, since the brand depends on the strength of each university,” Sorensen said.

The implications of UW-Madison leaving the System are not clear yet, Gow said, as the nature of these plans is still an ongoing process.

At this time, no one knows the negative or positive outcomes of this proposal, and there is still much speculation, Levin-Stankevich said.

“There would be change and it certainly would reshape the System and probably giving more focus on the state universities,” Sorensen said.

Gow said more flexibility within the System is something that most UW schools have been looking to achieve for some time.

“We’ll continue to support the UW’s efforts to get maximum flexibility for the entire System,” he said.

The effect of UW-Madison leaving the System and Walker’s budget bill is still being determined as discussions on the issue continue in the coming months.