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Faculty uneasy over plan to split UW

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Kevin Hoffman
Frank Schultz
February 27, 2011
— UW-Madison leaders insist transfer agreements with other universities won’t change if the flagship campus splits from the statewide system, but local educators remain skeptical.

The New Badger Partnership, a proposal to break UW-Madison from the UW System and develop its own board of trustees, is expected to give UW-Madison more flexibility in its budget. How it will affect other universities is still unclear.


Dave Carlson, coordinator of learning support center at UW-Rock County in Janesville, said separating UW-Madison from the rest of the UW System would be a mistake.


Carlson said the merger that created the UW System in the 1970s has been successful.


“I think that while Madison and indeed all of the system had been asking for certain kinds of flexibility, what Gov. Walker has done is say, ‘Here, you want flexibility, I’ll give you flexibility.’ It pits UW campus against UW campus, much in the way his proposals have pitted labor unions against one another,” Carlson said.


Carlson noted that the system’s two-year campuses, such as UW-Rock, offer a program that guarantees enrollment at UW-Madison if students fulfill a number of requirements. Madison is a popular destination for students who enroll at UW-Rock.


Some students worry that if UW-Madison separates, they might not be able to transfer, Carlson said.


An average 37 students per year have transferred from UW-Rock to UW-Madison over the past five years.


Carlson noted that UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin has promised the transfer process would remain, but he wonders whether the guarantee would be honored as faithfully as it is under a united UW System.


Carlson said he shares the concerns of UW Regent Tom Loftus, a former Democratic legislator, who recently issued a letter asking Walker not to put this item in his budget bill.


Doing so “is a guarantee that we will return to the tribalism of the past when each campus and their legislators fought for their turf and decried any perceived advantage one campus might get that they did not,” Loftus wrote.


“I share his concerns that putting UW-Madison under the control of a separate governmental authority would mean that even if all the other UW campuses remained together in a second system, it would be formally a second-tier system,” Carlson said.


“This radical idea is something that is unwanted and unnecessarily frightening to those who have decided their talents and work would be with the University as part of a family of state public servants,” Loftus wrote.


Hephzibah Kumpaty, faculty senate chairwoman at UW-Whitewater, is concerned separate institutions would limit collaboration with UW-Madison for research and other projects.


She said professors at UW-Whitewater and other schools in the system are able treat UW-Madison like their own university, but the proposed change could limit their access.


The faculty senate has not yet addressed the issue, but it likely will be discussed at its March meeting. Kumpaty said many frustrated faculty members already are speaking out, and students are uneasy about their transfer rights.


“In general, there has been strong opposition to splitting UW-Madison from the system,” she said.


“Education must be decided by educators,” she said. “Politicians are the ones that (dictate) how much money we can give folks, but (educators) decide what’s best for Wisconsin.”



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