The UW Board of Regents, in order to protect and preserve its role as the governing body of the University of Wisconsin System, must reject Scott Walker’s budget proposal in full. The sometime-governor is once again attempting illegitimately to exert control over the UW System, contrary to the organizing statutes. The power grab exercised through the budget process reduces regents to mere functionaries, infringing on their statutory independence.
Mr. Walker does this several ways.
- Dangling a $42.5 million budget increase (to “replace” hundreds of millions of dollars cut from the budget), subject to severe constraints on how those dollars can be allocated among the system institutions, and subject to an insulting “Performance Funding Report Card” for each campus
- Offering $35 million if they provide a tuition cut to all state students, irrespective of need
- Adding an internship/work experience graduation requirement for every UW student receiving a bachelor degree, regardless of the relevance of that requirement to the degree
- Directing the board to make the payment of allocable student segregated fees “optional”
- Directing the board and the technical college system board to double the number of transferable credits (to 60, a full two years’ worth of credit)
- Requiring the UW System to monitor faculty teaching workload and to reward those who teach more
These requirements contravene existing state law, contravene the best functioning of the university, and insult the regents as the leaders of the organization.
Contrary to the heavy-handed demands of Mr. Walker’s proposed budget, the regents, not the governor, by statute bear the “primary responsibility for governance of the system.” By statute, the Board of Regents “shall enact policies and promulgate rules for governing the system, plan for the future needs of the state for university education, ensure the diversity of quality undergraduate programs while preserving the strength of the state’s graduate training and research centers and promote the widest degree of institutional autonomy within the controlling limits of system-wide policies and priorities established by the board.” Wis. Stats. 36.09 (1)(a).
The governor is not mentioned here.
Also by statute, “The board shall allocate funds and adopt budgets for the respective institutions giving consideration to the principles of comparable budgetary support for similar programs and equitable compensation for faculty and academic staff with comparable training, experience and responsibilities and recognizing competitive ability to recruit and retain qualified faculty and academic staff.” Wis. Stats. 36.09(1)(h). Thus it is the board’s responsibility to set criteria for allocation of GPR, not the governor’s. Allowing the governor to put criteria for allocation of GPR into statute in one biennium sets a precedent for the future, binding the hands of future boards.
Also by statute, “The board shall develop policies for the purpose of specifically identifying the general purpose revenue and nongeneral purpose revenue funding sources used for noninstructional student activities and for the purpose of governing the allocation of funds to those noninstructional student activities supported by both general purpose and nongeneral purpose revenue.” Wis. Stats. 36.09(1)(hm). This section clearly places the authority for deciding about the payment of segregated fees in the hands of the board, not the governor.
Neither is it the role of the governor to set graduation requirements, as Mr. Walker proposes in the Budget Bill, or to require monitoring of faculty teaching load. (The proposal to add an internship/work requirement for graduation, by the way, contradicts two more of Mr. Walker’s claimed interests: to reduce the time to degree and to require professors to teach more. Setting up internships takes away from teaching time; fulfilling the requirement takes away from class time. Students take longer to get their degrees, and professors have less time to teach in the classroom.)
That is the role of chancellors and the faculty and academic staff at their campuses. “3) The chancellors.
(a) … Subject to board policy the chancellors of the institutions in consultation with their faculties shall be responsible for designing curricula and setting degree requirements; determining academic standards and establishing grading systems; defining and administering institutional standards for faculty peer evaluation … Wis. Stats. 36.09(3)(a).
Finally, the board should resist the proposal to identify 60 transferable credits from Wisconsin’s technical colleges, at least until there is more study of the current transfer agreement. An agreement for transfer of 30 credits went into effect only in the 2014-15 school year. Students who transferred under that policy will only reach the point of graduation (if they do) in June 2018. Prudence dictates at least some follow-up on the experience and success of the first group of transfer students before expanding the program. While Wisconsin does indeed have a great technical college system, no one in that system would claim it to be equivalent to the first two years of the University of Wisconsin, and decreeing it thus doesn’t make it so.
The governor already has a great deal of influence on the Board of Regents, in that he or she appoints most of its members. The proposals of this budget restrict the Board’s judgment and restrict its statutory authority, and lay the groundwork for further erosion of the UW System’s independence from political control.