February 10, 2015
Dear Parkside Faculty and Staff:
The faculty in one of the colleges have raised a number of interesting and important questions about the current budget proposal being offered by Governor Scott Walker. I thought it might be helpful to share my response with you as well. As you might well expect there are many issues that for now are not clear. President Ray Cross has said that moving to a Public Authority could be a positive development as it would give UW System and its member universities greater flexibility in operations. In short, the Board of Regents would have final approval authority over tuition, compensation, and numerous other decisions that lawmakers now control. Of course, whether this would be a positive or negative depends on the makeup of the BOR and their views as the Governor would still appoint its members. I was also asked if there are other state systems set up as a Public Authority. The answer is twofold. There are only four states in the nation where universities function as a state agency, including Wisconsin. Therefore, there is a great diversity of models at work nationwide. The state that most closely resembles the proposed governance model within the Governors’ budget is Virginia. However, it is not identical. In the end, it is the flexibilities and dedicated funding source that are the central goal of the current proposal.
In regard to layoffs should they occur, the process for Faculty is currently outlined under Wis. Adm. Code Chapter UWS 5: Layoff and Termination for Reasons of Financial Emergency, and for Academic Staff under Wis. Adm. Code Chapter UWS 12: Layoff of Academic Staff for Reasons of Budget or Program. Of course, if we become a Public Authority, the BOR could then initiate a change in procedures should they later decide. A number of Chancellors throughout the System have indicated that with the size of the cut, proposed layoffs on their campus will likely be necessary. Thus, depending on when these layoffs take place, I suppose it could be following UWS 5 and UWS 12 or some new Public Authority policy.
It is my understanding the Public Authority would be created effective July 1, 2016, assuming the bill passes as now written. The BOR would then be able to make changes thereafter. Again, I would not expect any immediate changes, but neither can I be certain that things would remain unchanged in the future. I do not, however, see at this time a strong desire by UW System, the BOR, or the Chancellors to alter the existing shared governance or tenure policies.
Again, there are currently a lot of unanswered questions around the Governor's bill. Further, there is no certainty on whether it will pass the legislature as now written. It first needs to go to a legislative committee for review, which should take at least four to five weeks. Then on to the full legislative body for debate and approval, and finally to the Governor for his signature. This entire process could take us to sometime in May or June before we know the final outcome. Thus, while we are likely to experience a cut, we are hopeful that it will be less than what is currently proposed. That said, we need to plan now for the existing proposal and hope for a lower reduction when the bill is ultimately signed into law.
President Cross will be able to elaborate on these issues and more at the Leadership Assembly today, 2 -3 pm, in the University Ballroom. I would encourage you to attend.
Fred Ebeid, Ph.D.
Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor