Members of UW-Milwaukee’s University Committee voiced dismay Tuesday with what one called the “backroom dealings” in November between the UW-Madison chancellor, UW System administrators, and Gov. Scott Walker.
Members of the UWM University Committee called UW System President Ray Cross’ actions “paternalistic governance” and noted that shared governance groups had been left out of the conversation for two months.
“He’s got this enormous governance infrastructure at the ready, and he left it out for two months,” said Margot Anderson, University Committee member. “That’s not governance. That’s backroom dealing.”
Local media reported earlier this week that top UW System officials and Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank had tried to secretly “strike a deal” to lessen Walker’s budget cuts for the UW System. The officials included Cross and Jim Villa, one of Walker’s longest friends, who is now in a top position in university relations for the System.
Members of the UW-Milwaukee committee noted that this pointed to a lack of representation for UWM in the initial discussions regarding the now looming budget proposal, which may include a Public Authority in addition to what ended up being $300 million in System-wide cuts. The plan now goes to the Legislature for approval or changes.
Anderson, a History professor, spoke about e-mails she received this morning from people who believed it was a “misguided” effort by UW System President Ray Cross to try to negotiate a lower cut without the input of UW shared governance organizations. The University Committee is the executive committee of the faculty Senate at UWM. However, administrators will be the ones to determine how UWM will specifically deal with any cuts, if they get through the Legislature.
“So we essentially haven’t had shared governance,” said Lane Hall an English professor and member of the UWM Committee. “In other words shared governance has not been practiced.”
Hall called this a “foreshadowing” of what is to come in the event that the UW System loses shared governance through a Public Authority structure. Walker has told the media that might be a change the Board of Regents could look at if the Public Authority passes.
Hall believed that the “backroom” negotiations being conducted by Cross were emblematic of the “paternalistic governance” that would happen if the UW System becomes a public authority.
“We can bat it around and talk about it and react to it, but we’re not there at the table,” Hall said.
Also at the Tuesday meeting, it was revealed that Chancellor Mark Mone is headed to Madison on Feb. 4, as part of an aggressive advocacy campaign for UW-Milwaukee. According to vice chancellor of University Relations and Communications Tom Luljak, Mone plans to meet with at least 35 legislators over the coming weeks to engage in a dialogue with state lawmakers about what the proposed cuts mean for UWM and the UW System.
Luljak said that Mone will be meeting with leadership in both parties as well as members of the local delegation including representatives from Ozaukee, Waukesha, and Racine. Mone will also be meeting with members of the Joint Finance Committee, a committee comprised of 12 Republicans and four Democrats.
“We may go beyond 35,” said Luljak. “There’s no question that we will be as aggressive as we can to have Mark [Mone] face- to- face with these folks.”
It was also announced that Mone will be meeting with the editorial board at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and is currently negotiating a meeting with the Business Journal.
According to Luljak, the next part of the process will be the Legislative Fiscal Bureau spending three to four weeks writing the language of the bill.
“Essentially were looking at about a month of no action taken publicly,” said Luljak.
“That document is probably going to be the very best description of what impact the budget, in minutia, will have not just on us but on all of the campuses,” said Luljak.
Members of the University Committee also discussed UWM’s role as a research university, and the jeopardy the proposed budget cuts have thrust upon that mission. Michael Brondino, a professor of social work and member of the University Committee, reported that during the last meeting of the Academic Planning and Budget Committee he raised the issue of raising the salaries of teaching assistants to maintain UWM’s rank as a competitive research university, even in spite of the proposed budget cuts.
“If we’re going to have this research agenda, we have to be able to do it adequately,” said Brondino.
Brondino said that in order to recruit and retain quality TAs for UWM’s research programs, it would require a budget increase of $2-3 million for TA salaries. This is consistent with a statement made by Mark Harris, a professor of Geology and the Interim Vice Provost for Research, during the Jan. 13, 2015 meeting of the University Committee. “Harris indicated it would take $2-3 million to bring TA salaries up to an acceptable level.” according to the minutes for the meeting.