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Message to all UW System Faculty, Staff, and Student Government Leaders - State Budget and the Wisconsin Idea Partnership (Apr 4, 2011)

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 4, 2011

Message to all UW System Faculty, Staff, and Student Government Leaders

State Budget and the Wisconsin Idea Partnership

To All UW System Faculty, Staff, and Student Government Leaders:

As part of the biennial budget process, I testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance last Thursday, joined by Chancellors from several institutions. In my remarks to the legislators, I stressed the significant challenges posed by $340 million in reduced taxpayer support for UW institutions and employees. In the remarks, and during the question and answer period that followed, I emphasized the extraordinary work of our faculty and staff in a time of furloughs and compensation reductions. I asked the legislators to look for any opportunity to restore any of that $340-million cut.

In conjunction with our testimony, we released detailed information about the Wisconsin Idea Partnership – a plan to provide all UW institutions with new operational flexibility as part of a unified system that includes UW-Madison. University leaders have pursued these changes for decades, but today’s financial crisis lends new urgency to the effort, and legislators seem genuinely interested in providing all our institutions with tools to minimize the damage from deep budget cuts.

This plan calls for significant changes in laws that govern budgeting and financial management. It provides institutional leaders with new flexibility to address competitive compensation issues, while also streamlining purchasing and construction. As we pursue these changes to state law, we are also working with the Board of Regents to review and streamline existing UW System policies and delegate authority to Chancellors.

You should know that our plan proposes no changes to shared governance rights for UW Faculty, Academic Staff and Students. Under the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, existing statutory rights remain unchanged. The corresponding sections of Administrative Code (covering topics like faculty tenure and student conduct) remain unchanged, and decades of legal precedent and case law that clarify these rights also remain unchanged.

We have seen a strong show of support for the Wisconsin Idea Partnership and the preservation of a unified UW System, including official resolutions from governance groups. For example, see these resolutions from the UW-Oshkosh Faculty Senate and the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate, and this joint resolution passed by the UW-Extension Faculty Senate and Academic Staff Council.  We value broad statewide input on important matters that affect the future of higher education in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Idea Partnership is a reasonable and equitable plan that preserves teamwork across the UW System.  Our goal is to free all UW institutions from burdensome state laws and regulations that drive costs up and hamper your ability to advance the vital mission of our public university. We have already begun a review of all Board of Regents’ policies for the same purpose. Furthermore, with a 25% cut to UW System Administration’s funding, I am establishing a special committee of Regents, campus colleagues, and System staff to help us decide which System functions we can drop or modify, as well as identify those of high value to the Regents and the institutions.

All the links in this message lead to http://www.wisconsin.edu/wip, where we are posting more information about the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, as well as related news coverage. Please check that site for future updates, and share this link with interested stakeholders.

This matter is now in the hands of the State Legislature, and they will be listening to the voices of their constituents. If you wish to contact your local legislators about the WIP or any other issues, please remember to use your personal email account or letterhead.

As we move forward, the Regents, Chancellors, and I will do our best to keep you informed and engaged.

Thank you,

Kevin P. Reilly, President, UW System

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