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UW Regents Will Protect Tenure And Shared Governance Amid Budget Changes

Questions Remain On Proposed Autonomy

Phil Roeder (CC-BY)

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents says it’s dedicated to protecting shared governance and tenure if state lawmakers eliminate them in the budget process.

Under the Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget, shared governance and tenure would be stricken from state law. If the Legislature approves the plan, the rules would change July of 2016.

At a Thursday meeting, the Board of Regents passed a resolution saying they would adopt the policies if changes were made to Chapter 36, the section of state statutes that deals with the UW System.

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Board President Michael Falbo said this would ensure the rules remain in place.

“Shared governance is an essential part of the way we function as a university,” Falbo said. “It is the process of engaging faculty and staff in significant decisions about the operation of their institutions. It is particularly vital in a time like the present.”

Falbo said tenure helps protect academic freedom.

Some board members said they need many questions answered before deciding whether or not they would support making the UW System a public authority, as outlined in Walker’s budget.

Regent David Walsh questioned what would happen to employee benefits, workman’s compensation coverage, and building management if the system became a public authority.

“Until all these questions are answered, we shouldn’t be supporting a statutory authority. Of course we like the flexibilities, but not at this cost. Not until we’ve determined what all those items — sovereign immunity, indemnity, municipal services — what it costs us,” Walsh said Thursday.

Other regents expressed concerns about rushing the decision through the budget process and questioned how the Legislature could still control tuition under the proposed model.

Falbo and UW System President Ray Cross have voiced their support of a public authority.

The UW System is creating two task forces focusing on shared governance and tenure. The groups will be made up of administrators, faculty and students.