UWM Budget Update–March 10, 2015

At the last UWM Chancellor’s budget update before the break, I read a statement to Chancellor Mone. I copy it below, in anticipation of UW System President Ray Cross’s visit to the next UWM Chancellor’s budget update on March 25.

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For those of you who don’t know me, I am Richard Grusin, Director of the Center for 21st Century Studies and Professor of English here at UWM.

I want to begin, Mark, by thanking you and your staff for your tireless work in public and in private to lobby for a reduction in the draconian cuts proposed in the current budget bill. I believe the entire UW System speaks with one voice in opposing these cuts. I want also to thank you for your public statements in support of maintaining faculty governance and tenure.

I am concerned, however, that other actions you have or haven’t taken are sending a message that works against your opposition to the $300 million in cuts. One is the broad efforts to figure out how to manage those cuts when they come. I appreciate that we need to be prepared, and as a scholar of downsizing organizations you are in a better position than I am to know how best to make downsizing work. But I worry that such public preparations also send the message that, although we would prefer that our budget not be cut, we are prepared to move forward together when we are.

Second, and to my mind more crucially, your failure to speak out against the public authority weakens both your case against the budget cuts and your support for tenure and faculty governance. As you know the public authority has been presented as a “deal” in exchange for these cuts, because the public authority is supposed to provide the System with the flexibilities and freedoms to absorb such cuts. While even President Cross has come to acknowledge that the most optimistic estimate of the scope of the savings offered by a public authority would be less than 10% of the proposed cuts, neither he nor you has come out against the move to a public authority as outlined in the current budget bill. And while the Regents voted to establish committees to recommend how tenure and faculty governance could be preserved under a public authority, such preservation is anything but secure.

What makes your failure to come out against a public authority even more troubling is that this opinion runs counter to a widespread and growing body of through across the System that the public authority needs to de deferred until its costs and benefits have been thoroughly studied by a broad-based committee, and been presented to the citizens of Wisconsin for hearings or other input. Two weeks ago I sent President Cross an open letter requesting a two-year moratorium on both the Public Authority and the $300 million in cuts. That letter has now garnered over 500 signatories, including most recently Tom Loftus, Speaker of Wisconsin Assembly from 1983-1991 and a UW System Regent from 2005-11; and Sheldon B. Lubar, Past President of the Board of Regents, and namesake of your home school, the Lubar School of Business. In addition the faculty senate of UW-Madison has come out in opposition to the public authority, as has a statement by our UC on behalf of the UWM faculty senate, who meets on Thursday to consider further action. Finally last Thursday the Board of Regents endorsed a resolution that would only endorse an “approved upon” public authority, i.e., one that had been thoroughly studied and vetted.

As we all know from emails made public in 2012, our governor’s strategy for the decimation of the public good is to “divide and conquer.” Although we may speak in one voice on the budget cuts, on the question of the public authority he is succeeding. Given the widespread, broadly based opposition to the public authority across the system, I call on you and your administration, indeed I should say “our” administration, to add your voices to this opposition and take the lead in public and in private in opposing the public authority along with the $300 million in cuts that have been offered in exchange for it.

Thank you.

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About rgrusin

I am an Academic Entrepreneur and Professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
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