Kevin Reilly brought his opposition to a controversial proposal, which would separate the University of Wisconsin Madison campus from the system he oversees, before an audience of Madison movers and shakers on Wednesday. The UW System President told members of the Madison Rotary that everyone wants what’s best for the Madison campus – and the end of giving all UW campuses greater flexibility. “The family feud we find ourselves in, if I can call it that, is about the means to those ends, separating UW Madison off from the rest of the campuses or keeping an integrated system,” said Reilly, who pitched his alternative to UW Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin’s Badger Partnership plan, the Wisconsin Idea Partnership. “The deep budget cuts that we face in this budget will effect every campus, and every campus needs the tools, the flexibilities to react to those cuts. All the campuses need them.”
In response to a question from the audience, Reilly said the Wisconsin Idea Partnership is not just a reaction to Martin’s plan – and that he and the UW Board of Regents have been asking for this sort of thing for years. “Now Governor Walker has said he’s willing to give it to UW Madison but not the rest of the campuses. The Wisconsin Idea Partnership presses to have that done for the rest of the campuses,” Reilly explained. “The New Badger Partnership, until the point where the governor announced his budget, was thought to be about getting the flexibilities, not spinning Madison off from the rest of the system.”
Harry Peterson, chief of staff to Martin’s predecessor John Wiley, accompanied Reilly to the Rotary luncheon. “I believe that Biddy Martin’s proposal for the UW Madison, to break off of the UW System and become a public authority, is not a good idea for our university,” said Peterson. “I not only think it’s not a good idea, I think it’s a very bad and dangerous idea, one which puts the university you and I love at very considerable short and long term risks.”
In response to another question, Reilly said he told the UW System Board of Regents about the plan to separate the Madison campus as soon as he learned about it, during a February 10th phone conversation with Governor Scott Walker. “I can’t imagine what motivation I would have not to tell them that,” said Reilly. “I would have been an idiot not to tell them. There’s no reason it was good for me not to tell them that, so I don’t know were that comes from, honestly. Reilly and Peterson together addressed the Rotarians for more than 40 minutes Wednesday, a week after Martin had addressed the same organization.