Governor Scott Walker is suggesting that University of Wisconsin System faculty could work harder. The Republican governor said Wednesday that may help to offset the impacts of a $300 million dollar cut in state aid to that will be included as part of his state budget proposal.
Walker’s has presented his plan, which includes greater autonomy for the UW System, as “being like Act 10 for the UW,” a reference to the signature legislative achievement of his first term in office. “It will make them do things that they traditionally have not done,” Walker said. “Maybe looking at the use of faculty and staff a bit more efficiently. They might be able to make savings just by asking faculty and staff to consider teaching one more class a semester.”
But a UW Madison faculty rep says most are already “burning the candle at both ends.” Jo Ellen Fair chairs the University Committee, the executive committee of the faculty senate on the Madison campus. “Most faculty that I know of are working 60-70 hours a week. They’re teaching, they’re getting ready for their classes, they’re advising undergraduates, they’re advising graduate students. They’re doing their research and making sure that they’re current on the research in their field.”
Walker said that asking UW faculty to take on additional work “could have a tremendous impact on making sure that we preserve affordable education for all our UW campuses, at the same time we maintain a high quality education.”
“In some ways we’ve been good soldiers for a very long time,” said Fair. “Any kind of cut that has come our way from the state, we’ve said ‘well okay, that’s going to be tough,’ and we do it. But now we’re at the point where we’re really at a breaking point.”
As for the governor’s assertion that expecting faculty to work more will help to maintain the quality of the UW System, Fair has concerns. She worries about loss the of quality faculty, with a resulting decline in the quality of the degrees students receive.
“When they go out into the market, are they going to be able to use that degree from Wisconsin and people will be impressed with it, saying ‘that’s a great degree?’ Or are people going to say ‘it used to be a great degree, maybe we’ll hire somebody from the University of Minnesota instead.'”
Walker’s recommendations for the UW System will be included in the 2015-2017 budget plan he’ll unveil next week. It includes a public authority – an organization that is part of state government but free of most rules and regulations that apply to traditional executive branch agencies – to administer an annual block grant. The governor said that would give UW System greater control over things like procurement, human resources and even some building projects.