Yes to the start date. No to everything else.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — University of Wisconsin President Ray Cross asked Gov. Tony Evers and legislative leaders Wednesday to call a special session of the Legislature to allow for UW to borrow money through a line of credit and possibly start classes earlier to help deal with “unprecedented financial and planning challenges” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cross noted that campuses have already furloughed and laid off employees and reduced costs. In order to have more flexibility, Cross asked for three general law changes:
— Grant a one-time exemption to allow for the school year to start earlier than Sept. 1, the earliest date allowed under state law. Cross noted that given the expectation of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the fall, many colleges want to start classes earlier and use an expedited scheduled to complete the fall semester by Thanksgiving.
— Give the university the ability to take out a line of credit to allow it to borrow money to get through the budget crisis posed by the pandemic. Cross noted that other universities are taking this step. Any debt created would be the responsibility of the university to pay back, not the state, Cross said.
— Relieve UW of many reporting requirements to free up resources, a move Cross said would “enhance the ability of our universities to be open in the broadest way possible this fall.”
Several universities are already doing an earlier start date. This allows them to complete the semester earlier and prevents an outbreak if everyone goes home for Thanksgiving and then returns to campus. This puts a burden on the businesses, including farms, who rely on summer labor, but is a sensible concession.
On the debt, Covid hit everyone hard and many people and businesses had to take huge hits to their incomes and value. By taking on debt, UW wants to avoid pain and shift it to the taxpayers or students in the form of guaranteed debt. There is so much fat in UW that they have a long way to go before the legislature should consider allowing them to outsource their pain to people who are already experiencing their own pain.
On the reporting, removing safeguards are a way to invite corruption and mismanagement. Perhaps they can streamline the reporting requirements, but they should not be abandoned for the sake of expediency.