Tag Archives: University of Wisconsin

Campus Free Speech Bill Moves Ahead

Good.

The Assembly’s higher education committee passed an amended version of a Republican-backed campus speech bill Tuesday that requires University of Wisconsin System institutions to punish students who take part in disruptive protests.

Changes to the legislation spelled out more specifically the types of disruptions that could lead to discipline for UW students and employees, and toughened penalties for those who run afoul of the new rules by requiring universities to expel any student who violates the policy three times.

First Amendment advocates had warned that the bill’s original language was unconstitutionally vague, and raised concerns that its mandatory punishments treat mild heckling with the same severity as the at times violent demonstrations that have led Republican lawmakers across the country to introduce similar legislation.

The amendments and the bill itself passed the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities on party-line votes Tuesday.

The bill directs the UW Board of Regents to create a process for disciplining students who engage in “violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others.” It also states that System institutions must “strive to remain neutral” on public policy controversies.

“Someone always pays”

Yes. This.

When examining the issue of tuition we need to consider not just affordability but also who is actually paying for college and why.

It is important that we have a university system that is affordable and no group, in any state in the nation, has done more to make college affordable than Wisconsin’s Republicans. However, even a freeze over time means that inflation will eventually make the university “free.”

But remember, nothing is free. Someone always pays.

Freeing Fees

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

In this most recent era of heated factional discord, there is one issue about which virtually everyone can agree. College is too expensive and is driving too many students into debt for degrees that are decreasing in value in the economy.

For decades, the price of college has increased far faster than inflation, personal income or any other economic metric.

The very simple reason that college costs so much is because many colleges spend way too much. Fueled by easy money from the taxpayers and a culture that puts an almost mythical value on a college education, many colleges — particularly public ones — spend an inordinate amount of money on things that have little to do with educating young adults.

Gov. Scott Walker has made controlling the cost of college a major initiative in his proposed budget. One small proposal in Walker’s budget is creating a fierce backlash. Both the proposal and backlash brilliantly illustrate the scope of overspending in the University of Wisconsin System.

In an effort to give students the choice to lower the cost of attending the University of Wisconsin, Walker has proposed to allow students to opt out of paying about 15 percent of their student fees called allocable segregated fees. These fees are mandatory for all students and go to pay for organizations and services as designated by student-led committees at each campus. Walker’s proposal does not touch the other 85 percent of student fees, called non-allocable fees, which go to pay for things like the student unions and campus healthcare services.

The list of organizations receiving allocable student fees is long and varies from campus to campus.

Most of the recipient organizations are not controversial and are just student special interest clubs, student service organizations, or student government.

For example, the Greater University Tutorial Service, Student Leadership Program, Wisconsin Black Student Union, Student Judiciary, Oshkosh Gaming Society, Chess Club, Student Radio and student bus passes are all funded in part with allocable fees.

Some organizations are quite controversial. For example, at UW-Madison, a group called Sex Out Loud, which offers programs like “Advanced Pleasure 369” and “Kink 401” received more than $100,000 this year.

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) received more than $87,000 in student fees. MEChA is a radical activist anti-American organization that promotes separatism and non-assimilation of what they call “Our Chicano Nation.” They openly state that, “we are a nationalist movement of Indigenous Gente that lay claim to the land that is ours by birthright. As a nationalist movement we seek to free our people from the exploitation of an oppressive society that occupies our land.”

Whether the organizations being funded by allocable fees are controversial or not, Walker’s principle is a simple one. Students should be able to choose whether or not to fund these organizations.

Opponents to the proposal argue that the diverse range of organizations funded by mandatory allocable fees enrich the experience of all students and provide some vital student services (tutoring and bus service). Proponents argue that students should not be forced to pay for organizations with which they disagree and/or in which they do not participate.

Both sides are correct. While these organizations provide some services and marginally add to a diverse college experience, students should not be forced to fund them. If students value these organizations and services, Walker’s proposal leaves open the option for students to pay the allocable fees. Even if a student chooses not to pay the fee, they can still pay for organizations and services on an individual basis. Walker’s proposal neither mandates nor forbids students from paying for these organizations. All it does is give them a choice that they do not currently have.

For the average Wisconsin resident, it costs about $25,655 per year to attend UW-Madison. Walker’s proposal would allow students the option to reduce that cost by a scant $178.

If we cannot abide even this exceptionally modest attempt at reducing the cost of college, then we are not even remotely serious about making college more affordable and accessible for all.

Walker to Propose Increase for UW

Here’re some of the details.

*ending the $50 million lapse the system was required to make in the 2015-17 budget.
*giving the system $42.5 million in performance-based funding.
*providing an $11.6 million block grant so the system could boost pay for employees.
*providing grants of $700,000 in financial aid to students taking flex option courses, $200,000 to expand a program that provides financial support to expand the Wisconsin Rural Physician Residency Assistance program, and $100,000 to support Alzheimer’s research.

So it appears that Walker has decided that he wants to run for reelection in 2018. As part of his effort to bolster his sagging approval rating, he wants to dump an enormous amount of taxpayer money into government institutions. By my count, we’re already pushing over a billion dollars in new spending without an offset anywhere in sight.

Walker Proposes Tuition Decrease

This is an interesting proposal.

Gov. Scott Walker said during his seventh State of the State address Tuesday he will cut in-state tuition at all University of Wisconsin campuses in his upcoming budget proposal.

 […]
Walker said after the speech the tuition cut will be covered with additional state taxpayer dollars. Republican leaders of the Legislature’s budget committee reserved judgment until seeing more details.
I heard Walker on the Jay Weber Show explain this morning that his plan would pay down tuition with more state tax dollars, but that those tax dollars would be contingent upon performance at the universities. Obviously, there are a lot of details yet to be known, but we have a basic sketch.

Even though I have kids who would benefit from a cut in tuition, I don’t like the plan as a matter of public policy. The root cause of the reason that tuition is so high is because the universities spend too much. They have to pay for that spending with something. Until such point as the universities control their spending to a greater degree to bring it in line with the state taxpayers’ and students’ ability to afford them, anything that sends them more funding will only exacerbate the problem.

But, as I said, there are details yet to be known. Let’s see what the full proposal looks like.

Delays Cause Cost Increase?

This story doesn’t make any sense.

Seven University of Wisconsin System building projects Gov. Scott Walker delayed in the current budget to limit borrowing now cost $30 million more, according to the state’s nonpartisan budget office.

The UW System is requesting the state borrow $257.3 million for the building projects in its 2017-19 capital budget request. That’s up from $227.6 million it requested for the same projects two years ago.

OK, so the UW system is requesting $30 million more for the same 7 projects it requested, and was denied, in the last budget. The news story seems to parrot UW’s spin that waiting on these projects make them cost more. It’s an effective political game that UW is playing to try to convince legislators to approve spending now “or it will just cost more in the future.”

There are two fatal flaws with that argument. First, it assumes that the projects are inevitable. They are not. For example, one of the projects is for a new field house and soccer support facility for UW-La Crosse. We could just say “no” and move on completely. That way it never costs a dime.

The second flaw is the assumption that costs always go up. They don’t. In fact, prices fluctuate and sometimes actually go down. In this case, the only basis we have to think that the price for these projects increased is that UW requested more money. Why? Why are the costs higher than two years ago? These are construction projects.

As we know, labor rates have been almost flat. The price of petroleum-based materials, like asphalt and plastics, should have decreased with the price of oil. After all, when the original request was put together in 2014, the price of oil was over $100 a barrel. That same barrel is about $47 today. That also means that fuel for all of the construction equipment is significantly cheaper.

Furthermore, the cost of borrowing has been stuck at historic lows for years now. The bonding costs should not be significantly higher than the last time they made the request.

So why is UW asking for $30 million more for the same projects? Why do they think that these projects will cost that much more? What justifies a 13% price increase from 2 years ago?

I suspect the only justification is that UW is playing politics with their budget requests.

UW Wastes Money on Unused Tickets

Wow.

Since January last year, records obtained by USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin show at least $121,000 in tickets purchased by university officials sat unused for so long that airlines wiped them off the books for good.

UW-Madison, the state’s flagship public university, was the biggest spender, tallying 139 expired tickets valued at nearly $70,000. UW-Milwaukee also took a big chunk of the statewide total with 63 tickets valued at nearly $22,000.

I travel quite a bit and have to occasionally cancel flights. It happens. But letting this much money expire is inexcusable.

It varies by airline, but on a non-refundable ticket, most airlines will keep the credit for a canceled flight on the books for a year. Then, when you book another flight and use the credit, they’ll deduct the change fee and apply the credit to the new ticket. In other words, with rare exception, UW has a year to use those credits before they expire and use most of the money even if they lose money on some change fees. Given the amount of travel we’re talking about, it is just gross mismanagement to let that much money expire.

UW Faculty Moves Forward on Vote of No Confidence

It’s funny to watch liberals fight with each other.

Written by sociology professor Chad Alan Goldberg, who has been among the most vocal faculty members in calling for strong tenure protections, the resolution declares the Faculty Senate has no confidence in Cross or the Regents to “protect tenure and shared governance.”

Cross and the Regents have come under fire from professors and others for how they have handled the 2015-17 state budget, which cut $250 million from the UW System’s funding, weakened the faculty’s role in governing universities and made it easier to fire tenured professors.

Speaking at a meeting of the Faculty Senate’s executive committee Monday, however, Blank said she strongly opposes the no-confidence resolution, and encouraged the faculty to instead adopt a “milder” statement.

“The backlash on this will be potentially very real,” Blank said, “particularly as we’re going into a budget year where the number of people who are looking for reasons to cut UW-Madison is uncomfortably high. This gives them those reasons.”

Concealed Carry on College Campuses

Representative Kremer and Senator LeMahieu has proposed a bill to require public universities in Wisconsin to allow people to carry a concealed weapon on college campuses.

Madison, WI – Today, Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) and Senator Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) released the Campus Carry Act, a bill that would allow students and faculty to carry concealed firearms in buildings on public college campuses.

Currently, it is legal to carry a concealed weapon on campuses, but the law allows universities to ban the practice as a matter of policy. Since the public owns the public universities, the proposed law would prohibit the public universities from prohibiting campus carry.

As usual, the Left and and anti-gun nuts are in full froth over the proposal. We are hearing the same discredited arguments we heard when concealed carry was initially proposed. But just like that time, Wisconsin is not, by any means, a pioneer here. In fact, it is quite common:

All 50 states allow citizens to carry concealed weapons if they meet certain state requirements. Currently, there are 19 states that ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming.

In 23 states the decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by each college or university individually: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Because of  recent state legislation and court rulings, eight states now have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses. These states are Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. During the 2015 legislative session, Texas’ legislature passed a bill permitting concealed weapons on campus and making it the eighth state to permit guns on campus. The legislation will take effect in August 2016.

For all of those opposed to this law, please point to the negative impact in all of those other states that already allow it.

UW Professor Tells Incoming Freshman to Stay Away

This woman is a loon.

An outspoken University of Wisconsin-Madison professor is under fire for finding future Badgers on Twitter and allegedly harassing them — as well as for comparing Scott Walker to Adolf Hitler.

Sara Goldrick-Rab is a professor of educational policy studies and sociology with a national profile in both her field of research and the ongoing debate over faculty tenure in Wisconsin public universities. She has openly said she’s looking for another job because she believes academic freedom is in jeopardy in Wisconsin.

[…]

It all started with a photo that a future Badger posted May 31 on Twitter of himself and his friends in their high school graduation caps and gowns, smiling and forming the Wisconsin “W” with their hands.

“On (to) Wisconsin!” the tweet exclaimed. It was tagged @UWMadison #FutureBadgers, and the young man included the Twitter handles of the five other students in the photo.

Six days later, Goldrick-Rab reached out to all six students on Twitter: “I hate to bring bad news but,” her tweet began. She then linked to an opinion piece published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with the headline: “Threats to shared governance and tenure put mission of UW at risk.”

“No one cares sara,” one of the students replied.

“Oh good. I thought you want a degree of value. Too bad,” Goldrick-Rab responded.

“Who are you lol” another student replied.

One student in his reply alluded to a hot-button statement earlier this year by Walker, a Republican presidential candidate: “thanks for sharing, but isn’t it better if professors to (sic) teach more classes? Cuts seem pretty tame w/political environment” the student tweeted.

Goldrick-Rab, a self-proclaimed liberal, replied: “It isn’t the cuts. If this goes through, we are all leaving. No joke.”

She was referring to faculty who are upset about the state budget that Walker signed Sunday, which includes provisions allowing tenured faculty to be laid off “when deemed necessary” for budget reasons or program changes. Previously, tenured faculty could only be laid off in a financial emergency or for malfeasance. The state budget gave the UW System Board of Regents authority to create a tenure policy that specifies what would be required for a layoff to be “deemed necessary.”

As her Twitter conversation with the future Badgers continued, Goldrick-Rab tweeted a link to a New York Times story about the tenure debate in Wisconsin.

“We don’t want students 2 waste their $. It’s info that’s all,” her tweet said. “University is changing as we speak. Maybe look at info?”

A few thoughts come to mind. First, in a normal business, this professor would be fired immediately. She is publicly seeking new employment as she is publicly telling her current employer’s customers to go elsewhere. It’s akin to the McDonald’s employee who announces that he is applying to Taco Bell telling customers at the counter that the food sucks and they should go elsewhere. If she doesn’t find a new job, what kind of education can our kids expect from her in the classroom? She clearly lacks the professionalism to keep her politics out of her work.

Second, since she hasn’t been fired, can we assume that this is the kind of “academic freedom” that tenure protects? Her behavior is merely making the decision by the legislature to remove tenure from state statutes seem like a better and better decision.

Third, any university who hires her now is insane. Who would want this cancer in their faculty? Who would want a person who publicly and aggressively attacks incoming freshman when she gets upset at her job situation?

Finally, check out her scheduled teaching:

hardschedule

She hasn’t taught a class since the Spring of 2013 and she’s only scheduled to teach 2 courses this Fall. She has taught two classes in 3-and-a-half years. What value is Wisconsin getting out of paying this professor? Is this what we’re paying for?

UW Pushing Parents to Lobby on Budget

Imagine that your daughter just got accepted to UW-Madison… you’re elated! How great that your daughter will attending a great university and hopefully receiving an education that will prepare her for life. But before your daughter has attended one class or experienced a single moment of the education for which you will all be paying through the nose, you get this:

From: Office of the Chancellor [mailto:chancellor@news.wisc.edu]

Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2015 1:33 PM

To: [REDACTED]

Subject: You can help us

University of Wisconsin

Dear Parents,

I don’t have to tell you how hard your child worked to make it to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. You saw the late-night study sessions, the homework assignments they dutifully tackled on weekends, the many sacrifices they made to ensure they would make the grade.

The hard work paid off with your son’s or daughter’s admission to UW–Madison, one of the premier public academic and research institutions in the United States and throughout the world.

A degree from UW–Madison is a valuable credential, one that opens many doors as our students move from the university into the working world.

One of the reasons for UW–Madison’s success is the investment the State of Wisconsin has historically made in its flagship institution. However, Governor Scott Walker has proposed cutting the University of Wisconsin System by $300 million over the next two years to help fill a state budget deficit. UW–Madison’s share of that cut is expected to be $57 million per year. This is on top of the $23 million reduction the campus received in the budget passed by the Legislature two years ago.

Together with other cuts included in the governor’s budget, UW–Madison is likely to face at least an $86 million budget hole next year if the proposal is enacted. “If the full amount of Governor Walker’s proposed $300 million cut is implemented, it will be the largest cut to the UW in state history.”

If the full amount of Governor Walker’s proposed $300 million cut is implemented, it will be the largest cut to the UW in state history. It will diminish our ability to provide our students with a quality education; it will hinder our ability to provide vital services such as academic advising and other student support programs; and it puts at risk the investment that generations of Wisconsinites have made to create a highly ranked university in our state.

The governor has called for another two-year freeze for in-state undergraduate tuition, which I fully support. He has also proposed a public authority model that would provide flexibilities in areas such as purchasing, management of building projects, and authority over a pay plan for university employees. These are welcome reforms that would eventually allow the System to function more effectively, but the public authority will take some time to implement and will provide no budget relief in the short term.

I urge you to contact your local legislators to ask them to reduce the proposed cut to the university budget so that we can continue to provide Wisconsin students with an outstanding education and serve the state in the best tradition of the Wisconsin Idea. You can find information about the overall university budget in our Budget in Brief document and follow news about the budget at budget.wisc.edu.

Thank you for letting your voice be heard!

Rebecca Blank

Chancellor, University of Wisconsin–Madison

There you have it. The UW Chancellor using school resources and time to lobby on the budget and shamelessly pimping her politics to the parents of new students.

UW Staff Opposes More Autonomy

Well, this is interesting.

A group of professors, staffers and students from University of Wisconsin campuses statewide urged UW System president Ray Cross to withdraw support for sweeping changes to the universities proposed by Gov. Scott Walker, calling for a two-year moratorium.

“We write to insist in the strongest possible terms that you come out immediately and publicly against the governor’s budget plan to transform the University of Wisconsin System to a public authority at this time,” they said in a letter posted to the blog of Richard Grusin, an English professor at UW-Milwaukee.

UW has been pining for more autonomy for years and now when it is offered, a sizable portion of the staff recoils. One might think that they have been using the lack of more autonomy as an excuse for their spendy ways…

Walker Backs off Edit of UW Statute

Meh.

MADISON (WITI/AP) — Governor Scott Walker has abruptly backed off his proposal to eliminate the University of Wisconsin System’s public service mission statement.

Walker tucked language into his budget proposal that would have replaced the statement, known as the “Wisconsin Idea,” with the charge of meeting the state’s workforce needs. The move drew the ire of UW System President Ray Cross, who says the Wisconsin Idea is the reason the system exists.

The Wisconsin Idea was created back in 1904.

It’s a statute. The fact that it is 111 years old should make it a likely target for updating and reform, not a piece of sacrosanct text. Walker should have stood firm and made the argument for reform.

UW System President Proposes Changes

It seems that Cross is sincere about making some substantial changes in the system. It will be interesting to see what the details are and how it works out.

The plan calls for scouring administrative operations to identify potential savings, reducing the number of credits needed for graduation, evaluating whether low-participation courses are necessary and reviewing what Cross called a “proliferation” of elective courses to ensure the priority is on getting students access to needed core courses.