Legislatures reject proposal for UW public authority model

Emilie Hedeimann

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal for the UW system to be a public authority was rejected on Tuesday by the Legislature. Chancellor Andrew Leavitt declined comment on the matter and directed all inquiries to the Vice Chancellor for Integrated Marking and Communications Jamie Ceman. According to Ceman, while this decision has been made, the $300 million in budget cuts remain inevitable even though the University is hoping for a reduction. “Today, actually, a memo came out from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that we’ve all been anticipating, that there will be a revenue increase coming from the state, which would then be used to off set some of these [budget] reductions,” Ceman said. Ceman said no additional state revenue is to be anticipated and the likelihood of the $300 million standing is high, which is bad news for UWO. She said this would not lift any of the program reductions, like the athletic cuts and the hiring freeze. “We are looking for reductions in our workforce and two coaching positions are a part of that,” Ceman said. “The athletics cuts were more than just the budget piece of it.” According to Ceman, no matter how the Legislature made its decision, the athletic cuts were to stand regardless. “The $300 million, even if that were cut in half, would still have been the largest budget cut this system has ever seen,” Ceman said. “Our piece of that is estimated at $7.5 million.” Ceman said the University won’t know for another two to three weeks what types of flexibilities will be granted, even with the public authority proposal dropped. “We really still can’t definitively say anything because [this decision] is still being debated,” Ceman said. “We could still very well very likely get the flexibilities that we were asking for to run more efficiently.” According to Ceman, UWO wasn’t looking to be a public authority in the first place. She said the University was looking for more operational flexibilities. “Until people really understand [public authority], they can probably make sense to pull back on that as long as we can still look at those efficiencies,” Ceman said. Ceman said negotiating without state mandated processes would help the University save some money. She said this in turn clears up any confusion in regards to UWO being granted more flexibility with less of a budget available. “Some of the piece that gets people really uncomfortable which would have come into the public authority was this idea of [shared governance] and tenure,” Ceman said. According to Ceman, both are currently apart of a Chapter 36 Wisconsin State statute. “Those pieces were going to be pulled out of state statute and put into the public authority, meaning that our Board of Regents would be the oversight,” Ceman said. According to Thomas Sonnleitner, the vice chancellor for Administrative Services, there isn’t much that is known about public authority being off the table. “We are still working to get additional flexibilities for procurement,” Sonnleitner said. “We will learn more as we go through the next few weeks.” According to Katrina Schiedemeyer, the Oshkosh Student Association public relations director, more flexibility will give campus the ability to set the budget to their discretion. “However, it is difficult to see how the separate authority and budget cuts will affect each campus individually given it is so early,” Schiedemeyer said.