Nearly 70 department chairs, program directors, and heads of centers and institutes from across the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus now have"> signed a letter supporting Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to award Wisconsin's flagship institution some long sought freedoms from state oversight by granting it">public authority status.

Chancellor Biddy Martin also is pushing hard for this split in a plan she is calling the New Badger Partnership. This issue has divided many across Wisconsin, with leaders at the UW System and other state campuses opposed to the breakup. These folks want all system schools to have freedoms and flexibilities from state red tape and are proposing an alternative to Walker and Martin's plan called the">Wisconsin Idea Partnership.

The plan to grant UW-Madison public authority status is tucked into Walker's proposed 2011-13 biennial budget and currently is being reviewed by the state's powerful Joint Finance Committee. State leaders have been asking UW-Madison and system heads to come up with a compromise, but neither side appears set to blink in what is turning into a high-stakes came of chicken.

On April 19, John Coleman, the chair of UW-Madison's department of political science, mailed Alberta Darling and Robin Vos -- the Republican co-chairs of the budget-writing JFC -- a note signed by 10 UW-Madison department chairs and program directors supporting public authority status.

On Monday, Coleman sent a second letter to these same leaders signed by an additional 58 people, for a total of 68. This note states "these additional signatories endorse the April 19 letter on their own behalf and not as formal representatives of their departments or programs."

The letter concludes: "As we stated in our original letter, a redefined UW System could focus more intently on the unique needs of its institutions, while UW-Madison as a public authority could focus on its distinctive needs. Wisconsin needs a public higher education business model that meets the demands and challenges of a new day. We strongly urge you to support the New Badger Partnership and UW-Madison public authority status."

On the other side of the debate, 17 current and emeritus UW-Madison professors signed a document titled"> "A Statement of Faculty Concern about the Proposed Public Authority Model."

This note begins by stating: "We the undersigned share in the widespread worry about the current inflexibilities faced by all the campuses of the University of Wisconsin system. We applaud the focus on these issues that the proposed New Badger Partnership (NBP) has brought to the public conversation in our state. However, we also have many concerns about the implementation of the NBP in the form of a public authority that we believe need to be more fully addressed."

Meanwhile, UW-Madison's faculty senate will hold its last scheduled meeting of the 2010-11 academic year Monday at 3:30 p.m. in room 272 of Bascom Hall.

One of the agenda items is titled: "Faculty Senate Position on the Public Authority Proposal."

"I truly don't know what will happen at today's meeting," UW-Madison chemistry professor Judith Burstyn, the chair of the University Committee -- the executive committee of the faculty senate -- said Monday morning. "I can tell you the chancellor has not spoken with the University Committee since the last faculty senate meeting" on April 4.

Burstyn said the UC will make a recommendation at Monday's meeting, but "what happens beyond that is really up to the senators."

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