The UW System's Board of Regents is calling a special meeting on Friday to discuss the "potential separation of UW-Madison from the rest of the UW institutions."
UW System spokesman David Giroux says by rule, a special meeting of the regents has to focus on a single topic. There will be no action taken, not even a vote on a resolution of support or opposition.
"We just want to hear a number of voices on the matter and air out the issue," says Giroux.
UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin on Tuesday afternoon sent an e-mail to the campus community noting, "I welcome the opportunity to meet with the Board of Regents on Friday."
Martin has known for more than a month that Gov. Scott Walker's 2011-13 budget proposal would likely contain a provision that would not only give UW-Madison some key flexibilities and freedoms, but split the university from the UW System by granting it public authority status.
Although Martin has been asking for greater autonomy from state oversight for more than a year to help it maintain its excellence in the face of impending budget cuts, many Regents and others associated with the UW System were floored when learning that such freedoms would apparently include Wisconsin's flagship institution breaking free from the UW System.
On Tuesday, UW System President Kevin Reilly, Board of Regents President Charles Pruitt and board VP Michael Spector sent a letter to Martin stating that "in our judgment, your endorsement of the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a stand-alone public authority, wholly separate from the other UW System campuses, is a radical departure from earlier statements about administrative flexibility and efficiency."
The letter adds that "we strongly supported, and continue to support, the principles of the New Badger Partnership, as presented to the Board of Regents and other stakeholder groups. You have made great efforts to promote the need for new management flexibility, emphasizing that such flexibility could be achieved without severing ties with the rest of the UW System. We applauded those efforts, but we never supported the separation of UW-Madison from the other campuses."
Furthermore, the UW System leaders note, "this separation -- a departure from the New Badger Partnership -- has generated concern from across the state, and from UW-Madison itself. Dismantling our public university structure is a consequential public policy decision that affects every UW campus, all 72 UW-Extension county offices, and every family who dreams of seeing their child earn a UW degree. With that in mind, a number of Regents have asked that we schedule a special meeting of the Board where this specific topic -- separating UW-Madison from the other campuses -- can begin to receive thorough public consideration."
Martin, in a Feb. 16 e-mail, asked the regents and chancellors of other UW System schools not to oppose the split.
In her Tuesday afternoon e-mail to the campus community, Martin added that "I do not agree that the public authority model under discussion would be a 'radical departure from earlier statements about flexibility.' "
Friday's special meeting begins at 10 a.m. in room 1820 of Van Hise Hall, which is located on the UW-Madison campus at 1220 Linden Dr.
If you can't make it, the notice states, the meeting will be webcast here from 10 a.m. until approximately 2 p.m.