Wisconsin state senators and officials from the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents met Wednesday for what Senate Committee on Universities and Wisconsin Technical Colleges Chair Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, called “the beginning of a dialogue” between the two institutions.
The committee discussed a June report on the Special Task Force on UW Restructuring and Operational Flexibilities, a group created to hold the universities accountable to legislators and taxpayers and explore areas for increased flexibilities in university governance and management following the implementation of last biennial budget.
Regent Vice President Michael Falbo, who chaired the task force, said the findings focused on new flexibilities, such as the creation of two separate personnel systems for the UW System, as well as new options for tuition, employee payment and planning for campus building projects.
Falbo said the findings consist of “more questions than answers.” However, he added, some recommendations have already been implemented, such as increased authority granted to individual chancellors to facilitate running each “unique” campus.
The committee discussed with Falbo how the state and university can work together on future initiatives, such as making the process of planning and approving campus building projects more efficient.
State Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said it is increasingly necessary for universities to have more flexibility in those areas.
“I hope people will work with the legislature and the university so that we can jointly be creative and confident that we’re fulfilling our responsibilities to taxpayers,” Schultz said.
Harsdorf also expressed concern over the recent announcement of over $33 million dollars in overpayments to UW System employees in the last year.
“As someone who has advocated and worked for additional flexibilities for the university, I also believe that the accountability component is key,” Harsdorf said.
Falbo said “it is not one of [the system’s] high moments,” but the system is working with all the necessary resources to fix the problems.
“I’m not sure that fix will mean we’ll recover all the dollars, but that fix will mean that it will never happen again,” Falbo said.
According to Falbo, the regents are “actively” involved with the issue and will keep the legislature up to date on future issues as the Human Resources System undergoes multiple audits.