Report: UW System should give more power to campuses to compensate for budget cuts

2011-09-03T09:15:00Z 2011-09-08T17:39:20Z Report: UW System should give more power to campuses to compensate for budget cutsDEBORAH ZIFF | | 608-252-6234

UW System administration should relax its grip on the 26 University of Wisconsin campuses and give individual chancellors more authority, according to a new report.

The recommendations are in large part motivated by necessity: UW System must reduce its operating budget by $2.4 million a year and eliminate 51 full-time positions under Gov. Scott Walker's two-year state budget.

The report is the result of a committee that UW System President Kevin Reilly convened to evaluate the role of UW System and advise him on how to make those cuts. The committee included campus representatives and members of the UW Board of Regents.

The report's authors describe the need for a fundamental shift from a centralized model to one that distributes more power to the campuses.

"It's the most over-regulated system of higher education in the country, particularly at the state level down," said UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells, who was on the advisory committee.

Reilly said he agrees that more authority should be delegated across individual campuses. He outlined how it can be done in a report that will be presented before the Regents at a meeting on Thursday.

"Whenever you have to cut 25 percent of your organizations's budget, it's a crisis by anyone's standards," Reilly said. "I do want this to be a transformative change in the way the System operates."

Reilly's recommendations are:

• UW System administration would no longer review academic programs for quality assurance — relying instead on campus-level reviews and accrediting bodies. UW System would still ensure programs aren't duplicative.

• Central administration would cut down on audits of campus programs, such as study abroad programs.

• Position descriptions would be controlled by campuses.

• Chancellors would be given more authority: serving on Reilly's cabinet and helping to set the agendas for the Regents.

• UW System would "push down" administrative flexibility gained in the two-year budget, such as money management, to the campus level.

Reilly said he will eliminate the 51 full-time positions by laying off eight people and getting rid of jobs that were either recently vacated or had been vacant for some time.

Regent President Michael Spector said the recommendations are subject to Regents review.

"I think we are concerned that we not forego any oversight responsibilities," Spector said.

Wells said he believes there are things that were previously handled by UW System that could be handled on the campus level.

For instance, he said his campus is heavily involved in LEAP, the national Liberal Education and America's Promise initiative. It's currently run out of central administration, but he said he thinks it could be managed at the campus level.

"We can do it probably not only more efficiently, but potentially more effectively," Wells said.

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