COMP SCIENCE

Lawmakers want University of Wisconsin System schools to track how much faculty member teach.

PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

Lawmakers on the state’s budget-writing committee have revived a controversial plan to track how much time professors in the University of Wisconsin System spend teaching — five months after they initially rejected the proposal.

The budget provision requires the UW System to develop a plan for measuring the teaching hours of faculty and academic staff, and to reward those employees “who teach more than a standard academic workload.”

Data on teaching hours would have to be included in reports the System sends to the governor and Legislature, and published on UW’s online “accountability dashboard.”

It’s one of several policy changes included in a wrap-up motion members of the Joint Finance Committee added to the state budget Wednesday night as they finished their work on the spending plan, which is two months overdue.

The plan to track faculty teaching time first surfaced in Gov. Scott Walker’s executive budget, but was thrown out in April when the committee purged dozens of policy changes from the proposal.

UW faculty and administrators had complained that Walker’s proposal took too narrow a view of professors’ roles, particularly at research institutions such as UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee.

After the committee’s action Wednesday, UW-Madison officials repeated their criticism that the budget provision fails to “take into account the broader mission of faculty and instructional staff.”

“UW-Madison faculty provide service to Wisconsin in three critical areas: teaching, research and outreach,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said. “Each of these services is important so any method of tracking faculty workload should include all three areas, not merely time spent in the classroom.”

It’s not clear why the provision was resurrected — it was included in a budget motion that does not require lawmakers to attach their names to proposals.

The offices of the Joint Finance Committee’s co-chairpersons, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, did not return calls about the change Thursday.

Other policy changes in the motion include a provision banning UW institutions from enacting rules that require chancellors and other top officials to have terminal degrees such as doctorates, and a requirement that the Legislature approve any transfer of money to the UW-Oshkosh Foundation.

The committee passed similar restrictions when it approved a budget for the UW System in May.

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Nico Savidge is the higher education reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.