New Badger Partnership: LTE in Daily Cardinal

The following is a LTE that I wrote this weekend for the Daily Cardinal.  Regular readers know what it says but it’s important to keep reiterating.

The New Badger Partnership can be a scary thing when first discussed. There are mountains of misinformation being disseminated about the New Badger Partnership ranging from rising tuition to dismantling the UW System. Corporatization and power grabs are participating in frightening (and frighteningly false) conversation pieces that could lead one to oppose the New Badger Partnership based on nothing but false concepts; unless, of course, you know your facts.

The New Badger Partnership is a plan built with the realities of our current socio-economic situation in mind; a plan that will help preserve this university that we all love for years to come. The bare bones of the proposal are to get more flexibility from the state in regards to our budget. We spend the money, we know how it should be handled better than the state does and we don’t like it when the state micromanages. Who do you want making decisions about your education: A board of mostly alumni and education experts or a governor who didn’t get a degree? I’m going with the school-centric board on this one.

I’m sure many of you have heard some of the previously mentioned falsehoods. Here’s the truth: the New Badger Partnership will not cause tuition to rise; the state cutting funding by roughly $50 million will cause tuition to rise. All documents released point to the New Badger Partnership actually reducing the tuition increases than if we were cut without gaining more flexibility.

Students will actually gain power in this new structure. With shared governance language preserved verbatim, we retain all authority that we have now. Additionally, we’ve been told that students would get to decide how to select our new student on the Board of Trustees, which is a huge benefit over the current system where the governor appoints whomever he pleases. Finally, isn’t it a little easier to lobby your governing board when their only concern is your campus? It’s wins all around.

The last bit of truth for this letter surrounds unfounded concerns about privatization. This university currently receives a majority of its funding from private sources and only a small minority from the state and this model seeks to better utilize the funds we have, not eliminate public funding. We will remain a public institution, committed to access, affordability and remaining one of “America’s Best Values” as named by the Princeton Review.

We’re at a crossroads for our university, fellow Badgers. Down one path is the status quo, a lot of governmental red tape and slow process, and down the other lies the tools that we need to solve some of these problems. Am I saying this proposal will fix everything? Surely not, but it’s the best hand we’ve been dealt in awhile, and as any good player could tell you, you have to know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em. We need to hold this hand.


That last paragraph is key.  Keep it in mind moving forward.



Sam Polstein: MVP and now? Blogger

Sam Polstein, ASM’s arguable MVP for the past session is now blogging about ASM and politics.  His first post is full of sound goals and critiques.

Most of these critiques are not new however, but hopefully Mr. Polstein can shed some new light on this and elevate the debate.


New Badger Partnership: Going Viral?

The folks over at North Park Street alerted me to this video this morning and I thought it was worth posting on here.

While I’ve already gone over some of the criticisms in earlier posts, this video serves as a very brief summary of those points.  And it’s catchy and I just like it.

Disclaimer: After watching it a few times, I noticed some of the language used in the rebuttals is similar to my own commentary on this blog but neither I nor Brandon made this video.  Neither of us would even know where to begin…

New Badger Partnership: TAA Urges “Slow Down” for NBP Decision Making

Last night, after 24 hours of hearing criticism over their first email, the TAA at Madison issues a second email, recanting some of their statements and more clearly outlining their concerns.

Dear Members,

Last night we sent out an email regarding the Special Meeting scheduled by the Board of Regents today to discuss the proposed split of UW-Madison from the UW System. Because the window available for notification of the meeting was extremely tight, and our concerns real and many, our email was written in haste. Today we write to clarify our stance and correct some misimpressions we may have given.

Our chief concerns are as follows. Firstly, the development of the New Badger Partnership and the accompanying process lacked transparency and prevented informed discussion of its impacts, both positive and negative. Second, the vitality and sustainability of our sister campuses once cut off from the UW-Madison is unknown, and the UW System has not had the opportunity to respond. Third and most directly relevant to the TAA as a union, the public authority model does *not* guarantee collective bargaining rights for TAs, PAs, or any other UW employees; indeed, if the Governor’s so-called “Budget Repair bill” succeeds in stripping collective bargaining rights from the current public authorities, there will be no existing model of collective bargaining for a public authority institution in Wisconsin. And finally, while it is not true that the New Badger Partnership is an opportunity for those in administration to wield unchecked power, we are nevertheless concerned that faculty, staff, and students might no longer have a meaningful place at the table to determine academic and research policy.

We need to slow down and take stock of the plan, in both its intended and unintended consequences. To that end, the TAA Executive Board has been discussing holding both a forum and a General Membership Meeting where members can learn more about the proposed changes to the UW System, and determine the TAA’s official stance on the issue, if any. We also encourage continued and fruitful participation in campus dialogue on the issue, engaging faculty, staff, administration, and all other stakeholders on this issue in a substantive discussion of the New Badger Partnership, on the merits. We hope you will join us at these and any other public opportunities to learn more about — and actively shape — the rapidly shifting climate of public higher education in Wisconsin.

In solidarity,
Kevin Gibbons
Alex Hanna

TAA Co-Presidents

I think the TAA makes some excellent points in this email and presents their concerns in a non-alarmist way.  Urging for a time to “slow down and take stock of the plan” is exactly what needs to happen across campus.

I’ve been examining these documents for weeks and been having this conversations with students, administration, and legislators for longer and I feel pretty comfortable in my decision but I know that there are many areas where personal opinions can affect one’s views on this proposal.

Thank you TAA for this message.  It’s a message we all need to be thinking about in the days and weeks to come.

Slow down, get the facts, read the actual language (the summary for now, the actual language on Tuesday), and discuss with friends. Challenge your own beliefs about it.  I know I’ve been playing Devil’s Advocate with myself and it really helps clarify what you actually oppose and what just gets lumped together.

Enjoy your weekend!


New Badger Partnership: TAA is lying through their teeth

I applaud the TAA for the effort put into the Budget Repair Bill work; it was truly inspiring and I’m glad I could help and be a part of it.

However, their recent email regarding the New Badger Partnership is one pack of lies after another. I literally JUST posted about how we need to stop lying about this proposal and have honest discussions.  I’m very disappointed in the TAA right now for their blatant disregard of truth.

Some examples

As you likely know, earlier this week, a huge bomb dropped that the upcoming budget bill would split the UW system in two, establishing UW-Madison as a “public authority” institution, with unprecedented freedoms to raise tuition, politicize research, and to silence students’ legal rights to shared governance. This model would strip other UW institutions of funding, and it goes against the role of the UW outlined in the Wisconsin Idea.

  1. Tuition: UW had the same power pre 1971. The Board of Regents can do the same thing now.  Hardly unprecedented and misleading.
  2. Research: As I stated before, its already private research for the most part.  There is nothing in here that would politicize it.
  3. Shared Governance: We can directly put a student on the board, unlike now where the governor selects whoever he damn well pleases. This is a win. Shared Governance language is preserved VERBATIM in the new bill. There is literally NO silencing.  This is a complete lie. No mincing words; the TAA is lying here.
  4. Strip other schools of funding: Madison currently gets 40% of the System’s budget.  The state now just gives us that amount directly instead of through system.  This again, is a lie.
  5. Wisconsin Idea: The Wisc Idea started at Madison when it was an independent school and flourished.  I’d imagine it would function perfectly fine returning to that form.  The Wisc Idea can be used to justify anything because its so flexible, making this point particularly weak.

And would you believe it, then the real misconceptions start.

Tuition increases would no longer be capped by state law. Tuition would have to increase at a dramatic rate due to reduced state funding (see below).

Shared Governance Rights
Because UW would no longer be a state agency, many court decisions relating to shared governance rights would no longer apply to the UW. Such rights include the right of students to appoint representatives to committees, the right of students to organize student government as they see fit, the rule that campus history and traditions dictate rights, and the right of faculty and students to initiate all policy changes.

State Funding
Funding the UW with a block grant would make it easier to dramatically reduce state funding in every future state budget process. The legislature could easily amend the biennial budget bill to remove UW-Madison funding specifically, and the governor’s line-item veto power could result in removal of any and all Madison funding.

Other state Universities, which remain fully public, would compete for funding against the UW. The
other campuses have greater legislative representation and would likely win this battle.

Board of Regents Policies & the New Board of Trustees
All current Board of Regents’ policies would now be under control of a new board that could be entirely appointed by Governor Walker.

Current regent policies dictate that students must approve differential tuition before it is implemented. The new board would not be bound to this policy.

Current regent policy provides each campus and chancellor with a great deal of autonomy. New board policy might place much of the control of campus policy in the purview of the new board.

The UW currently does research that a Republican appointed board would likely eliminate. For example, our New Board of Trustees could require that UW ban stem cell research.

  1. Shared Gov: See above. The court decisions would remain valid because the language of the law is the same.  A memo will be drafted outlining this, much like memos between the Chancellors during the merger became the rationale for case law in the 90s.  This would be no different.  Lovers of case law, no fear, Spoto is still here.
  2. State Funding: Sure and Walker could reveal he is a secretly an immortal vampire tomorrow.  This isn’t realistic.  The state will not remove all Madison funding. Scare tactics.
  3. Regent Policy: The language of the bill stipulates that all current Regent policy will be carried over to the new model.  That means that differential tuition must still be approved by students, among other things.
  4. Board composition: Those details have been released. Yeah, 11 are Walker’s appointees but that’s a lesser percent than he currently controls on the Board of Regents. This is an awful argument to make but a lot of people try to do so.  Of those 11, 7 have to be alums so they need some experience with the university.
  5. Research: Sure, they can ban things.  That would suck.  But so can the legislature. So can the Board of Regents.  And 11 of 21 is hardly a solid majority needed to do something like that.  I would imagine that it would fail.


I feel like I’m beating a dead horse but people continue to perpetuate these lies.  STOP!  Tell your friends what’s going on.  Ask them if they know the facts about this?  I’m not interested in playing a game with this; hell I graduate next year and will not see most of this stuff pan out.  I just don’t want my fellow badgers screwed over by liars and those with their own agendas. The one thing that these people have right is that this is the time to act; However, we must act in SUPPORT of our Chancellor, and in SUPPORT of these courageous and innovative ideas set to make Madison truly special and retain its quality for the future.

New Badger Partnership: Lies and Deception

I’ll preface this by saying that I have no problems with differences of opinion. I work on Council and if you can’t deal with many opinions there, you’ve picked the wrong business. Being a student leader necessitates that I listen, and try to understand as many perspectives as possible before any sort of decision.  However, opinions do not equal lies.

There is a tremendous amount of disingenuous information on Facebook, Twitter, and just about everywhere else, saying what the New Badger Partnership is and isn’t.  For the most part, it’s not worth the time spent reading it.  I’ve answered questions on two separate occasions on this blog: here and here. Additionally, there is a truckload of information at the official website.

Right now, there is a protest organizing on Facebook against the “destruction of our university” and the Chancellor.  I can respect your opinion that the NBP could be bad for the university so the theme itself doesn’t bug me, but the blatant lies and misinformation is a slap in the face to honest students everywhere. Some examples from the group.

Chancellor Biddy Martin, in collusion with Gov. Scott Walker, recently proposed that UW-Madison be cut off from the UW-System, effectively making it a private institution (though they continue to say in her office that it will somehow still remain public). The proposal will be rolled into and made a part of Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget, set to be released on Tues., Mar. 1.

It’s Public because the governor appoints the majority of the board and we receive state funds.  It’s literally the same structure as it is before just creating a new Board of Regents. Our employees remain with the state’s benefits packages, they can maintain state employee retirement accounts, our students have access to the public school scholarships they currently do, etc.  Our budget is currently patched up by 75% private funds: this proposal does not change a thing there or make us less “public” than we were before.  Quit lying.

This is highly problematic for many reasons, including higher tuition, more corporatized research (and less research in the public interest), less affordably and accessibility of the University for Wisconsin citizens (the Wisconsin Idea, a centerpiece of UW-Madison, is dedicated to serving the people of Wisconsin, not its corporations–this includes being accessible to the citizens financially, too), more of a need to take out loans for students at all levels (resulting in less career/job flexibility post-college), and the list goes on endlessly.

I addressed this part on the site but my comment was deleted. Discourse and discussion is only encouraged by these individuals when its in agreement.

  1. Higher Tuition: That’s the fault of the budget. Walker gives us less money, tuition must go up. It’s just math, folks. A + B = budget.  If B goes down, A must go up. The NBP allows us to respond creatively and lessen the tuition increase.  But it will go up, with or without this plan. So drop this point, it’s misleading and irrelevant.
  2. Research: Research is almost entirely funded by private dollars right now.  Public money pays for undergraduate education.  This point again is misleading and not applicable.
  3. Less affordable and accessible: With higher tuition, inevitably some students are priced out, which is a tragedy.  However, these flexibilities would allow us to provide some financial aid from the increased tuition revenue to allow more students access to financial aid.  The University of Virginia was recently named the TOP school for affordability and many of the flexibilities were modeled on that system.  This will only help accessibility. I respect if you disagree but do some research into higher education models and get outside your “own experience”. This is something that can be directly solved. Read the linked article; it should explain some of it.
  4. The list goes on endlessly? That was three things.


Creator Steve Horn and a fellow Badger got into it a bit on one of the Chancellor’s Facebook posts


My point is that I see no persuasive evidence for your claim that anything in the New Badger Partnership would integrate (or, if your highly debatable claim is true, further integrate) UW into such a system. As you said yourself UW-Madison is already 80%+ privately funded, how does allowing ourselves to better utilize these funds for building, scholarship, and hiring purposes have anything to do with that? What you’re talking about is a greater institutional issue that extends well beyond the reach of the NBP and the state itself, and which would not be re-inforced by the relatively modest changes proposed by the NBP. I believe you have an interest in bringing this issue to light, which is great (and I support), but attempting to link the NBP to that issue without evidence related specifically to the case makes your claim unsubstantiated.

At this point I have asked repeatedly for your pragmatic alternative plan to the NBP of which it is clear that you have no viable option. I suggest that anyone reading this string of posts consider that when they listen to the complaints about the NBP: what are the honest alternatives?. If there is one, I’d love to know it. As for now, I don’t like the idea that my tuition money is being wasted on an inefficient bureaucratic system that will not allow our administrators to make basic, necessary decisions, nor the idea that this system is quickly degrading the value of the degree that I have worked so hard to earn. I believe that given the current economic situation, the NBP is the only option for reversing this trend.

Emphasis mine.  Steve dismissed this critique by saying his fellow Badger was a “hired gun” sent to argue the points by those in the Ivory Tower on Bascom.  Max Love, a similarly disingenuous individual, also posted earlier in the thread

Maxwell John Love She must be paying you off too? Recommendation letters? Box seats? Trips to LA?

In disclosure, I have sat in her box at one football game. It was fun, but being in the student section is a helluva lot better! I have never taken a trip with the Chancellor, nor do I plan on asking for a Letter of Rec. With that being said, I find it insulting that everytime someone agrees that a member of administration is correct, they are discounted as a student sell-out or being paid off.  What’s disgusting? That notion.

Don’t let misinformation survive. Stamp it out. Call them out on it. Ask for evidence. I document my claims on this blog and I’d ask for a similar courtesy. These extremists have their own agenda which has nothing to do with the continued success of the university. If you have an alternate proposal, propose it, until then, quit lying about the one on the table.

I stand by Brandon and I’s earlier remarks as well as the remarks made by Professor Cronon, former Chancellor Shalala, the Deans of all the schools, and a multitude of others in standing firm in our support of Chancellor Martin and the principles of the New Badger Partnership. On Wisconsin


Sam Polstein–ASM MVP?

I was once asked by a student newspaper reporter if Sam Polstein, current ASM Legislative Affairs Chair, was the unequivocal MVP for the 17th Session of ASM.  While I contend that ASM is only as strong as its weakest link, there is no question that Sam has shown an amazing amount of leadership and dedication to the student cause.

His latest efforts include protecting the student vote:

If S.B.6 is allowed to become law in its current form, it will undoubtedly disenfranchise Wisconsin students. In the fall 2010 election, Wisconsin had one of the highest student voter turnouts in the country. This bill would put an unwarranted burden on Wisconsin student voters, and turnout is unlikely to be as impressively high in future elections.

This is shocking, disheartening, and unnecessary to prevent the almost non-existent fraud in Wisconsin elections. Our government should be encouraging students to engage in the civic process.

Even though you’re not a Packer fan, Sam, go ahead and put on the belt.

(Thanks to University and State for pointing this out.)