Wisconsin’s(er…the Chancellor’s) Choice

So most of you likely read my previous post here regarding the impact of Governor Walker’s new bill on our Teaching Assistants and the quality of education at our school.  If not go do so quickly.  Done?

So Friday night when the news started really blowing up and the organization started, I sent a few personal texts to Lori Berquam, Dean of Students, and Don Nelson, Director of State Relations, asking for their stance on the bill and letting them know that we would like something from the Chancellor, including a meeting, to support our cause.  I received vague answers back about “still digesting the bill” and that the Chancellor would email us personally on Sunday.

She did email us on Sunday but the language was not as strong as we would hope for. Here is an excerpt from her email. Full language here ChancellorsReplyBudgetRepairBill

Let me address a few of your more specific points, focusing on those aspects of the bill that seem clearest at this point.  It is not surprising to me that we would be asked to contribute more to our benefits, by which I do not mean to suggest that those increases will not be difficult.  They will.  They will be more difficult for some than for others.  It is common for university employees to contribute more significantly to pension and health benefits than employees at UW-Madison have in the past. I do not believe the increases that Governor Walker proposes make our contributions the highest among our peers, but a preliminary review suggests that they are on the high side.  We are not yet certain whether they will affect our graduate students to the same extent as they affect faculty and staff, but are actively seeking a better understanding of the impact.  As you point out, salaries for some of our employee categories, including for faculty, and for our TA’s and PA’s, for example, are already below market rates, and the changes in benefits will put them and the university in an even more challenging situation. I would like to see increases that are less steep, but I do not believe we can expect to avoid increases altogether or to be treated differently from other public employees. As you point out, losing the advantage of low-cost benefits makes other levers more important. I cannot emphasize enough that we need new tools to stay competitive and to do well by our students, staff, and faculty, the tools for which I have argued in the New Badger Partnership

Emphasis mine.  So, the Chancellor sees that this will greatly affect our University yet does not strongly take a stand?  I do understand the difficult position she is in, balancing the politics and the working relationship for the next 4 years with the Governor’s Office but a stronger stance would be nice.  Especially since the bill contradicts parts of the New Badger Partnership Principles document.

This document was passed by a body of representatives from all major areas of campus, including students, and essentially drew a line in the sand.  We would not agree to any new flexibilities if these things were touched as part of the agreement. Full Langauge Here PrinciplesforNewBadgerPartnership2411.doc

The existing right of university faculty, staff and student employees to be represented by unions must not be infringed.

So this bill seems like an infringement, right?  All areas of campus should be standing up for this. Including the Chancellor.  It’s tough to follow her on her proposals when she fails to 100% support the line in the sand that we all established.

More to come

-AJ

EDIT: Here is the official response to the campus at large as posted online.  This is new to the last few hours. It’s identical in substance to her email to us last night.

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