University of Wisconsin–Madison

Faqs

Chancellor Rebecca Blank and university administrators are gathering input and questions from the campus community related to the 2015-2017 biennial budget. Questions will be answered in this FAQ document.

If you have a question you would like to see answered here, email budget@uc.wisc.edu.

General

  • Does the budget proposal eliminate diversity programs?

    Governor Walker’s budget proposal makes sweeping changes to Chapter 36 of state statutes, the section of state law that governs the University of Wisconsin System, and puts the language governing UW System into Regent policy. This includes provisions regarding diversity on UW campuses.

    Chancellor Blank has stated repeatedly that maintaining diversity programs at UW–Madison is a top priority as we continue to hear from employers about the importance they place on hiring candidates who have been exposed to a diverse environment at the college level. She has had discussion with members of the Board of Regents who have stated their commitment to keeping the programs intact once they are transferred to the purview of the Board of Regents.

    Like all programs across campus, diversity programs may receive some reduction in funding to help the university absorb the proposed $300 million cut in state support to the UW System. But Blank has indicated that the cuts to diversity programs at UW–Madison will be less severe than they will be to other programs, such as administration.

  • State taxpayer funding accounts for about 17 percent of the UW-Madison budget. If that part of the budget is cut by 13 percent, isn’t the overall cut of about 2.5 percent manageable?

    The idea has been suggested recently that the $300 million proposed UW System budget cut amounts to only a 2.5 percent cut in overall UW System funding. In reality, the governor’s budget includes a 25 percent cut in state funding for essential educational functions, such as instruction, student advising and programming. That funding is called General Purpose Revenue and UW-Madison would see a reduction from $279 million to about $220 million, in addition to other cuts to the university included in this budget.

  • Can the university use reserve funds to make up for the proposed cuts?

    In 2013, the issue of how much funding UW System schools should keep in reserve became a contentious topic. In the 2013-15 budget, legislators required UW System administration and schools to spend tuition dollars held in reserve to cover the proposed state funding cuts.

    By the end of last fiscal year, the discretionary reserves at UW–Madison, which are the only fund balances not already committed to payments, fell to $54 million. This is extremely low for a large and complex organization with an approximately $3 billion budget. Most private sector companies try to keep discretionary reserves at a level that would cover costs for 1.5 to 2 months. The level that exists at UW-Madison would cover less than a week. Drawing the reserves down any further would be fiscally reckless.

  • Is increasing the course load of faculty and staff a way to ease the burden of the proposed budget cuts?

    Faculty members have two major responsibilities: teaching and research. In addition to this two-pronged mission, many have additional administrative duties and many regularly engage in outreach activities off-campus.

    A study released in February 2014 regarding workload across 10 departments designed to represent the four major fields (biological science, physical science, social science and the humanities) showed that UW-Madison faculty work 63 hours a week on average. According to the survey, 96 percent of faculty work with undergraduates, spending an average of 18.4 hours a week teaching, advising and mentoring them. Ninety-seven percent of faculty work with graduate, professional and post-doctoral students, spending an average of 16 hours per week teaching, advising and mentoring them.

    At UW–Madison, 100 percent of faculty conduct research, some of it alongside graduate and undergraduate students, spending an average of 21.3 hours per week on those activities. Ninety-nine percent of faculty do work that strengthens the university’s outreach mission, spending an average of 8.7 hours a week on service-related activities.

    Like elementary and secondary school teachers, faculty have to prepare for classroom instruction, hold office hours, and provide feedback to students on their exams and assignments. They also supervise students in independent study, directed study, and research settings each semester and stay up to date with developments in their field.

    Research is central to their jobs. According to university statistics, each faculty member is bringing in approximately $242,000 on average to support their research in a highly competitive national environment. Faculty and staff brought in more than $500 million in federal research awards in 2012-13, money that would not otherwise come to Wisconsin. Requiring them to teach more classes would reduce their time dedicated to the other critical functions of the university.

    Furthermore, our ability to hire and retain faculty is determined by the jobs we offer at UW versus the jobs available elsewhere. UW faculty teaching loads are entirely consistent with teaching loads at comparable universities around the country. In a highly competitive environment for top researchers, UW has to offer jobs that are similar to those offered by our peers.

  • Can cuts to administrative staff cover the reduction in state funding?

    Contrary to what some assume, being big doesn’t mean being inefficient. UW–Madison’s central administration costs are low compared to its peers in the American Association of Universities, an association of 62 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. and Canada.

    According to 2013 data, UW–Madison ranks sixth lowest among the 32 largest public research universities for the amount spent on day-to-day administrative support as a percentage of total operating expenses. These support services include general administrative services, legal and fiscal operations, purchasing and printing, employee personnel and records, and information technology.

    UW­–Madison is one of the largest employers in the state of Wisconsin, with roughly 21,000 full-time equivalent positions, plus another additional 13,000 undergraduate student part-time employees. While we believe the data show we run a tight ship, we continue to seek ways to reduce inefficiency and have instructed our deans and directors to take a very cautious approach to filling positions as we manage the current budget challenges.

For Employees

  • Will there be changes to the Supplemental Health Insurance Conversion Credit?

    At this time, there has been one minor adjustment to SHICC. On June 1, 2015, the state Department of Employee Trust Funds clarified a rule regarding Accumulated Sick Leave Conversion. ETF defined the “highest basic pay rate” for calculating accumulated sick leave value of converted credits used to pay health insurance in retirement as an employee’s highest rate from a position that earned convertible sick leave. What this means is that pay for limited term employment (LTE) or project employment that did not earn convertible sick leave cannot be used in calculating an employee’s highest basic pay rate.

    Currently, no other changes to the program have been proposed.

    Any questions please contact UW Madison Benefits Services at 608-262-5650 or benefits@ohr.wisc.edu.

  • Is seniority affected by breaks in service as a state employee?

    Breaks in service will impact adjusted continuous service date.  The adjusted continuous service date is the total years in the employment of the UW or the state in employment that is eligible to earn sick leave.

    During the time an employee does not work for the UW or the State or the employee is employed in a non-leave eligible position for the UW or the State, the time away is considered a break in service. Breaks in service under 5 years in length will result in the  adjusted continuous service date being adjusted for the period of time away. Breaks in service of 5 years or more will result in zeroing out the previous continuous service date and a new  continuous service date being established as the most recent start date.

  • What is the difference between being a state employee and a public authority employee?

    The administration set aside funds to ensure all classified staff receive a living wage effective July 1. This will continue despite the proposed budget cuts.

    The hourly wage is set at $12.62 based on the city of Madison living wage, which equates to 110 percent of the federal poverty rate for a family of four.

     

  • Can private donations be used to help fill the budget gap left by the state funding proposed cuts?

    Donors typically designate private donations to the university for a targeted purpose, be it a facility, a particular school or college, or a specific chair or program. Those funds, while extremely important to our educational mission, can’t be used to plug budget holes in other areas.

    The $100 million given this year by John and Tashia Morgridge, for example, will be used to create endowments to support the research of professors. It is intended to drive another $100 million from other donors who get to name the endowed chairs at half the usual cost. When all $200 million is secured, about $9 million will be available annually for the endowed chairs. This money is a tremendous benefit for the faculty, but it does not pay for instruction, facility costs, student support or other base budget expenses. Of the university’s $2.9 billion budget, roughly 12 percent comes from private donors.

    Gifts to the university are vital to our funding structure and are used to leverage other revenue sources. But gift funds in no way lessen the importance of maintaining a strong financial base of support from the state, from tuition, and from research dollars.

  • What is happening to plans to ensure all classified staff are paid a living wage?

    Seniority will be the primary factor in determining layoffs for academic and classified staff, although some exceptions for academic staff are possible based on needed expertise.

    Among the classified staff, temporary employees, such as LTEs, project employees and those on probation, will be considered for layoff first.

    While the budget discussion will continue in the state legislature for several more months, we hope to give employees as much notice as possible.

    We expect to begin the notice process in April with separations taking effect by July, when the new budget year begins.

    We will follow existing layoff policies regarding providing notice and affording employees rights and benefits, not the policies that are emerging from the HR Design initiative.

    For specific information on those policies, visit http://acstaff.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ASPP-Chapter-5.pdf (academic staff) or http://www.ohr.wisc.edu/polproced/cppp/cppp_chapter19.pdf (classified staff).

  • Does the university provide any job-seeking assistance for staff who are laid off?

    Yes. Classified staff who are laid off receive three years of mandatory placement rights in similar job vacancies that arise across campus.

    Academic staff receive priority for job vacancy referrals.

  • How and when will staff layoff decisions be made? How will you ensure the process is fair?

    Seniority will be the primary factor in determining layoffs for academic and classified staff, although some exceptions for academic staff are possible based on needed expertise.

    Among the classified staff, temporary employees, such as LTEs, project employees and those on probation, will be considered for layoff first.

    While the budget discussion will continue in the state legislature for several more months, we hope to give employees as much notice as possible.

    We expect to begin the notice process in April with separations taking effect by July, when the new budget year begins.

    We will follow existing layoff policies regarding providing notice and affording employees rights and benefits, not the policies that are emerging from the HR Design initiative.

    For specific information on those policies, visit http://acstaff.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ASPP-Chapter-5.pdf (academic staff) or http://www.ohr.wisc.edu/polproced/cppp/cppp_chapter19.pdf (classified staff).

  • What are the guidelines for lobbying activities by UW–Madison employees?

    The introduction of the governor’s biennial budget bill raises questions about what efforts are appropriate to influence legislative consideration of the budget bill. Written or oral communications with legislators, legislative staff, the governor, the governor’s staff, or other agency officials involved in the legislative process (“state officials”) made to influence legislation constitute “lobbying” that is regulated by state law. Lobbying does not extend to providing responses to requests for information from legislators or legislative staff.

    What follows is a description of the types of lobbying that university employees could do and the corresponding reporting obligations under the state’s lobbying law.

    On university time:

    • University employees undertaking official duties and on behalf of the university (mainly limited to those in positions of leadership) may contact state officials on university time but this will trigger state lobbying reporting. Under state law the university is required to report the names of those employees whose duties include attempting to influence legislation on behalf of the university. As a result, any employee engaging in lobbying activity should contact University Relations to report the contacts made. In addition, we recommend that such communications utilize materials developed by University Relations to ensure coordination of message and related matters.
    • University employees are free to contact persons other than state officials on university time and using university resources without triggering reporting of that activity by the state’s lobbying law, so long as such contacts are minimal and do not interfere with the performance of job duties. Here again, we recommend employees contact University Relations to ensure coordination of message and related matters.

    Off university time:

    • University employees are free to contact state officials or others on their own time without using university resources and such activity will not require any reporting of that activity under the state’s lobbying law.

    Questions concerning these matters may be directed to either Charlie Hoslet or Matt Kussow in University Relations (890-4880) or Ray Taffora in the Office of Legal Affairs (263-7400).

Tenure and Shared Governance

  • What is shared governance and why is it important?

    Shared governance, like the Wisconsin Idea, is one of the core principles of the university, contributing to the collaborative spirit espoused by our famous “sifting and winnowing” statement. It gives representation to academic staff, classified staff, faculty and students, who all take part in making significant decisions concerning the operation of the university.

    Because of this collaboration, shared governance ensures an inclusive, transparent governance process. It also brings the best ideas to the forefront, builds consensus and helps improve decision-making on campus.

    Chancellor Blank is concerned that potential changes to tenure and shared governance are being recommended without consultation with or input from those that will be most affected, adding to the collective concerns of many on campus. She has stated that “Universities run best when there is broad consultation and I expect that to continue at UW-Madison.”

  • Does this mean that tenured professors can do whatever they want, even if it’s controversial or unproductive?

    Academic freedom does not release tenured professors from maintaining high standards.

    The university already employs a committee on post-tenure review to help chart and review progress. This is an important part of maintaining the university’s overall standard of excellence.

    As the AAUP notes, “college and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

  • Why is tenure important?

    Tenure is crucial in ensuring educators and researchers have the freedom to pursue their work without fear of reprisal. It protects faculty research and faculty speech on controversial issues from political interference.

    UW-Madison has a long history of standing up for academic freedom. In 1894, the state superintendent of education in Wisconsin tried to fire Professor Richard Ely from his tenured position at UW because of his political views.

    The regents refused to censure Professor Ely, stating “…we believe the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

    Tenure is not about protecting faculty as much as it is about protecting ideas and the free discussion and exchange of all perspectives.

    There is also a practical reason tenure is important. As long as all of our peer schools offer the academic protection of tenure, if Wisconsin does not offer this it will be unable to attract and retain a first-class faculty

    Innovative, award-winning professors add to the value of our university – and ultimately our state. In turn, these professors give back to the state by educating Wisconsin students and providing them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed and innovate in the future. Our top faculty, whose scholarship makes them the most desirable to other institutons, also bring in the external research grants that make up more than 30 percent of the UW-Madison budget and which drive our research reputation.

    The competition for top faculty in higher education is fierce. To get tenure at UW requires an individual to engage in research that leads to a national (and often an international) reputation. Our tenured faculty are attractive hires at many other universities. If they leave, they not only reduce our reputation but also take to another employer their research dollars and the return on our investments.

    A degree from UW-Madison has a high value in the marketplace and around the world. In no small part, this is due to the top professors who choose to work here. We owe it to students and taxpayers to keep the value of that degree high.

  • How is Chancellor Blank responding?

    The chancellor opposes the language as written and is working with legislators in an attempt to strike this language or modify it so that it is clearly consistent with the tenure policies of peer institutions.

    In the event that this language as written becomes part of the final budget bill, she is leading university efforts to take independent action to protect freedom of inquiry.

    Effective July 1, the university has the authority to create its own personnel system. The University Committee plans to form a faculty-led task force to draft a new policy consistent with our current policies and practices, guidelines of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and policies of our peer institutions. This would provide detailed guidelines describing under what conditions faculty could be terminated, and the process for doing so.

    The UC committee would be a faculty led and directed effort, which would bring a recommended policy to the Faculty Senate this coming fall,, although any final changes to policy will need to be approved by the Board of Regent. This creates credibility and stability to policy, and assures that the Board of Regents supports and will enforce the policy.

    Chancellor Blank pledges to maintain current UW-Madison tenure policies and practices until a new policy is in place.

  • Is UW-Madison's accreditation at risk?

    No. Jeffrey H. Rosen, vice president of the Higher Learning Commission (the organization that accredits United States universities), has said the following: “Let me state emphatically and on the record that UW-Madison is in no danger of “losing its accreditation” over planned (or reported) changes to the tenure system at the University of Wisconsin System.”

  • Has tenure been abolished?

    No. The language the Regents put into their policy about tenure is the same language that is in current state law. At most other universities, including UW-Madison’s peers, tenure is dealt with in policy, not state law.

    Political leaders have said that they are not eliminating tenure and they want the UW System to be competitive. For example, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) says that the Joint Finance Committee motion is “permissive” and that the Regents will determine the policy as it affects tenured faculty.

    In addition, the University Committee is developing protections for tenure that will provide detailed guidelines describing under what conditions faculty could be terminated, and the process for doing so.