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Split decision

Potential Madison split from the UW System sparks conversation on UW-L’s future

By Gretchen Zishka
On March 2, 2011

 Part of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's future budget plans - the ones that began weeks of protests both at the Capitol and at UW-La Crosse - would involve allowing UW-Madison to split from the UW System as a whole through a program called the New Badger Partnership. The Student Senate discussed possible implications of UW-Madison leaving the system at last week's meeting. The consensus was that to have the state's flagship campus split would have far-reaching effects on UW-L and the UW System.

Chancellor Joe Gow and UW-L's Vice Chair for Administration and Finance, Bob Hetzel, are planning to speak further about the financial implications of a UW-Madison split. The Senate was more concerned with how the split might affect the resources available, future tuition rates and availability of financial assistance to UW-L.

Senator Madisson Heinze, who works in UW-L's library, pointed out that UW-Madison has the rights to some essential software, like PeopleSoft, that UW-L uses. Also, many databases and resources available to students through Murphy Library are run through UW-Madison. "This will have a giant impact on what resources are available and our tuition rates," she said.

Senators involved in the sciences pointed out that many things, like lab supplies, are bought for UW-L in conjunction with UW-Madison and expressed concern that a system split would affect UW-L's ability to make needed bulk purchases, which would drive up supply costs.

Heinze added that since Walker would appoint the majority of UW-Madison's Board of Directors in the case of it splitting from the UW System, "this just gives him more control over our state's flagship campus...and Walker has a short track record concerning education."

Currently private donors can donate to the UW System as a whole, but if UW-Madison left the system, some money that may have gone into the whole system might end up only going to Madison. This means that state funding cuts aside, a split could mean more financial losses for UW-L.

But there could be advantages to Madison splitting from the UW System. College of Business Administration senator Matt Zahn said, "There's so much bureaucracy within the state…[the split] would allow for a more effective operation of our system."

The New Badger Partnership's Web site bills the plan as a way for UW-Madison to "be part of the solution to the state's new economic problems." It promises cost savings and greater flexibility, but that's also something the rest of the UW System wants - greater autonomy in the face of leaner budgets.

 Once a decision is made on the budget bill, more details of the split will be known, as well as what UW-L can do about its effects on our university. The Senate expressed hope that any animosity between Madison and the rest of the system can be avoided, and if a complete split happens, the other UW schools will not be diminished.

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