Steven Walters
The State of Politics

UW Faculty Protests Anger GOP Legislators

Walker and legislators double down: they won’t restore UW cuts or tenure protection.

By - May 23rd, 2016 11:32 am
Robin Vos

Robin Vos

Political storm clouds are forming over how much state aid the University of Wisconsin System will get in the next two-year budget. And, if Republicans keep control of the Legislature in November elections, those clouds could easily turn into a red-flag storm warning.

Faculty votes of “no confidence” in System President Ray Cross and the policy-setting Board of Regents on six of the UW system campuses have angered Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders – leaders who must sign off on UW System aid in the 2017-19 budget, which will pass the Legislature next year.

UW System faculty members object to several actions by Walker and Republican legislators: State aid to the UW System was cut by $250 million in the current two-year budget, forcing buyout offers, unfilled vacancies and canceled classes. State law guaranteeing tenure protection was repealed, leaving it up the Regents to set new tenure guidelines. Undergraduate resident tuition has been frozen for four years.

But, in a WisconsinEye interview at the Republican Party state convention, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called the faculty votes “not helpful” and a “big mistake on their part.”

Vos said he hopes he can keep state aid for the UW System in the next two-year state budget where it is now – $2.08 billion.

Vos’s statement sends this blunt message to UW faculty members with little or no faith in their bosses: You want state aid to the System increased? Not going to happen.

And, UW faculty should be thankful that legislators allowed the Regents to set new tenure guidelines because, Vos said, “I might have eliminated tenure altogether.” Vos said he only agreed to let the Regents enact new tenure guidelines at the request of Cross.

Walker accused protesting UW faculty members of “groaning.” The governor who will hand the Legislature a proposed budget next year not only hinted that the four-year undergraduate tuition freeze might be extended two more years, but he also added in his weekly public update:

“Today, the overall UW System budget is the largest it has ever been. That’s right.  The overall budget has never been larger and for the first time in history, tuition is frozen four years in a row.  

“These facts might be surprising because of the resolutions recently passed by some UW faculty members….[T]he real issue for them is the fact that we altered the’ jobs for life’ tenure program.  

“In contrast, we believe the focus should be on providing students with the best education possible – in a way that makes college affordable and accessible.  Replacing ‘jobs for life’ tenure with reasonable expectations for teaching just makes sense.”

Walker is right; the total UW System budget is a record $6.19 billion this year. But only $1.03 billion – or 16 percent – of that will come from state taxes. For nine years, legislators and governors of both parties have kept annual aid to the UW System at about $1.1 billion. In that same period, total UW System spending went up 43 percent – from $4.3 billion to $6.19 billion.

In another interview during the GOP convention, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Cross “has done a relatively good job in a very difficult environment.”

Fitzgerald added: “The votes of ‘no confidence’ – I don’t know how that’s productive for either side.”

When Fitzgerald was asked what the top priority for more state aid should be in the next budget, he didn’t mention the UW System. Instead, “The priority … would probably be to put more money in K-12 education.” Some Republican senators have “real concerns” about the need to boost K-12 spending, he added.

The sniping worries UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. The Cap Times reported that she told a faculty meeting on that campus: “It makes me really worried going into this budget round how we maintain a civil and useful conversation.”

Ironically, a recent public champion of the UW System was former Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson. Accepting an honorary UW-Madison degree, the four-term governor and UW-Madison alum called UW faculty members “some of the greatest professors in the United States,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Continuing his not-so-subtle rebuke of Walker, Thompson also called the UW System an “engine of economic development” and research.

But when was the last time Thompson drafted a budget that went to the Legislature? 1999.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at

17 thoughts on “The State of Politics: UW Faculty Protests Anger GOP Legislators”

  1. SteveM says:

    “The priority … would probably be to put more money in K-12 education.”…That’s rich. Just like those “tools” freed up funding for merit pay in K-12…where’s the report on that one. The only wealth distribution in this state is a consolidation of dollars to the corporations and contributor class.

  2. Rich says:

    And governance by spite continues. At this point, who cares who’s worse or who was first, get your f*ing acts together.

    ‘Tis a shame that the populace buys the trite soundbites of “jobs-for-life” and “whining about benefits” since as long as that’s true, the hope for un-electing these clowns is low.

  3. WashCoRepub says:

    With family budgets stretched tight, it’s obvious which party is looking out for families trying to keep college in the realm of affordability. If it weren’t for the tuition freeze, costs would be significantly higher, pricing more and more ‘non-1%ers’ out of higher ed.

  4. Alene says:

    All they had to do was let people refinance their college loans to make it more affordable for them. But, they chose not to. What they are doing is not helping more people afford college. Not one iota. So now Vos is in the business of threatening teachers? You do know that the FY 2017 $283.9 million tax cut for corporations and agriculture are being financed with the $250 million cut to UW.

  5. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Alene- Oh, Vos knows. Heck, cutting taxes and making the state go broke and have to cut the UW is THE PLAN. Straight out of the ALEC handbook.

    Just like Lyin’ Ryan, Robbin’ Vos has a mediocre intellect and a face that is sooooo punchable. C’mon Race-seen County! Stop electing dimwits like this and imposing these fools on the rest of the state and the rest of America.

  6. Alene says:

    One more thing: Isn’t it true that for nine years, legislators and governors of both parties have kept annual aid to the UW System at about $1.1 billion. And for this year UW will get $1.03 billion—or 16 percent—of their total budget that will come from state taxes. So, Vos is saying that he will try to keep what UW gets in state taxes at $1.04 billion each year for the two year budget. If that’s the case, then they are increasing what UW will get from the state. Is that a ploy to make them look good to their constituents when they cut that $0.01 billion out of the budget for UW. Then they can say they are saving the taxpayers money. It’s all a game to them to make themselves look good. It reminds me of the game of shells.

  7. Alene says:

    Sorry Jake, but they have gerrymandered Racine county to ensure Vos will always get back into office (Lyin’ Ryan too). Those of us who used to have a voice in his “tenure” in office no longer have that choice at all.

  8. WashCoRepub says:

    Some free advice. Threats of violence or calls for violence towards public officials (“Vos has a mediocre intellect and a face that is sooooo punchable”) tends to create notifications to law enforcement, which then tends to generate subpoenas for Internet access records from websites and ISPs, which then tends to generate prosecutions.

    So, in the interest of having Urban Milwaukee continue to offer this comment section, it would behoove folks to exercise a little better judgement, regardless of their intellectual capacity or lack thereof for debate free of name-calling and threats.

  9. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    WashCo- WAAAAAAH!!! Your feelings are sooooo precious to me. Stuff it, son. Power-drunk overaged children like Robbin’ Vos have the arrogance to order around the UW System like it’s his little plaything, and openly mocked researchers. and you’re worried about tone?

    That little weasel sent the Assembly on a 10 1/2 month paid vacation (the longest adjournment in decades) but we’re the bad guys for calling him out on his scumminess? These guys need to know thrir actions have personal consequences, because they clearly feel gerrymandering and rigged elections insulate themselves from the damage they are inflicting on the state.

    But let’s make a deal- instead of cutting all campuses, why dont we just close UW-Washington County and other 2-year Colleges in red-voting areas? You want the cuts, you get the cuts! And leave us in the thinking parts of the state alone.

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    How is saying someone has a punchable face a threat of violence? I thought liberals were supposed to be the delicate ones. That’s just sad WashCoRepub.

  11. AG says:

    Jake formerly of the LP says: “why dont we just close UW-Washington County and other 2-year Colleges in red-voting areas?”

    Yep, you’re credible. Let’s listen to all your ideas for the state.

  12. Dave says:

    If Walker and the republicans would accept federal Medicaid expansion funds, that would mean millions per year in
    ADDITIONAL revenue to the state. That money would help with the upcoming budget. They need to get off there political high horses and think about doing something real for the state taxpayers.

  13. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    WHOOSH! That joke about UW-Washington County went right over your head, didn’t it AG?

    But that explains a lot, because right-wingers are incapable of critical thinking and empathy, and the knowledge gained at UW threatens them, and reminds them of their limitations. So of course they want to deform it and lessen its influence!

  14. Jake currently of the MKE says:

    Vos’s crying is nothing more than projection. He’s such a bottom feeder, he’s basically saying to the UW staff why aren’t you thanking me for the crutches after I broke your legs.

  15. Mike says:

    This message is for Robin Vos re: his quote: “I might have eliminated tenure altogether.”

    Really? You want to get rid of tenure? And what will that exactly accomplish, other than sending UW-Madison from a world-class university to a glorified technical college? Or were you just trying to sound like a tough guy, wanting to be thankful for you to allow administrators to do their job (and really, we see through what a big phony that you are)? Let’s see what happens if you even try to suggest that in the next budget cycle.

    The current tenure system is bad enough. But the suggestion of eliminating tenure altogether shows how ignorant and irresponsible the GOP is, and shows how little they know about education and the protection of free speech. The GOP is not for looking out for the people — don’t even try to say you’re watching out for Wisconsin families because, really, you’re not. You are just destroying a great institution that Wisconsinites are proud of.

  16. Mike Carey says:

    Vos has vindicitively gone after Racine Unified because of his hatred for unions(well at least the ones that don’t support him). He plans on doing it again. He targets those with opposing views for punishment. Help the citizens? Not much.

    He will continue his efforts to make all that the republicans do be done in secret so there will be no citizen oversight.

    Now you have veiled threats to the UW-System about even more cuts to funding and removal of tnure.
    Subtract $250 million from coleges and add $250 million as a gift to the billionaire owners of the Bucks. And all the rich white suburbanites who can now go to their subsidized basketball arena for less. Keeping money in the UW-system which may actually help lower incone students isn’t a goal of his. Vos sure doesn’t seem interested in building the middle class in Wisconsin.

    He’s far more concerned with passing laws to allow him to avoid law suts for his slum landlord tactics in Whitewater.
    He’s is a pretty low character individual. And republicans will keep electing him.

  17. Neel says:

    Another reason why I will be taking my 200k+ salary out of the state after finishing up my residency at UW Hospital. Very sad because I am a UW Madison undergrad and med school alum and love this school. Citizens of this state should understand the value of having such an esteemed university in the state. Due to funding- my undergraduate major Medical Microbiology & Immunology was cut- a very technical STEM major. But sure please give more tax credits to big businesses to spur the growth of low-paying retail and warehouse jobs. Pathetic, but will always be a Wisconsinite at heart.

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