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UW System Viability, Academic Freedom Facing Serious Threat from Walker Budget Proposals

For immediate release: January 27, 2015

Contact: Aaron Bibb, Communications Director

(608) 345-7542, bibb@aft-wisconsin.org

Madison, WI: Massive budget cuts and fundamental structural changes to the UW System proposed by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker today will lead to a significant reduction in the quality of education for UW System students, AFT-Wisconsin members and leaders predicted. “Scott Walker’s proposal to slash $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System shows that he’s willing to do just about anything as he puts his presidential ambitions above the needs of Wisconsin,” said AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas, a teacher in the Superior School District, in response to Walker’s plan. “He’s scrambling to find money to pay for his irresponsible tax cuts for his wealthy donors, and Wisconsin’s college students will have to pay the price. These cuts to the UW System will almost certainly threaten the ability of current students to graduate on time, and will damage, perhaps irrevocably, the ability of the UW System to attract and retain the best faculty and staff.”

Beyond the funding cuts, Chad Goldberg, professor of Sociology and faculty senator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and member of AFT-Wisconsin union United Faculty and Academic Staff, pointed to elements of the proposal that would remove legislative protections for tenure and shared governance. “Higher education depends on the ability of faculty to teach and perform research in pursuit of the truth, free from political interference: to engage in ‘that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found,’ as the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents put it in 1894. Walker claims to be increasing ‘freedom’ for the UW System with these proposals, but by removing tenure and shared governance from state laws, he’s actually attacking the most fundamental freedoms in higher education. Between the staggering funding cuts and the radical attacks on academic freedom, Walker’s proposal would irreversibly damage the quality of the UW System.”

Kohlhaas pointed to organized efforts through higher education unions to fight Walker’s proposal, noting, “This is the clearest example imaginable of the need for strong, organized higher education unions. Our members are already mobilizing on their campuses and in their communities to protect the UW System from these unprecedented attacks. They know that they can’t depend on legislators or anyone else to stand up for higher education; it’s faculty and staff union members from Eau Claire, Madison, Green Bay, Milwaukee, and the rest of the UW System who are defending high quality education in our state.”

(Photo by Phil Roeder, used under Creative Commons license.)