TAA E-board Letter to Chancellor Martin

Teaching Assistants’ Association
254 W. Gilman St.
Madison, WI 53703

April 7, 2011

Chancellor Carolyn Martin
161 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Dear Chancellor Martin:

We, the Executive Board of the TAA, write to express our disappointment with your recent email communications concerning the New Badger Partnership, the public authority model, and the separation of UW-Madison from UW System as proposed in Governor Walker’s Budget Bill. We believe your campus-wide email communications are inappropriate. You emphatically advocate for the proposals in the name of the campus community even though the shared governance bodies of the UW-Madison have not yet taken a position on the proposed changes to the University. This is a violation of the principle and spirit of shared governance held dear by the campus community. We ask that you refrain from such communications in the future.

We believe it is the role of the Chancellor to support and facilitate deliberation on issues before the campus body. The Chancellor should bring together diverse opinions from within the university and beyond on issues that have ramifications for campus and the state as a whole. When, and only when, the University community has reached consensus on an issue, should the Chancellor advocate on its behalf. In this case, however, we are concerned that you have chosen to act unilaterally on behalf of the Governor’s budget proposal. While we are sure you believe these proposed changes to be in the best interests of the UW-Madison, we believe that your actions effectively discount and dismiss other perspectives on the proposal and therefore violate the principles of shared governance.

The practice of shared governance also requires meaningful, substantive participation in the creation and deliberation of policy. But meaningful participation cannot occur without equal and timely access to information under consideration. It has become increasingly clear in recent months that members of the UW-Madison community, of the Board of Regents, of the UW System, and members of our sister campus communities, did not share your access to the pivotal information necessary to come to an informed decision on the New Badger Partnership, the public authority model, or the severance of UW-Madison from UW System. If you do abide by the belief that “university faculty, staff, and students [should] participate in significant decisions concerning the operation of their institutions” (ASM), then you must give these stakeholders the opportunity to make a contribution to these decisions.

Many organizations and individuals have come out against many of the Budget Bill proposals, and you should include those positions in discussions surrounding the legislation. TAA members voted to oppose the separation of UW-Madison from the UW System and the formation of the public authority model at a membership meeting on March 20, 2011. We believe that the separation from System threatens the long-term viability of all the UW campuses and is an affront to the Wisconsin Idea. We also believe that the public authority model is a move toward privatization of UW and threatens affordable access to public education. We do not ask that you agree with us. We only ask that you respect and acknowledge the diversity of perspectives held by the UW-Madison community and from around the state.

In summary, we request the following: (1) that you refrain from sending campus-wide communications advocating for a position on Governor Walker’s Budget Bill before shared governance bodies have come to decisions, (2) that you share all information that you have related to these and alternate proposals, and (3) that you serve as a facilitator of meaningful shared governance by providing appropriate venues for the exchange of ideas from diverse perspectives. By undertaking these duties as Chancellor, you will foster a more participatory, deliberative process that reflects our community’s strong beliefs in shared governance and the Wisconsin Idea.

Thank you for your time. We look forward to working closely with you to substantively involve the university community in the legislative process that deeply affects us all.

The Executive Board of the Teaching Assistants’ Association

* “Shared Governance” http://www.asm.wisc.edu/shared-governance.html