10.12.15

WHY IT MATTERS

Faculty at the regional comprehensive universities face challenges their colleagues at the fifty universities claiming to be among the twenty best in the country or in the world do not.  Often they must be competitive in their disciplines, meaning competing for journal space with their counterparts without the benefit of administrative reassignments for research, let alone ample budgets for conducting workshops or travelling to conferences in order to get high-quality questions and comments.  At the same time, they must teach more, or larger classes, with students whose preparation might not be as good, and with less or no assistance from graduate students.  And often at lower salaries.  That's not sustainable, and faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, which occasionally puts a pretty good basketball team on the floor, are letting the Wisconsin legislature know as much.
As UWM has pursued its state-mandated dual missions of broad access to college education combined with top level research, its per-student funding from the UW System has dropped below half that of its doctoral research peer in Madison, which does not have broad access as part of its mission.

The formula for how state funding is divided among UW campuses was re-evaluated by a UW System Board of Regents-appointed task force about two years ago, but that task force recommended no changes to the formula.

Inadequate state funding to UWM over time has "yielded politically produced austerity, undercutting democratic access to public education in Milwaukee," the [university's American Association of University Professors] chapter said in its statement. "This parallels many other forms of underfunding and downright abandonment of the state's largest city."

For more than a decade, increasing enrollments have allowed UWM to accommodate the structural inequality through growth, the AAUP said.

"Now that UWM's enrollments are impacted — in part by increased in-state admissions at UW-Madison — it is time for the UW System to address this ongoing inequity," the statement said.
That might not be the strongest argument to make, as the legislature might use the dwindling college-age population in the state as a rationale to further scale back the funding, particularly for Milwaukee and the former Wisconsin State University System campuses.

The chapter's statement proposes that the legislature allocate funds in such a way as to have equal per-student funding among all campuses, and it notes that even allocating half of Madison's current per-student funding would eliminate Milwaukee's structural deficit.

It's language, however, is about Equity and Access and possibly about Social Stratification.  But wouldn't a stronger argument be that Milwaukee (and the other campuses) are in the same business as Madison, and that treating all campuses accordingly, in funding, and in encouraging academic rigor, would do more for Equity and Access and Social Stratification at the same time?

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