THOMAS BEYER-BOWDEN | firstname.lastname@example.org
The UW system will being undergoing a system restructure effective July 1, 2018. The changes, proposed by UW System President Ray Cross, will integrate two-year colleges with four year Universities. The goal of the restructuring is to keep campuses open as statewide enrollment in two year colleges drops between 32% and 50%. The restructuring was approved in November and a merger steering committee was created to assist in planning and implementation. The change will be similar to that of Racine and Kenosha’s two year colleges, which merged to create UW-Parkside 49 years ago.
Student reps ask for a voice on committee
UW System student representatives put together a letter to President Cross requesting voting representation and an active role in the steering committee which will oversee the merger. They cited section 36.09(5) of Wisconsin legislature. Specifically, that “The students of each institution or campus shall have the right to organize themselves in a manner they determine and to select their representatives to participate in institutional governance.” This letter was sent out to President Cross as well as the vice presidents, Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s Senators and Representatives, and the members of the steering committee.
The letter was drafted and sent before student representation on the committee was announced by the Steering Committee, due to concerns that the system change was being pushed through without proper student representation. These concerns came after changes to Segregated University fees and Free Speech policy were voted on without student representatives being present to provide a student voice.
The Steering Committee’s response
The members of the steering committee have since stated that nobody on the committee will have voting power. Rather than voting on how the restructure will occur they will instead simply propose suggestions on how to further develop the restructure, which is then decided by President Cross. They have also assured student representatives from schools affected by the change that students will be on the committee and that students who are not members of their student governments will be able to provide input during the coming discussions.
Transition teams and branch campuses
Each affected institution (of which UW-Parkside is not one) will also be creating their own transition teams that report directly to the committee. Each institution will be able to select their own members for their team and many Universities have already announced their commitment to having student representatives on their teams.
Two-year colleges in the UW system will become branch campuses of the universities that absorb them. This means that according to the Higher Learning Commission’s definition, they will remain “geographically apart and independent of the main campus.” Additionally, they will have their “own supervisory and administrative structure, as well as its own budget.”