Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Would You Do?

Some proponents of the NBP are asking a reasonable question: If not the New Badger Partnership, then what? How to cope with the pending massive cut to UW funding without hiking tuition and getting a nice new toolbox?

Good question.

First, begin by convening experts (scholarly experts, not only your fellow administrators) with competing viewpoints and ask them to review the relevant documents and make proposals. Don't hire an outside expert for $3 million-- heck that's more than the annual budget for many departments!

Second, make information on current spending widely available and accessible and ask for input. Take that input seriously. Don't promise people ice cream with sprinkles and cherries on top for telling you what you want to hear.

Third, consider the possibility that real innovation--a whole new way of thinking about how to deliver higher education--could save public higher education. Keep the core mission: educating the children of the state at a reasonable pricepoint, as best you are able given the resources you have. Act like an "A" student and stop worrying about competition--just put your head down and do your best work. Only "B" students spend their valuable time trying to constantly compete and push down their opponents. Madison's focus on per-student spending and exclusivity - an attitude reinforced by rankings systems like U.S. News and internalized by an ill-informed public-- is getting us nowhere. It's time for the Madison administration to act "responsible for training and educating the people they have been elected and appointed to serve, rather than acting as custodians of institutions."

There are many experts on higher education policy who think the current budget crisis is a true opportunity to disrupt business as usual in public higher education-- while keeping it truly public (and not in name only). The current NBP is neoliberalism at its finest and it will only perpetuate the growth of income inequality in Wisconsin and beyond. Telling your constituents that there is only one way to solve this problem--and without you the Titanic will sink-- is in no one's best interest. Let's call it what it is--exclusion-- and bring some more creative minds to a much bigger table.

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