Call Off Biddy and Her Goons

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Badger Advocates have begun their work, and ladies and gents, it's not pretty.

Wonder what the New Badger Partnership will really do to relations throughout the state and the image of UW-Madison?

Look no further than the Badger Advocate's latest statement, slamming UW System President Kevin Reilly for misstating the size of the enormous budget cut planned for UW System. For pete's sake, Brandon calls President Reilly "intellectually dishonest" and accuses System leadership of stupidity!

Had Brandon simply asked President Reilly why he said System was taking a $340 million cut instead of a $250 million cut, he would have gotten a very reasonable answer. The $250 million is a cut to System's operating budget, but there's another $90 million cut to the UW System in the 2011-13 budget, reflecting higher health/retirement contributions. It's money removed from System's budget because it's removed from their employees paychecks. Given the challenges that all System institutions face in recruiting and retaining faculty, this second cut matters just as much as the first, as it will fuel outflow of talent and undermine the ability to educate students.

The childish name-calling Brandon engaged in is but one effort initiated by Chancellor Biddy Martin and her team in the last week, intended to alienate and shame all those who do not agree with her initiative.

Her other efforts include:

--Inappropriately urging her faculty, staff, and students to take political action if they agree with her. The clear implications of this message, sent via university email, is that enough discussion's been had and now it's time to act. Except this violates tenants of shared governance and simply isn't true-- the faculty and students are divided not united on these issues, and having the Chancellor lean on her campus isn't helpful.

--Vice-Provost Aaron Brower said at a Wednesday night forum that perhaps the reason the Regents hadn't proposed a public authority model is that they do not wish to relinquish their own powers as a board. (To clarify, Aaron is a friend and a very good person trying to deal with a tough situation- I am NOT calling Aaron a goon.)

--I've been in three different campus meetings where students indicated being told that if the NBP does not pass, Kevin Reilly will take action against Madison and its faculty and students in retribution for Biddy's actions.

This is nuts. Anyone who's ever met Kevin Reilly or a regent knows how crazy these accusations are. They hold open discussions and follow the rules, they don't sneak around or try to intimidate people, and they do not intentionally lie. Sure they are imperfect and System doesn't run as well as it could-- but that does not excuse the attacks being initiated by UW-Madison's leadership right now.

Lest you think I'm being unfair to attribute these actions to Biddy, recall that at a recent PROFS meeting, Badger Advocates Brandon and Pete said explicitly that their only mission was to act on behalf of Biddy Martin, to advocate for whatever direction she thought was best for the UW. Asked if they would continue to act on behalf of a future chancellor, both men demured, and Pete said "We were formed to do what Biddy needs done."

This is not what leadership looks like. It's one thing for independent citizens to write about their own opinions in emails, blogs, comments online, etc. That's freedom of speech. It's another thing entirely for a university leader to act to destroy relations throughout a state. Chancellor Martin should be stopped.

UPDATED on Saturday April 8 with some key budgetary details.