All UW campuses deserve flexibility

I recently joined with my colleagues Mike Lovell, the new Chancellor of UW-Milwaukee; UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer, and the leaders of other UW System campuses in signing a letter renewing our request to state legislators for new leadership flexibility.

Our open letter to Wisconsin lawmakers reiterated our unified support of— and the pressing need for— enactment of the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.

As UW System President Kevin Reilly stated in our letter, the need for these flexibilities is urgent. Under the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, all UW institutions — including the campuses in our region — benefit significantly from changes in state laws governing budget matters, financial management, tuition, human resources, construction and purchasing.

The plan preserves a unified UW System which includes UW-Madison. These statutory changes will allow each UW institution to operate more efficiently, to operate more like a business.

With the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee preparing to take up the UW System’s 2011-2013 budget and the new budget set to take effect July 1, delays in providing these flexibilities would adversely affect our ability to serve the more than 45,000 students who attend our campuses in Milwaukee, Whitewater, Waukesha, and here in Kenosha/Racine.

We aren’t asking legislators for a blank check. Far from it. Along with these new responsibilities, we are also ready to institute new accountability measures that will allow the public to gauge our performance.

Statewide, the Wisconsin Idea Partnership has been praised by elected officials, chambers of commerce, UW students, UW faculty and staff, and editorial boards. I ask that you visit to get more information on the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.

I also ask you to contact your legislative representatives to express your support for the Wisconsin Idea Partnership. With your help, we can forge a bright future for Wisconsin.

Debbie Ford is the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha.