What Would You Do?

February 27, 2011 | Blog

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.


  1. Reply


    March 1, 2011

    These are not reasonable. In a vacuum they make sense, but they do not address the serious and pending doom facing UW-Madison. In the creation of her New Badger Partnership, Biddy Martin brought together experts. As for your second suggestion, the vast majority of current spending at UW-Madison is public information. Sprinkles and cherries on top? That's just rhetoric. As for your third suggestion: how is that practical? A social reformation from Biddy Martin when she's facing perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts?

    What you say has merit. But it lacks the empirical and practical basis to be implemented. Sure, I could suggest we have massive social change about the way we see poverty and inequality to address many economic issues facing people today. But I recognize that's completely devoid of the reality in which we live. We need strong policy solutions that pass the political snuff test.

    Biddy Martin has done that. The New Badger Partnership is a pragmatic approach to keeping our beautiful flagship institution what it is today.

  2. Reply


    March 3, 2011

    Thank you for your perspective. I've been looking into the NBP and have had a really hard time finding alternative perspectives. You should keep fleshing out your ideas. We need some more viable options to work with.

    The link to collegeproductivity [dot] org was very helpful. (FYI - the link, as you have it listed does not work when you click it)

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