Hansen and Bewley Call for Public Hearing on Secret Plan to Merge UW Campuses and Tech Colleges

(Madison)—The Democratic members of the State Senate’s Universities and Technical Colleges Committee called today for the committee to hold a public hearing on the impact merging the state’s 2-year UW campus system and the Technical College system would have on the students, faculty, staff and the local communities the campuses serve. 

In a letter to committee chair Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Senator Janet Bewley (D-Delta) said it was “disturbing to learn that meetings on the proposed merger have been held out of the public eye.  Such a significant change in our system of higher education is deserving of public input early on in the process rather than waiting until a deal has been struck behind closed doors.” 

Recent news outlets have reported that Assembly Republicans have been meeting in secret on a plan to merge the two systems.  Details of that plan, how it would work and how it would impact the campuses and the people and communities they serve have not been available to the public.

“The public hearing and committee process exists to provide people with not only an understanding of legislative undertakings but to make their voices heard during the legislative process.  Certainly such a substantial and significant change to our system of higher education merits early and significant public input.”

Recently Republicans tried to slip major changes weakening the state’s open records laws and the board that oversees the Wisconsin Retirement into the state budget.  It was only after the public became aware of those secret efforts that they were dropped from the budget.  Hansen and Bewley believe given the complexity that would surround merging the two systems the public should be given a chance to weigh in before a plan is rushed through the legislature. 

“We respectfully request that a public hearing be held as soon as possible so that the committee can hear firsthand from all stakeholders about the potential impacts of merging the UW 2-year Campus and Technical College systems.  This hearing should include testimony from administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents and community leaders.” 

Despite major changes made to the UW System including cutting $250 million from UW Campuses and making major changes to tenure and shared governance, to date the Universities and Technical Colleges Committee has held only one public hearing.  The hearing was held on June 4th during which the committee heard testimony on five appointments and one senate bill.