Month: February 2014

UW-Madison Student: The Overlooked Economic Value of an Art History Degree

Kelsey Mullane, a University of Wisconsin-Madison junior, writes in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that recent remarks by President Barack Obama and Senator Marco Rubio on the economic value of a humanities degree are evidence of the decay of the humanities:

Today, students are choosing to pursue degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects rather than humanities degrees such as art history, history or philosophy. There are many possible explanations for the decline in students pursuing humanities degrees. However, I believe that the decline is occurring because undergraduate students possess a distorted perception of degree value that deems the humanities as economically inferior to STEM programs.

This perception of degree value is the product of increased criticism of the humanities following the economic recession. This criticism uses numeric data, such as starting salaries and post-graduation unemployment rates, to support the erroneous notion that the humanities teach impractical skills that hold little or no value in the current job market, thereby discouraging their study.

Mullane maintains that both STEM and humanities degrees offer economic value in today’s marketplace.

Assembly to Vote on the Bill Allowing Classified Research on Campus

The Assembly will meet today at 1 pm to discuss and vote on many proposals, including Assembly Bill 729 which would allow classified research on University of Wisconsin System campuses.

The bill was introduced earlier this month and approved by the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities Tuesday. The proposal will move to the Senate if approved by the full Assembly today.

PROFS is registered in favor of AB 729. 

Other items on the Assembly’s agenda today include:

AB 750, legislation that would forbid local living wage ordinances when state and federal money is used for workers’ salaries. Dane County, Madison, and Milwaukee all have living wage ordinances. The bill would also bar residency requirements for workers on public works projects.

SB 267, legislation that would require poll workers to note the type of identifying document used by a voter when registering to vote. That information must also be reported to the Government Accountability Board.

SB 284, legislation that would allow 7th and 8th graders to earn high school credit.


Legislative Committee to Vote on Bill Allowing Classified Research on Campus

The Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee will meet at 9 am Tuesday, February 18 in Room 328 Northwest of the of the State Capitol to vote on three bills, including one that would allow classified research on University of Wisconsin System campuses. A UW System administrative policy currently prohibits such research.

A public hearing on Assembly Bill 729 was held last week. Committee chair Representative Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) expressed concern over the portion of the bill that would allow exemptions to the state’s open records law and said he would not schedule a vote on the bill until the provision was removed.

Representative Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), the bill’s primary sponsor, agreed to remove the provision (Assembly Amendment 1 to AB 729), and the committee will vote on the amended bill tomorrow.

PROFS worked with the authors of the legislation and is registered in support of the bill. PROFS supports the legislation because it ensures faculty will have a say in any decisions regarding classified research. Additionally, some faculty have expressed an interest in doing more classified research. 

ETA 2/18/14: The amended bill was approved by the committee with little discussion.

UW-Madison Political Scientists Testify on Legislative Redistricting

winter capitolRetiring senators Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) held a public hearing on legislative redistricting yesterday, filling a hearing room where more than 75 people testified or registered in support of Assembly Bill 185. The bill would put legislative redistricting in the hands of non-partisan experts but still allow legislative oversight.

Political science professors Ken Mayer and David Canon spoke at the hearing, testifying that the current process is costly and overtly political. Instead, the two experts favor a model used by neighboring Iowa. The Iowa system requires district boundaries to be drawn logically, following municipality borders where possible.

In Wisconsin, the political party in power is responsible for redrawing legislative districts every ten years, resulting in districts that help preserve that party’s majority.

Canon, referring to the most recent maps drawn in 2012, said that practice eliminates competitive legislative races:

“The maps, in fact, were carefully drawn to maximize the advantage for the Republican Party. This is a bipartisan issue, because if Democrats were in control they would have done the same thing.”

Mayer said current practice is “divisive, polarizing, expensive, litigious and undermines basic notions of representation.”

PROFS has been working on the issue of legislative redistricting for some time and arranged a meeting between UW-Madison faculty and Senators Cullen and Schultz last year. PROFS is registered in favor AB 185 and its companion SB 163.

Bill Would Allow Classified Research on Campus; Public Hearing Today

Assembly Bill 729, a bipartisan proposal to allow classified research on University of Wisconsin System campuses, was introduced last week and referred to the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities.

The bill, authored by State Representative Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), would limit classified research contracts to those related to national security issues. Additional criteria would also have to be met for the research to take place and each chancellor would have authority over the processes to approve such research. The bill also requires the chancellor to consult with faculty when approving those processes.

A UW System administrative policy relating to the publication of sponsored research currently limits classified research:

No agreement shall be entered into with any extramural sponsor which prohibits the right of a University employe to publish the results of the project. The University and its employes have an obligation to assure that project results are made known to the general public.

PROFS has been actively involved in conversations about AB 729, meeting with several legislators and industry leaders to discuss the proposal as it was developed. Others in the community have also indicated their support.

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Innovation Network, wrote in favor of the bill in yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Still cites increased research and development funding and partnerships and the expansion of the cybersecurity industry in the state as strong reasons to support the bill.

A public hearing on the bill will be held at 11:05 am today, February 10, in Room 417 North of the State Capitol. PROFS is registered in favor of the bill.

ETA: Livestream coverage of the hearing is available on WisconsinEye.


Board of Regents Meeting at UW-Madison Today and Tomorrow

uw system logoThe University of Wisconsin Board of Regents is meeting at UW-Madison’s Union South today and tomorrow, February 6 and 7. Livestream coverage of the meeting is here.

Regent committees will meet Thursday morning, and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank will address the full board at 1:15 pm today. The board will also hear a presentation on the 2015-17 biennial budget process.

Topics to be discussed in the Research, Economic Development and Innovation Committee include UW System’s technology transfer program, UW-Madison’s Discovery to Product (D2P), and UW System’s federal relations efforts.

The Business and Finance Committee will hear a report on adjustments to faculty and staff salaries in 2012-13 and receive an update on the audit of the Human Resources System.

The state’s Legislative Audit Bureau found that HRS continues to have security weaknesses after more than $33 million in overpayments of health insurance premiums and pension contributions were discovered three years ago. Their report is here.

The full board continues its meeting on Friday. Items on the agenda include recognition of UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program and a presentation of UW-Madison’s NCAA Division I Athletics 2012-13 Annual Report.

Regent committee membership and the 2014 meeting schedule is here.

Legislative Update

Tax Cuts
Governor Scott Walker announced a tax cut proposal at his State of the State address last month. He plans to utilize part of a $912 million budget surplus to lower state income and property taxes. The plan includes:

  • A property tax cut of about $131 on a $150,000 home, Wisconsin’s median home value
  • An income tax cut of $44 to $58 for each tax filer
  • A change in tax policy that would result in the state no longer withholding more income taxes than actually owed, resulting in about $58 more per month per family

The governor’s plan adds $100 million to the state’s rainy day fund, but raises the structural deficit by about $100 million to $725 million at the end of the biennium. Assembly Republicans have indicated strong support for the plan, while Democrats and Senate Republicans have expressed concern.

The legislature is in special session to consider the proposal.

Shared Governance
PROFS continues to lobby to preserve shared governance as described in Chapter 36 of state statutes and UW System Regent policies. Key legislators said they would like to see changes in university governance at a Regent meeting last fall.

Fall Elections
State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) announced he will not seek re-election in November. Schultz has been at odds with his Republican Senate colleagues and faced a Republican primary opponent in August.

State Senator Kathleen Vinehout announced last month she will not challenge former Trek executive and Commerce Secretary Mary Burke for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Wisconsin Retirement System
The State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) announced last month the two funds it manages for the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) posted strong gains in 2013, allowing for the first pay increase in five years for annuitants.

PROFS is currently monitoring two bills affecting WRS:

  • Assembly Bill 470 would increase the minimum retirement age by two years. If passed, it would apply to workers 40 and younger.
  • Assembly Bill 471 would calculate benefits based on the five highest earnings periods, a change from the current three-year formula.

Both bills are in committee awaiting a public hearing.

UW System
The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents appointed UW Colleges and UW Extension Chancellor Raymond Cross next president of the University of Wisconsin System. Cross succeeds Kevin Reilly who stepped down in December to take a position with the American Council on Education. UW-Extension Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor Aaron Brower was named Interim Chancellor of UW Colleges and Extension.

Several campuses are in the process of searching for new chancellors – UW-Green Bay, UW-Stout, UW-Oshkosh, and UW-Colleges and Extension.