Flexibility task force recommends changes to offer UW autonomy

Aug. 14, 2012

by Greg Bump

A task force looking into UW System governance and operations is recommending a variety of changes that would give the UW System more autonomy over operational and governance matters, and transfer some authority over spending from state government to the Board of Regents.

The Special Task Force on University of Wisconsin Restructuring and Operational Flexibilities recommends a series of flexibilities in capital planning and building for the system. UW–Madison Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell, who served on the task force, said the flexibilities would allow for savings both in terms of time and cost.

Among the panel’s recommendations included shifting the authority to contract for the architectural and engineering services of university building projects from the state Department of Administration to the Board of Regents, and to grant the regents broad purchasing authority for supplies, equipment and other consumable items. Regents would also receive administrative rule-making authority over purchasing under the recommendation.

“We need the ability to procure goods and services at the cheapest possible cost and in the most expeditious manner,” Bazzell said during an interview on WisconsinEye.

In addition, the task force recommends modifying the current building project enumeration structure to create two broad project categories, new space and renovation or repair of existing space, and shifting oversight of leasing by the universities from the Department of Administration to the regents.

The task force was formed in the 2011-13 budget to study and recommend changes to the governance and operational structure of the 26-campus system. Members of the task force included legislators, system chancellors, regents and former regents. (See the task force’s full report.)

Among the other recommendations from the task force:

  • A majority of task force members backed the creation of institutional advisory boards at each campus, with each board to be created at the discretion of each campus’ chancellor. However, the panel recommended that Board of Regents should retain primary governance authority over the UW System. The advisory boards would include one or two regents. Interim Chancellor David Ward endorsed the advisory board concept earlier this year, saying the advisory boards would help foster better communication between regents and local campuses.
  • The panel considered whether employees who were categorized as classified staff should retain transfer rights within the system and other state agencies, and whether these employees should have governing authority like faculty, academic staff and students. The task force recommended that these decisions should be left to the Board of Regents and UW-Madison chancellor to develop. At UW-Madison, those questions are being considered as part of the HR Design project, and UW System is going through a similar process with the University Personnel Systems project.
  • Also among the recommendations from the task force is separating UW System employees from the state compensation plan. Instead, the Board of Regents should request funding for employee compensation and benefits adjustments as part of the system’s biennial budget request, the panel recommended.