Could free speech on campus affect funding models in Wisconsin?

Dive Brief:

  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has promised not to cut funding for the state's public higher education system, but Assembly Speaker recently told the Wisconsin State Journal that funding could be tied to factors like the number of courses professors teach at an institution, "free speech on campus," and student performance.​
  • Lawmakers are also weighing in on hot topics in higher education, including concealed carrying of firearms on campus, funding for the University of Wisconsin System, and special courses on male identity being taught at the flagship campus.
  • Members of the state legislature, which has a conservative majority for the first time in nearly 50 years, say that bills on limited firearm allowances on public college campuses will likely be a topic for state house discussion before a bill is drafted, but acknowledge strong opposition from students and faculty within the UW system.

Dive Insight:

The idea of performance-based funding is not a new one, though many in higher ed regard it negatively. What's possibly new, however, is the idea of tying funding to campus climate and professors' workloads. At research institutions, including the state's flagship institution, basing funding on the number of courses taught could hamper academic productivity and innovation.

Wisconsin has consistently been on the wrong side of changes to the higher education industrial complex, from what many consider attacks on its tenure system, to a loss od shared governance for faculty to now very contingent funding proposals. But several other states are facing changing legislatures, and college leaders must do an effective and consistent job of convincing lawmakers about college elements which bring a greater good to campus communities and states at large, specifically through free speech and academic autonomy.

Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: DMichael Burns