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How or if the University of Wisconsin Madison fits into Wisconsin’s higher-education landscape has been a hot-button, national debate for weeks.

That debate graduated to center stage in one of the nation’s leading higher-education publications this week, with University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells offering one of two very distinct positions.

Chancellor Wells and UW Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin offered their stances in a point-counterpoint feature published on the Web site of the Chronicle of Higher Education on March 8.

Chancellor Martin advocates UW Madison’s autonomy from the UW System, a proposal currently woven into Governor Scott Walker’s 2011-13 state biennial budget. The budget proposes UW Madison become a separate, public authority with its own appointed governance board, thus, leaving the UW System and its Board of Regents.

“That model would separate us from the university system by giving us a separate governing board,” Chancellor Martin states in her Chronicle essay. “Despite a different administrative structure, however, we believe that interinstitutional relationships can be preserved and even enhanced under this new arrangement.”

Chancellor Wells advocates for continuance of a unified UW System in which the flagship UW Madison and its sister universities and colleges are, together, given greater leadership and management flexibilities – such as streamlined, cost-cutting hiring processes and the ability to oversee their own campus construction projects.

“If all of the system’s universities and colleges were given this flexibility, they would more efficiently and effectively leverage tens of millions of dollars for the educational benefit of the entire state,” Chancellor Wells states in his Chronicle counterpoint. “Furthermore, the campuses would be better positioned to pursue private giving for scholarships and high-impact educational programs. They would yield more broadly educated and technically skilled global citizens to recharge and retool our economy and our communities. That is the kind of transformative change the entire system needs.”

Both essays were made available for the UW Oshkosh campus community during a series of biennial budget planning forums on March 8.

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