The Future of our University after the COVID-19 Crisis

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Sign on to our demands for the future of our university!

We are United Faculty and Academic Staff. Together with graduate workers, university staff, undergraduate workers, and trades workers, we are the foundation of UW–Madison and the University of Wisconsin System. The University of Wisconsin works because we do. We further the Wisconsin Idea as we—instructors, researchers, technologists, communicators, students, and experts in every field—ensure that our work at UW–Madison benefits people far beyond our campus. We serve our students, our communities, and the people of the great state of Wisconsin and provide a world-class education and world-class research to the benefit of the entire state.

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to reinvest in Wisconsin and the university and respond to the costs of short-sighted planning at the campus, System, and state levels. For years, state lawmakers have systematically attacked public higher education and forced campuses throughout the UW System to spend down surpluses that would have helped weather this crisis. The Board of Regents has authorized furloughs to address budget shortfalls, resulting in policies that have been determined by a small number of stakeholders. Out-going System President Ray Cross has announced plans that would divide and hollow out the UW System. Campus budgets have prioritized administrator salaries and building projects over investing in students and workers. Campus COVID-19 responses have been inconsistent and inequitable. Students, workers, and the people of Wisconsin should not bear the burden of this lack of planning and poor policies.

We call for a democratic, equitable, and responsible plan in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We demand the same from our administrators, from our Board of Regents, and from our state government. UW–Madison administrators must prioritize the needs of our entire campus community. The Board of Regents must support the whole of the UW System. And state lawmakers must guarantee the right of future generations to realize the Wisconsin Idea. Our members have collectively identified core commitments that UW–Madison must make as part of our response to this emergency, to ensure the future health of our university and the many communities we serve.

Solidarity not Austerity. University administration must act on their claims of equity and progressive financial measures. They must advocate for adequate state and federal funding, draw on campus financial resources to support the most vulnerable students and workers, commit to maintaining all departments, and guarantee that workers have the resources they need to carry out their jobs. Administrators must enact budgets that prioritize the students and workers who make the university run, including suspending debt payments to big banks rather than shifting the financial burden to students and workers. The UW Foundation must secure unrestricted funds that provide for students and workers during emergencies.

Stand with Students. The University of Wisconsin must support the needs of all students. UW administrators must advocate for the state of Wisconsin to Fund the Freeze in order to offer students across the state of Wisconsin and beyond affordable access to a UW education. Critical services like safe and secure student housing and work spaces, meal plans, mental and physical health care, access to technology and affordable internet must be maintained, even with students and staff away from campuses. Administration must shelter in dorms students who do not have stable homes, LGBTQI students who do not have access to a safe home environment to continue their studies, and must freeze the 5% rent increase for 2020-2021 at University Apartments (Harvey Street, Eagle Heights, University Houses) which predominantly house national and international graduate students.

Stand with Workers. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. No worker should have to redistribute their hours, no worker should be asked to meet technology standards while working remotely, without university support, and no worker should lose their health insurance. The university must retain all current workers, including extending all fixed-term terminal appointments by at least one year to ensure continued health insurance and a minimum level of job security. In order to support online delivery of quality instruction and services, administration must convert nine-month appointments for the 2020–2021 term to 12-month appointments beginning June 1 of this year. Administration must remove all fees for graduate student workers, re-introduce the $15 per hour promised wage for hourly workers, and extend it to student workers. Administration must end the practice of precarious semester-to-semester employment, guaranteeing all workers contracts that are at least a year long. As more workers return to campus, administration must ensure everyone’s health and accommodate alternate arrangements for people who are or live with those at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19.

Prioritize Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Administrators must do more than just condemn the continued racist attacks and harassment against students and workers of color on this campus and in our community, and instead foster a workplace in which it is not only students and workers of color, but everyone's duty to work toward equity and inclusion. They must diversify the student body, hire and support staff and faculty members of color, and foster a safe work environment to ensure retention. They must continue supporting international students and workers with visa assistance through the ISS and IFSS offices, and not comply with the government’s immigration ban. Administration must ensure that workers who are also parents have more flexibility with completing their work duties from their office-homes where they provide child-care. Administration must maintain all current programs and further invest in those that retain and recruit students and workers of color, support international studies programs, and invest in programs that serve all marginalized and minoritized students. In addition, the university must work to cede land and power back to the Indigenous communities that continue to live in what we currently call Wisconsin.

Respect Worker Expertise. Workers must be included in the decision-making of our university. Administration must meet and confer with labor unions that represent faculty and academic staff, graduate workers, university staff, and trades workers to ensure that decision-making is transparent and inclusive, communication clear and timely, and that working conditions are safe. Meeting with a small number of shared governance leaders is not sufficient to include workers in decision-making. Administration must rescind plans to ask workers to fill out daily reports on their work activities. Campus workers must be treated like committed professionals.

Reinvest in the Wisconsin Idea. UW administration must refuse out-going System President Ray Cross’s proposal to dismantle the UW System and work with System campuses to maintain the integrity, expertise, and accessibility that makes UW System a world leader in higher education. UW administration must advocate at the state level for the continued funding of not just UW–Madison and UW Extension, but the UW System as a whole. An attack on one campus is an attack on every campus.

We stand united and we stand committed to the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Idea. We expect the same from university administration and our government. This is not the time for austerity, but an opportunity to recommit to the state of Wisconsin. Join us as we work for a university system that serves all Wisconsinites.