Proposal to track teaching hours of UW professors reappears in s - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Proposal to track teaching hours of UW professors reappears in state budget

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A proposal from Gov. Walker to track the number of hours UW System professors spend in the classroom, is back in the state budget, five months after lawmakers had removed it.

Once again, UW faculty members are raising concerns about the impact it will have on their work in other areas.

Dave Vanness, an associate professor in UW-Madison's Department of Population Health Sciences, is teaching just one course in the fall semester.

"My department doesn't even have an undergraduate program," explained Vanness. "And when you teach graduate students, by definition, you're pushing the forefront of knowledge. And the best way to teach them is to involve them directly in the research."  

Research takes up a lot of Vanness's time. He believes it should be a major factor in determining his worth to university.

"Right now, I'm trying to decide whether to engage in a research project to help understand whether bone marrow transplant is a good idea for patients with sickle-cell disease," said Vanness. "If I have to teach an extra course, I'm going to say no to that research opportunity."

Both Governor Walker and many Republican legislators have argued teaching should be the main priority for UW professors, even at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, the state's two public research universities.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) wanted to see the classroom tracking requirement put back in the 2017-19 state budget.

Republican leaders of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) removed it in April, but agreed to slip it back in before approving the budget last week.
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"Speaker Vos supports the governor's proposal because it adds transparency to the UW System," reads a statement from Kit Beyer, Speaker Vos's press secretary. "Parents and students who pay tuition should know how much time professors spend teaching in the classroom. Speaker Vos is a product of the UW System and was a student regent. He wants to ensure every student is getting the best possible education at our universities."

UW System President Ray Cross has expressed concerns about the state legislature setting policy for his institutions.

"The faculty and staff in the UW System are among the best in the world. The work they do, both in and out of the classroom, provides incredible benefit to our students, our communities, and our state. While we will continue our efforts to clearly demonstrate the value and impact of our exceptional UW educators and community leaders, we also believe the (UW) Board of Regents remains the appropriate body to create UW policies," wrote President Cross.

Vanness believes a one-size fits all approach for UW-Madison, simply won't work.

"If you only measure time in the classroom, you're going to get more faculty probably in the classroom for more hours, but it's the other things that they won't be doing and quality will suffer," said Vanness.

The State Assembly will vote on the budget Thursday.

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