1 measure withdrawn that would require University of Wyoming deans report to lawmakers

2014-02-19T18:15:00Z 2014-02-20T09:48:04Z 1 measure withdrawn that would require University of Wyoming deans report to lawmakersBy LAURA HANCOCK Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

CHEYENNE - A measure that was going to require University of Wyoming deans to report to the Legislature was withdrawn  Wednesday night. A similar measure in the Senate hadn't yet been discussed by press time.

The House measure was withdrawn because "it had some language that was too restrictive," said House Majority Floor Leader Kermit Brown, R-Laramie.

Throughout Wednesday, UW officials and faculty were watching the measures, which were amentments to the state budget bills, requiring  college deans to meet twice a year with legislators to discuss concerns and ways to enhance the school’s educational mission.

The amendments go too far in having lawmakers approve school plans, the job of UW’s Board of Trustees, said Chris Boswell, UW’s lobbyist, who was sending lawmakers emails from the lobby of the House on Wednesday afternoon.

"Rest assured, the university’s representatives at the Legislature are working to convince lawmakers that this proposed House amendment, and a similar one in the Senate, are not in the best interest of the state and the university," a statement on UW's faculty listserv said, written by UW Director for Institutional Communications Chad Baldwin.

Boswell had been in contact with one sponsor of the Senate amendment, Senate Majority Floor Leader Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, but didn’t expect the amendment to turn out like it did.

“We’ve had conversations on how to encourage greater interaction between legislative interim committees and college deans at UW,” he said, adding that if the last two or three sentences of the amendments were lopped off, the amendments could be fixed.

The House amendment is sponsored by Brown, House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette; and Rep. Glenn Moniz, R-Laramie.

The Senate amendment is sponsored by Nicholas; Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, and Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody.

UW Veterinarian Studies professor Donal O’Toole worries the lawmakers may be trying to stomp on academic freedom.

“Just calling the deans in is sending, even for Wyoming, a not subtle message,” he said.

UW history professor Phil Roberts believes the amendment violates Wyoming’s Constitution, which dictates how UW is managed, he said.

UW President Dick McGinity has told legislators his predecessors had been sluggish in responding to requests from the Legislature and he hoped to do better.

Brown said another measure may be introduced in the House that would encourage increased communication between faculty and the Legislature, but it wouldn't dictate how the school was run.

Star-Tribune reporter Leah Todd contributed to this story.

Reach state reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at laura.hancock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. Wilderness
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    Wilderness - February 21, 2014 9:56 am
    I'm going to guess one reason is the cost of attendance:

    For an incoming freshman, in-state resident, taking 16 credits, tuition and fees/semester currently are:
    CSU - $4,965.87
    UW - $2,120.37

    So, it is about money in a sense. The Wyoming constitution mandates that tuition at UW be "free" (or as close to free as possible), and necessary costs to keep the education as "free as possible" be raised by taxation or other methods as approved by the legislature.

  2. Pogo
    Report Abuse
    Pogo - February 21, 2014 9:25 am
    Why doesn't UW just follow the CSU model and chuck the state funding. CSU is only funded approx 25% by the state and the rest of funding comes from students, research and foundation funds among others. That would solve the autonomy problem for UW and give them a chance to really excel as a DI university. UW could also pursue private university status if reporting to the the legislature is such a burden. Isn't it really all about money?
  3. pappy
    Report Abuse
    pappy - February 21, 2014 8:37 am
    The legislature seems to have a communications problem with a lot of people lately. The UW certainly has it's issues lately but so does the legislature. Communications is a two street so maybe the legislature needs to learn to listen and not just dictate, especially Senators Nicholas and Coe. The legislature needs to meet with the UW President and President of the Board of Trustee. if they have a particular concern or questions about a particular college then they can meet if that Dean but to put in law that they are going to meet with all the Deans twice a year, give me a break. That is nothing but bureaucratic nonsense and wastes a tremendous amount of time and money.
  4. Wilderness
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    Wilderness - February 20, 2014 6:58 pm
    The amendments state:

    "...On or before September 1, 2014 and September 1, 2015, each college shall submit a plan to the standing committee to which it is assigned which addresses the areas of mutual concern discussed with the standing committee and which identifies specific courses of action which the college will take to improve its educational mission within each area of concern. After approval of the college's plan by the standing committee, the college shall provide a report to the standing committee on the actions it has taken to implement the plan two (2) times per year. The first report shall be made on or before January 1st and the second report shall be made on or before June 30th."

    This is a direct threat to academic freedom, flies in the face of the Board of Trustees accountability statement (that states "Preserve institutional independence to protect the pursuit of truth, the generation of new knowledge, and intellectual inquiry so that they remain unencumbered by direct government control or special interest."), and threatens UW accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission, that evaluates, among other things:

    "2.C. The governing board of the institution is sufficiently autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and to assure its integrity.
    1. The governing board delegates day-to-day management of the institution to the administration and expects the faculty to oversee academic matters.
    3. The governing board preserves its independence from undue influence on the part of donors, elected officials, ownership interests, or other external parties when such influence would not be in the best interest of the institution.
    2.D. The institution is committed to freedom of expression and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning."

    The University should "interact" with the Legislature and other elected officials of Wyoming, but it should NOT take instruction or direction from or have to seek approval from elected and political officials on its "educational mission". That is the antithesis of academic freedom and the pursuit of knowledge and truth, and fatally damages both the university (and all of its worthy constituents, students most of all) and the state.
  5. wyoslick
    Report Abuse
    wyoslick - February 20, 2014 1:23 pm
    "(R)equiring college deans to meet twice a year with legislators to discuss concerns and ways to enhance the school’s educational mission" is not a threat to academic freedom. If the University doesn't want to interact with the Legislature, then maybe they should quit asking it for money.
  6. wyoslick
    Report Abuse
    wyoslick - February 20, 2014 1:16 pm
    I don't believe that the Wyoming Supreme Court has ever ruled, one way or the other, on the subject of dictators.
  7. wyotruth
    Report Abuse
    wyotruth - February 20, 2014 7:27 am
    maybe Kermit, Glenn and Tom should report to the dean's instead of the other way around.
  8. Sassy
    Report Abuse
    Sassy - February 20, 2014 5:56 am
    Haven't the legislators been told by the Wyoming Supreme Court- they can not play the role of a dictator???

    I don't get it
  9. WyoAgain
    Report Abuse
    WyoAgain - February 19, 2014 8:41 pm
    I'm a third generation UW alum with a junior in high school. There won't be four generations of grads in my family if the legislature keeps pressuring the University. I realize one family giving up on the University won't make much difference to the legislature but I don't think we are alone in feeling this way. Without academic freedom an institution of higher learning cannot be taken seriously.
  10. wyotruth
    Report Abuse
    wyotruth - February 19, 2014 7:01 pm
    Kiss academic freedom and any chance for UW to be great university goodbye.
  11. dthrogmorton
    Report Abuse
    dthrogmorton - February 19, 2014 6:05 pm
    Wow. This is a really stupid idea. And Professor O'Toole is right: a leash by any other name is still a leash. If the legislature keeps micro-managing our only university, it will not be long before the best leave and the mediocre replace them. Wyoming will be the poorer. I hope this bill sinks quickly.
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