Biddy's real agenda
If there is any question what more authority for the UW-Madison would mean for working people ("Biddy's Bold Agenda," 11/12/10), the restaurants at the soon-to-open Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery provide an example. The UW has contracted with Food Fight to run these restaurants. Workers at Food Fight start around $8.50 an hour and, if they choose to have health insurance, pay almost $400 for a single plan.
Compare this with food-service workers who are classified civil service employees. They start around $12 an hour and receive health insurance, paid sick leave and vacation, and have the protections of a union.
The university is a huge employer, and as such labor practices on campus have a strong influence on other workers in Madison. More authority for the UW will mean more privatization and more poverty-wage jobs for Madison workers.
Mark Thomas, steward
AFSCME Local 171
Looking beyond the rhetoric regarding Martin's proposed "New Badger Partnership," what she and others are talking about is increasing privatization and "market driven" education. While ever-escalating on-campus corporate encroachment may sound great for those who stand to gain, it flies in the face of the University of Wisconsin's reputation as a public institution.
Martin & Co. give lip service to the "Wisconsin Idea" while calling for further diminishing state ties and oversight. Yet this concept of the state and university working together came about to benefit and protect the people of Wisconsin from the abuses of unregulated business and unrestrained corporate rule.
UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin's "bold agenda" - her desire to drastically reduce or eliminate the state Legislature's (and thus the state's citizens') oversight of university operations - is evidence that she does indeed "operate in a completely different world" from the rest of us.
Given the serious risks to the public's health from the university's recent failures to adequately monitor bio-safety and the unprecedented scope of the current investigation of its animal care and use by the USDA, a more prudent course would be increased legislative oversight and public accountability. She needs to come back to earth.
Conspiracy of silence?
Alicia Yager's article on the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery ("An Engine for Creativity," 11/12/10) did not say whether experiments on non-human animals will be conducted there. I think they will be, but I am not sure. Animal experimentation is a pretty hot topic in Madison, so animals at the Institutes for Discovery would be newsworthy.
Was information about animal experimentation omitted because there will be none, or because you did not think the topic was newsworthy?
Alicia Yager replies: Janet Kelly, a spokeswoman for the facility, says that "no animal testing will be done within the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery" and that the stem cell research done there has "the potential...to one day end the need for animal testing." Another UW spokesperson says some institutes projects may involve nonprimate animal research, but this will be done off-site.
The likely response
Jenny Brejcha's letter ("More Glass Walls, Please," 11/09/10) declared that if we were able to see what was being done to the animals inside the UW primate research labs, such research "could not continue." However, in this unlikely event, the researchers would respond as they invariably do.
They would assure us these experiments are essential for the advancement of medical science, and that non-scientists should trust what they say. But given mounting evidence that only a tiny percentage of animal experiments result in a potential claim to applicability to humans, one must question how honest animal researchers are being about their work.