There is a level of distrust from some UWM faculty toward administration. This became abundantly apparent at a sparsely attended open listening session of the committee charged with finding efficiencies on campus in the wake of the budget cuts.
The suggestions, from the very few in attendance, all had a similar theme. As each member would eventually get a chance to voice his or her opinions, they all shared the same view. The budgetary problems start with the administration.
Associate Professor Dr. Richard Leson advocated for $1 million cuts to the topsalaried administrators on campus. The faculty needs a reason to believe in the administration, and he believes pay cuts would be a good way to start, stating, “You can’t underestimate what sort of effect this kind of symbolic measure would have on campus morale.”
Another professor in attendance also voiced concerns about administration.
“There is a great deal of fear and mistrust on campus at the moment, much of it aimed at the administration,” said Professor Joel Birkowitz. “I hope that our leadership is taking such recommendations seriously, because it’s vital to do so if they are to have any chance of leading us out of this crisis.”
The talk of the administration did not stop there; one professor, who wished to remain anonymous due the political nature of the campus, wants the campus administration to write two letters. One letter of resignation, and one letter justifying why they deserve their job.
The faculty in the room made it clear that they want the administration to reduce what they see as fragmentation, to eliminate redundancy, to reduce what some see as the unneeded hierarchy, and to align incentives and utilize shared services.
UW-Milwaukee is facing a budget crisis, and the entire campus community is scrambling for answers. The chancellor has said that UWM is dealing with a $25-30 million structural deficit. So the question is where are the administrators going to make up the money from the last round of budget cuts? That is where the CCOET committee comes in.
The CCOET, or the Chancellor’s Campus Organization and Effective Team, has been put in charge of long-term budget plans. The committee members are not the ones making final decisions; rather, they look for long-term and “big-picture” solutions to minimizce the impact that any cuts would have. The chancellor has said the team’s mandate is to “examine large-scale issues of how UWM is organized, our processes, and our structure to enable us to better address our current challenges.”
Just a few months ago, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a $250 million budget cut to the UW System. The effects of the cuts are now starting to take shape. The CCOET is here to listen to suggestions from the entire UWM campus, faculty, staff and students included, on how to deal with the cuts that will have to be made. The University scheduled four open session meetings.
Professor Kyle Swanson, chair of the Mathematical Sciences Department, and Dean of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning Robert Greenstreet, two Co-Chairs on the CCOET, have been urging Chancellor Mark Mone to trim away at the administration first. The Co-Chairs have also been telling campus leaders about the mistrust on campus between administration and some members of the faculty. The two Co-Chairs assured attendees that nothing is off the table and that they have been very direct with the administration.
Swanson said that cuts are going to have to be made and said they are impossible to avoid. He said the cuts will primarily come from University Relations, Academic Support and other Academic areas. The other areas of spending are too vital to cut into, he said.
Swanson’s presentation put the deficit into perspective. If UWM let go of all 600 current teaching assistants, they would still need to find $8 million.
There are other solutions. Some possibilities include the restructuring of schools and colleges. The combination of the College of Nursing and the College Health Sciences is one example of what restructuring could look like.
Additionally, the reduction of GER courses offered is an option being discussed. Currently, UWM offers over 700 general education requirement courses. Where comparable universities have considerably less.
Additionally, work with MATC in order to increase transfer rates and give at-risk UWM students a cheaper alternative was discussed.
Bringing in new students is not the solution, according to those in attendance. The campus needs the money now, and without considerable reorganization and financial cuts, there is not much that can be done to regain the losses.
Dean Greenstreet believes the university needs to focus on recruitment, retention and enrollment of students. Spending has increased despite the known drop in enrollment, and that is a part of the problem, he said. Greenstreet stopped all hiring in his department.
According to the UW-Milwaukee’s Office of Assessment and Institutional Research, enrollment as a whole has been declining. North American enrollment has steadily declined since 2009 with a minute increase in 2014. UWM has seen increases in foreign enrollment, mainly from South America and Asia, but those do not offset the drop in domestic enrollment.
The faculty in attendance stressed they wanted to do right by the students. They want to increase the value of a degree from UWM while trying to keep he cost of tuition down. The Co-Chairs seemed to agree.
“There’s nobody that has our back,” said Professor Swanson. “Where are we going to be in 10 years? We are going to be less as an institution.