Around 15 members of UW-Milwaukee’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors marched into Chapman Hall partway through the most recent meeting of the Chancellor’s Campus Organizational Effectiveness Team’s (CCOET) support team. The CCOET support team is a group that has been asked to provide advice on unprecedented budget cuts and a multi-million dollar deficit.
Wearing their red T-shirts and determined faces, AAUP group members quietly joined the audience. Their president, Associate Professor Rachel Buff, took her seat at the team’s table. Buff herself is a member of the CCOET primary team.
The Support team was finishing its scheduled discussion of streamlining the administrative structure. However at this point, it seemed appropriate to move onto the fourth part of the support team meeting’s agenda, “Other?”
Buff then unfurled a large scroll containing the AAUP’s “Principles of Organization and Effectiveness.”
Representing the graduate students, academic staff and faculty of UWM’s AAUP, Buff called upon the chancellor’s committee to abide by principles ranging from protecting tenure, protecting staff and faculty employment, maintaining the research mission and diversity of UWM, and considering affordable college education a right (for the full six points of the manifesto, see the end of this article).
The chancellor’s committee accepted the manifesto into the record and moved on.
However, the presentation of the manifesto is just one symptom of the growing tension on the Milwaukee campus between some professors and administration, including Chancellor Mark Mone. This tension is largely influenced by the current economic climate the university is adapting to: A climate resulting from enrollment decline, tuition freeze and an unprecedented state budget cut.
Other examples of this tension: Critical blog posts from a professor and an anonymous person that made the rounds on campus recently, and a letter to the chancellor from Humanities department chairs and directors demanding more transparency and details about the process and numbers.
Although the Wisconsin Board of Regents can remake tenure and shared governance as policy, the process, which is still unfolding, has left great uncertainty on the Milwaukee campus. Some of that angst has been directed toward administrators, who are being accused of protecting administrative bloat and minimizing the professorial voice (which Mone denies).
At the CCOET meeting, members considered a proposal to reorganize administration to slice $1 million of the deficit.
Meanwhile, when Media Milwaukee spoke briefly with the Chancellor after the support team meeting, Mone defended the process and committee. The committee had previously outlined its own shared principles.
Among the concerns expressed by various faculty members: Whether the CCOET committee is legal (the chancellor says it is), how the $25-30 million projected shortfall that Mone has cited was arrived at, specifically, and whether the committee upends the formerly entrenched shared governance process on campus. The letter from the Humanities chairs and directors asked the chancellor for two things:
- “The budget data that CCOET is using as the basis for its deliberations and recommendations”
- “A clear, concise description of the process by which decisions will be made to address UWM’s structural deficit. That is, which committees and individuals are making what recommendations, on what basis, and what steps are in place to ensure that this process will follow UWM’s well-established mechanisms of shared governance?”
“This is a time of significant uncertainty, fear, and anxiety on the UW-Milwaukee campus,” wrote the chairs and directors. “The past few months have brought the greatest budget cut in the UW System’s history, the removal of tenure protections from state statute, broad provisions for the dismissal of faculty put in their place, and the weakening of UW’s proud shared-governance protocols.
Now, UWM faces the additional crisis of a structural deficit that requires a combination of dramatic cutbacks and major structural changes. In this environment of tectonic shifts to the institution, faculty, staff, and students are left with numerous questions about how the future of our university is being decided.”
In his recent lengthy blog post, UWM English professor Richard Grusin, who is director of the Center for 21st Century Studies, wrote that he believes the CCOET process “is arguably illegal, and perhaps explicitly and consciously designed to make an end run around campus governance bodies and State of Wisconsin administrative law.”
He added, “In light of this circumvention of both Wisconsin law and UWM policies and procedures, Chancellor Mone should immediately disband his Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team.”
When Media Milwaukee asked about the proposed legality of CCOET, Mone told the student news site that CCOET was created “in accordance with” state law, adding: “There is nothing wrong or illegal about it.”
Mone has also defended CCOET in communications to the campus, saying, “There has been significant involvement by governance representatives in every budget planning committee (e.g., Academic Planning and Budget Committee, Budget Communication and Planning Task Forces) and we have been reporting regularly to the entire campus community on the process used to determine both temporary and permanent budget cuts as well as the size and distribution of those cuts. We will continue that reporting and to have representatives from all governance groups involved in the budget decision making process.”
The committee will report its suggestions to the chancellor by February. “Upon receipt of CCOET’s report, I will review the recommendations, share them with governance groups for review and input, and initiate an implementation process,” Mone wrote the campus. “My goal is for these actions to be comprehensive, thoughtful, and prompt.”
In a second communique, Mone stressed that UWM’s role as a research university is not on the table, writing, “Our mission is to serve as one of two UW System doctoral-granting research universities. This has not changed and there are no plans to change it.”
Challenges to process and legality
The debate over the committee’s legality stems from a passage in state law that reads: “The faculty of each institution shall designate or create a standing faculty committee to consult with the chancellor if at any time a declaration of financial emergency is to be considered. The committee shall consist of faculty members of the institution chosen by the faculty in a manner to be determined by the faculty.”
Some professors argue that this emergency has already certainly been considered. In that case, a team like CCOET would have to be organized from the bottom up and not the other way around, they believe. The tension is also occurring against the backdrop of the state Legislature removing shared governance principles from state law.
“There is no current plan to request that the Board of Regents declare a financial emergency for UWM,” Mone said to campus. “Such a declaration would be extraordinary in the UW System’s history and is only necessary if and when we would anticipate laying off faculty.”
In the beginning of that same email, Mone also mentioned, “the importance of minimizing layoffs, and related issues,” which some took to mean they were on the table.
The CCOET support team is part of two groups that the Chancellor has said previously he invited to “make recommendations on a process for how the University can close the $30 million dollar deficit.” The CCOET website says that the team “will be drawn from a subset of the Chancellor’s Biennial Budget Planning Task Force, supplemented by deans, cabinet members, faculty, staff and students.” The CCOET committee has been holding a series of meetings on campus to hash out possibilities for saving money and reorganization. Its recommendations are only advisory.
However, some of the opposition to the team that has surfaced focuses on concern by some that faculty, staff and students are not represented enough and that the team is currently primarily led by deans and administration. Again, the chancellor denies this.
The growing attendance at the CCOET meetings (which have sometimes been sparsely attended), was a visible symptom of this blooming opposition.
In an email sent to Media Milwaukee, UWM AAUP President Rachel Buff explained the group’s motivations in regards to attending CCOET meetings.
“We feel it important to articulate a set of principles to guide the campus in this difficult time,” Buff said. “CCOET is basically an extra-governmental body, working outside the purview of established democratic governance; UWM AAUP attends to make clear that their actions are being scrutinized by the broader campus.”
The manifesto presented at last week’s CCOET support team meeting read as follows:
- Make protecting employment of staff and faculty the first priority of any reorganization.
- Uphold AAUP-compliant practice on tenure, indefinite status, and shared governance.
- Any changes to compensation, whether through salary cuts or furloughs, should do the least harm. Those earning more should contribute more.
- In keeping with the research mission of UWM, work to raise graduate stipends as well as to make salaries of faculty and staff competitive.
- Protect racial, ethnic, gender and sexual diversity among faculty, administration, students and staff.
- Education is a right: students at UWM have a right to affordable college education. Ensure that in restructuring the university, costs are not passed on to students.”
After Buff presented the manifesto, SA President Mike Sportiello raised his hand and said, “As Student Body President, I feel number six should be at the top of the list.”
To which AAUP member and Associate Lecturer of Anthropology, Shannon Freire, replied, “As a graduate student, I can say that without number one at the top of list, number six is impossible.” Her chance to speak was first denied by point of order but was later granted.
The team members began to resettle into the discussion they were having before.
Buff readdressed the Chairs of the CCOET asking if they would include the presented principles in both teams’ agendas.
Swanson called a point of order and explained that statement was noted into the record and that the team had moved onto the next point of business.
Buff apologized for being out of procedural order but asked for a response from the chair of the CCOET primary team.
Swanson said, “I will indulge.”
Buff then addressed Primary team Co-Chair and Dean of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Dr. Bob Greenstreet, and said “Bob, we would like to put this on the agenda for the primary comity.”
“Sure, I don’t see anything here I don’t agree with in your statement,” Greenstreet said. “This strikes me (as) very similar to the guidelines we established at the beginning of this process.”
Administrative restructuring on the table
A little before the AAUP’s arrival, the CCOET was just finishing up its discussion of streamlining the administrative structure of the university. As a brainstorming exercise, Dr. Scott Emmons, dean of the Peck School of the Arts, presented a model of what an administrative restructuring could look like.
In light of a $30 million deficit, decreasing student enrollment, and a tuition freeze, CCOET is faced with a delicate task. Think of UWM’s current financial situation as a great octopus with many arms. UWM has to reinvent itself while maintaining its core values of Academic Success, Research, and Community Engagement.
The new model discussed was a five-part administrative structure: Finance and Administration, Academic Success, Research, Community Engagement, and Advancement.
Members of the group commented that the Advancement portion could fall under Community Engagement as well.
This is a “mission based” model. As Emmons said, “If things are to change, they need to be done around something important, and that’s our University’s mission.” Other parts of this model would function to support those items.
As per the function of this ad hoc team, this idea is only theoretical and would have pass onto the primary team. The primary team is led by co-chairs Greenstreet, John Reisel, and also contains members like Associate Vice Chancellor Robert Beck, and AAUP President Rachel Buff. From there, it passes onto the Chancellor for a final approval.
Emmons said that this model for administrative restructuring would not save the University much money. He estimated only around $1 million in savings. That is only a fraction of the $30 million deficit the team has been asked to make recommendations on closing. However, Emmons said that an administrative change like this would the campus move mentally and behaviorally towards the right vision.
Swanson agreed. When proposing internal reconstruction, Swanson later said, “we must think what will UWM look like in 2020 as an effective research institution?”
The Chancellor has expressed this idea since the beginning of this issue’s formation. In an email from January, the Chancellor said, “I am deeply concerned that if the proposed cuts materialize there will be a significant impact on our ability to serve our students and meet our mission as a public urban research university.” In a recent email, though, he stressed his commitment to UWM’s research mission and said the research mission is not expected to change.
As its name suggests, CCOET has been invited to refine the University’s effectiveness. Tightening administration in accordance with the core values could create a path for the rest of campus to follow. The discussion continued but was slightly hindered by the en masse arrival of the AAUP.
This is when the above mentioned announcement and resulting response took place.
Buff thanked the team, apologized for conducting out of procedure, and then moved from the CCOET table to sit with members of the audience.
The team returned to its regularly scheduled programming with the discussion of expenditures and possible efficiency.
When that discussion came to a close, Swanson spoke over the chatter and whispering in the room and declared the meeting adjourned.