The College of Letters and Science is the last school at UWM still struggling with the budget crisis, according to the University Committee’s last meeting on May 16.
The hope was that the college of Letters and Science can beat the crisis by appointing a new Dean for the school. As reported by the Provost Johannes Britz over a month ago, the search was down to two people: Dr. Antonio Cepeda-Benito from the University of Vermont, and Dr. John McCarthy from the University of Massachusetts. However, neither of them ended up with the position.
While the search was down to two people, it was said in the meeting that John McCarthy was coming for a visit the end of the week May 18 with his wife, and asked for a realtor. When the committee wanted to talk about the candidates more the meeting went into closed session, but all signs point to McCarthy potentially being the next Dean of the college of Letters and Science.
It’s no surprise the University, and the UW system in general, have operated under a budget crisis this decade. However, the University has made great strides, according to University Provost Johannes Britz.
“We have cut our budget $50 million over the last two years,” Britz said during the meeting.
While the numbers sound great, the main way they have cut the budget is by letting people go. Distinguished Professor of Geography Mark Schwartz, a future member of the committee, took a slightly humorous way to describe the process.
“It’s like the old joke,” Schwartz said while the meeting was in closed session. “The good news is the operation was a success, the bad news is the patient died.”
Essentially, they “solved” the budget crisis, but in order to do so, had to cut staff members.
As the biggest school at the University, Letters and Science has a large budget. According to Britz, the Letters and Science budget has been cut from $81 million to $69 million, yet is still operating at a $30 million deficit.
The University is at an interesting point where they have essentially solved their budget crisis, and can now think about re-investment because they’ve shrunk the budget. Hiring new professors, and bringing back some people that needed to be cut is a great step for the University, but figuring out where to hire people is not an easy thing to figure out.
According to the committee, something like 40% of Journalism professors were let go, and 50% music as well-they have no one left to teach piano in the Arts school. One thing strongly considered in hiring new professors is the setup cost for the professor. Britz said that the only hiring he’s turned down was the hiring of a new Physics professor, which would’ve been close to a $1 million setup cost, as they would need a lab to operate out of. For that much money, they could hire multiple English and Language professors.
All of this brings up a question that was brought up at the meeting: what are areas the University wants to promote as the core of the University?
In the meeting, no one had an answer to the question, as it was a spur of the moment question no one had prepared for, but it is something the university will be thinking about.
The search for a new Dean for the college of Letters and Science comes with high hopes and expectations, and both candidates are well qualified. Dr. Cepeda-Benito has UWM ties, as he did his undergraduate studying at UWM, graduating in 1988 with a B.A. in Psychology. He received both his Masters and Doctorate in Psychology from Purdue University. He has been at the University of Vermont since 2012 as a Psychology professor and their Dean of Arts and Science.
Dr. McCarthy has been the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Massachusetts since 2015, is also currently the Dean of the Graduate School since 2012, and was also the Vice Provost for Graduate Education from 2012-2015. He graduated from Harvard University as the summa cum laude of his class in 1975, majoring in Linguistics and Near Eastern languages. He received his Doctorate in Linguistics from MIT.
In the coming weeks, the University will release news on who the next Dean of Letters and Science will be. The new Dean will immediately be tasked with getting the school to operate at a more efficient rate than the -$30 million it is currently running at, and setting up a success plan to create stability for the school.