UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone said late Wednesday afternoon that he had not heard Gov. Scott Walker’s comments earlier that day on faculty workload but stressed that he’s “never met a harder working faculty and staff than at UWM.” Listen to the Mone audio here:
Asked about Walker’s comments that faculty should teach more, he added, “I respect the governor’s view. I haven’t heard that. But I can tell you at UWM, that there’s a lot of lean and hard-working individuals.”
Speaking to student media after his 2:30 p.m. plenary speech on campus – in which Mone vowed to uphold shared governance and fight Walker’s proposed $300 million budget cut – the chancellor said he just wasn’t aware of Walker’s comments earlier Wednesday that UW System faculty and staff should teach more. Mone said the university was going to prepare a communication plan that it would unveil at a later date to faculty and staff to combat the proposed cuts.
“I haven’t read that,” he said after his address to a packed and emotional campus audience about the Walker workload contentions. “I haven’t heard the news on that. I’ve been preparing for my comments this afternoon.”
But he added, “I completely believe that, at UW-Milwaukee, our faculty and staff are already stretched incredibly thin. I think about the teaching demands in a research-oriented environment, just the kind of work that’s necessary. I haven’t met a harder working faculty and staff than what we have at UW-Milwaukee, and I’ve been in this business for about 35 years. And, it’s a pretty remarkable place.”
He said that the “kind of work that’s done at a research university requires significant investment of time” citing graduate students and “the focus that we do on student intensity. There’s a lot of time. It’s one-on-one time. It’s small groups. And that’s not always appreciated in a workload type environment.”
Walker made the workload remarks on talk radio earlier Wednesday, and they were quickly picked up by other media Wednesday morning, sparking headlines around the state. Comparing the UW changes to Act 10, he said he hoped that professors taught more classes as a result. The workload comments came a day after the governor announced a proposed $300 million cut for the UW System as well as turning the System into a Public Authority more autonomous from state law and financing.
For example, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Walker told reporters in Madison: “In the future, by not having the limitation of things like shared governance, they might be able to make savings just by asking faculty and staff to consider teaching one more class a semester. Things like that could have tremendous impact on making sure we have an affordable education for all of our UW campuses at the same time we maintain a high-quality education.”
Mone also addressed the question of layoffs and furloughs, saying, only, “At this point, those would be considered with everything else. All those different types of things would be considered.” He said that “We’ll look at everything. We will evaluate the pros and cons.”
This comes a day after some members of the University Committee at UWM said they feared budget cuts of that magnitude could lead to layoffs. Administration, not the University Committee, makes those determinations, however.
Mone said there were “differing perspectives” about the university’s “critical priorities.” However, he did say, he “strongly valued shared governance.”
As to the proposal for a Public Authority,which is also part of the Walker proposal (which now goes to the Legislature for debate), Mone said, “it has the potential for there to be greater autonomy.” But he said that “some of the (budget) cuts would be immediate; the autonomy ramifications would be longer term.” He said he welcomed some aspects of a Public Authority, such as the ability to streamline purchasing and procurement, as well as to “set tuition rates.”
As to setting tuition rates, allowing UW a “little more flexibility, some things like that could be beneficial,” Mone said.
Which institutions or programs would be the first to go? “Wow, we haven’t even begun to have that conversation yet. Can’t begin to outline what that would be,” Mone said. Mone has created a task force to address the issue.
“Everything has to be looked at with a cut of this magnitude,” he said. “We just don’t have the reserves anymore. We don’t have the slack we had at one point.”
In Mone’s Spring 2015 plenary address, aptly titled “Moving Forward during Uncertain Times,” the Chancellor addressed the proposed budget cuts and public.
Mone told those in attendance that the magnitude of the cuts being proposed, along with the current tuition freezes, were presenting a remarkable challenge to UWM and the UW system.
“We are facing unprecedented challenges,” said Mone.
Mone once again iterated that nothing was certain, and that there was still a legislative process that the budget and structural proposals needed to go through before they would become law.
Mone said that the budget finalization should be expected by July first.
In his address, Mone spoke about his concern for the future of UWM’s students, programs, and faculty. He voiced his consternation about the ability for UWM to maintain its mission and values following the proposed budget cut of $300 million
“We are deeply disturbed, tremendously concerned about the impact overall of this on our campus and all of the UW System,” said Mone.
Mone spoke at length about the invaluable role a research university like Milwaukee plays in the state. According to Mone, UWM is a vital institution to the local and state economy. He also says it plays a major role in the supply of talent and intellect to the largest economic area of the state.
Mone touched on some of the contributions UWM makes to the local community and even the world as a research university. An example he used was UWM engineering professor Adel Nasiri and his research into micro grids, which according to Mone, has developed interest within the Department of Energy in Washington D.C.
Following his address, the Chancellor invited representatives of shared governance at UWM to come and speak to the crowd.
“I’ve been contemplating the goals that I set for my life and the things that I thought for the world, and I’m deeply troubled and I’m angry,” said Mark Schwartz, chair of the University Committee. “The need for shared governance has never been clearer to me than times like this.”
Schwartz announced that the University Committee has prepared an Op-Ed that will appear in the Sunday newspaper.
“Perhaps what we say will not be listened to, but we will say it,” said Schwartz. “And we will make sure that what is being done is understood as best we can.”
“Shared governance, in my mind, is what has made our University great,” said Schwartz.
At the end of the Plenary, members of the crowd were invited to engage in a discussion regarding the issues that currently face UWM.
Members of staff who spoke up called for the need to take proactive action and inform the public about the impact that these cuts would have on universities like UWM.
“I think that the time is now to start trying to get ahead of this issue and not be trailing two weeks from now,” said Sarah Tully, the executive director for UWM’s Center for International Education.
Several speakers made comments regarding their concern that Gov. Walker is proposing $220 million worth of funding for the Milwaukee Bucks and their new arena, while he is simultaneously proposing cutting $300 million from the UW System. Mone said he didn’t want UWM to be pitted against the Bucks, although he agreed the juxtaposition of headlines was interesting.
A handful of speakers spoke about challenging the current rhetoric that the proposed budget cuts and structural changes would contribute to more academic freedom within the system. They also voiced their opinion that these budget cuts were the result of ideologically driven policy mistakes that burdened the state with a “man-made” deficit.
“There is nothing about these cuts that should be confused with freedom, unless you want to talk about freedom from jobs or freedom from a high quality public education,” said one speaker.
Lane Hall, a Professor of English and member of the University Committee, urged members in the audience to take to social media in an effort to spread the word about the impact of these proposed budget cuts. He called for what he referred to as a “Friendly Facebook Flood,” and to have people comment on the pages of their state representatives expressing their concern regarding the proposed budget cuts. He also proposed a Feb. 3 “Twitter storm” using the hashtag #saveoursystem to get the word out about the effects and concerns regarding the proposed budget cuts.
Portions of this story are cross published with the UWM Post.