UW-Milwaukee is considering strategic budget cuts as opposed to a systemic cut to the entire institution, the provost told the Faculty Senate Thursday. And the UWM chancellor announced a plan to try to meet with 32 legislators in the next month, as well as a planned lunch with the lieutenant governor, as administrators try to counter a proposed $300 million System-wide budget cut.
“I don’t think we can do what we did in the past and just look across the board,” said Provost Johannes Britz of how the budget cuts might fall. It’s expected UWM’s portion of the cuts could be $20 million in the first year alone.
Meanwhile, professors at the meeting expressed their frustration with administrative response, especially in the media, and said they believe the System needs to be less “timid” in getting out the UW’s side. They also expressed displeasure and mistrust about a Gov. Scott Walker proposal for a Public Authority, saying the issue was being framed in a misleading way to the public.
For his part, Chancellor Mark Mone told the professors he isn’t on Facebook and “he doesn’t know that world very well,” but he said he’s heard from people who are, and added, “they have told me that a number of parents are already raising questions about the future of sending their children, their students, to the UW System, any school.”
Some professors, though, want a more aggressive PR strategy.
“We always hear that, ‘tell your story better’; we’ve been trying to tell our story better forever and we’re either in a climate where our value is self-evident or we’re in kind of a losing battle already,” said Professor Lane Hall. “The message is framed in a way that I haven’t…heard enough resistance from (UW System President) Ray Cross and from a collectivity of chancellors. And even a collectivity of faculty, staff and students.”
Hall urged professors to consider more dramatic strategies.
“I think that we in turn have to put everything on the table that we can do, and some of those things are drastic actions, and some of those actions I think that, and I’m saying this only personally, I’m not representing anybody here but myself, but I think that we need to start having conversations about work shutdowns, about class shut downs, about teach ins,” he said. “I don’t think rallies and marches are going to matter anymore.”
Meanwhile, UWM administrators are being forced to swiftly analyze the university’s budget because of the unprecedented magnitude of the proposed cuts. Britz explained that the university is starting to examine its ability to bring in new hires following a cut of this size.
“By the first of July, if this is going to be a $20 million cut, it’s an immediate impact; we must come up with the money,” said Britz. “So we have no choice but to start looking immediately into the personnel situation on our campus.”
Even with the employment of strategic cuts, Provost Britz believes the entire university will be affected on some level, due to the size of the proposed cuts. Walker’s budget cuts, which he revealed Tuesday, sending the campus reeling, would need to be passed by the Legislature.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that every single school and college will be affected,” said Britz.
Chancellor Mark Mone announced that he will be meeting with a number of legislators in Madison to advocate on behalf of UWM. He also said that he has a lunch scheduled with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. According to Mone, this is all part of an advocacy plan aimed at meeting with 32 legislators in the next month.
Mone also announced the creation of a communication team to proactively advocate for the interests of UWM and its core values.
The senate faculty provisionally passed a motion authored by chemistry Professor and faculty senate member David Petering. The motion establishes a position for the UWM Senate faculty against the proposed budget cuts. The motion also calls for “a full open process” with “full representation by faculty as well as administrators, staff, and students from all campuses” to analyze the fiscal implications concerning the creation of a Public Authority, as well as a clarification on what will happen to educational protections such as shared governance and tenure. The Public Authority was also proposed by Walker. He said it would give the System more autonomy.
During the meeting, there was an extensive discussion about the specific ways faculty are able to advocate on behalf of the university. Speakers at the meeting expressed their confusion in trying to grapple with restrictions on political activity with UWM resources, while also still trying to inform the public about the effects these proposed budget cuts and structural changes will have on the UW System.
Some faculty members in the audience spoke about the need to challenge the rhetoric being used by the governor that the proposed structural changes, which they fear may eliminate protections such as tenure and shared governance, are going to provide more freedoms to employees within the UW System. Faculty members expressed their belief that the public is not being given the information to help them understand the “magnitude” of these proposed changes.
“This has been framed as giving us our freedom that we always wanted,” said Patrice Petro, a Professor of English and Film Studies and vice provost for International Education, “I don’t remember ever wanting this.”
Distinguished Professor and Chair of the University Committee Mark Schwartz, took time during the meeting to highlight what he believes to be major advantages of shared governance for the UW System.
“The University of Wisconsin System and its constituent campuses are the envy of the nation in terms of academic quality and reputation, because of our shared governance practices,” said Schwartz. “The faculty, academic staff, classified staff and students all share in the immediate governance of their campus and actively participate in institutional policy development in collaboration with administrators and each other.”
“The faculty have primary responsibility for academic and educational activities and faculty personnel matters,” said Schwartz, “Thus each individual faculty member is personally invested and empowered to help ensure the success of our students as well as the discovery, dissemination, and application of new knowledge in keeping with our missions on individual campuses and for the UW System as a whole.”
Student Association President Ryan Sorenson encouraged staff to inform and empower students in light of the proposed changes to the UW System.
“Students are worried and we’re also very frustrated,” said Sorenson.
“I do think as faculty members and professors I think you almost owe it to us to explain what’s going on,” said Sorenson. “A lot of students don’t know what’s going on.”
Lane said, “I’m beginning to feel that we need to be looking at least at a whole spectrum of rhetorical responses that go beyond the kind of framed, mediated, and timid responses that so far the whole system has put forward, because this is existential. It’s the end of decades, decades, historically, decades of a Wisconsin idea of a progressive era of all these historical things.”