By Nelson Sederstrom
Papers shuffle, sips of coffee are taken, foreheads are wrinkled. There seems to be an elephant in the room joining the staff during this edition of the history department’s meeting of faculty, and the mammal is trumpeting loudly the looming letters and science budget cuts that will not only effect the whole college, but the department of history as well.
Amanda Seligman, Professor and Chair of the unit, has taken her seat in the head of room 341 on Thursday afternoon of November fourth. Today’s discussion is enough to make even the most boring exchange of vernacular seem stimulating.
“The L&S budget group has been drafting a workload policy,” begins Seligman. “They have a group that meets Thursdays to try and figure out how to close our budget gap.”
The group of professors, distinguished and associate; are gathered in the large, rectangular space reserved for meetings, variously placed around the table, on couches and other odd pieces of furniture. The sun shines in from the west, a truck unloading material occasionally beeps to signal its reversal in the distance.
“It’s not a governance committee as you know, it’s an advisory committee to the dean,” she continues. “What I was told at the chairs meeting, is that the dean’s idea is that the college should pilot a detailed approach to the workload policy to the campus, before it is piloted to somewhere else and imposed to us by a different unit.”
Currently, academic deans and department executive committees are responsible for monitoring the implementation of approved workload policies and for suggesting needed adjustments to department policies, according to the UWM Academic Staff Workload Policy.
The committee and its draft workload policy will further assign zero, three and six points per semester based on research and service, respectively. The total would be need to add up to 24 points to be deemed productive.
The Instructional Academic Staff (IAS) Workload Policy further states that members must hold advanced degrees and teach undergraduate, graduate or continuing education students throughout the university. A full time workload is twelve contact hours per week, followed by research (not required) and service workload, which entails administrative duties, academic advisement to students, contributions to publications, etc. These services are then reflected in adjustments, or lack thereof, to respective workloads. The policy states those who hold less than 50% time appointments are viewed as ad hoc (part-time) and primarily meet transitional, non-recurring and/or highly specialized instructional needs.
“It’s not entirely clear to me what this is going to achieve,” said Rachel Buff, professor. “The presumption is that people would be told your teaching load has just doubled because we don’t deem that your publications and service were adequate last year. It sounds like a way to settle scores, it sounds like a way to worsen bad situations and to just waste time in good situations and I don’t see the point.”
According to an email from Provost Johannes Britz regarding the budget cuts, for fiscal year 2016, all student help funds, which entails student jobs around campus, will be cut. This will allow savings of $217,186.00, and further savings from position elimination and resignations will also allow an extra $207,194.00 for the College of Letters and Science.
Questions about what determined research and output continued from staff in the room, who were clearly a bit taken aback by the extent of the proposals from the budget cutting committee.
“It sounded from the description like it’s almost an annual thing,” said Marcus Filippello, assistant professor. “So if there’s no journal article that year, or the book didn’t come out that year, so you didn’t do any research that year, so you teach an extra course?”
“And then next year you teach another course because you’re not as productive, and you teach another course again because of no research, it’s insane,” added Lex Renda, associate professor.
You can use digital measures to list works in progress and its status, through PAWS, on research and other ventures, according to the written document prepared by the executive committee.
“So if you can figure out how to report it correctly, then it would count,” finished Seligman wryly, shuffling and straightening her papers on the desk.
Ultimately, a consensus was reached by those attending the meeting that however performance was measured, litigated or ultimately decided would still have no effect on generating more revenue because of a decline of enrollment, which they deemed was the real problem facing the university. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee expected a drop in enrollment by three to four percent in fall 2016, according to Chancellor Mark Mone.
“Alright, so now you are all aware,” ended Seligman. “Apparently you can go to those Thursday meetings if you’d like. My understanding is they’re right below us.”