The process began in early February, when Wisconsin governor Walker called for massive cuts to public higher education. Negotiations followed, but they didn’t succeed in protecting the campus. According to chancellor Blank, the cuts are already in the pipeline:
The reductions have been planned and will be carried out by our deans and directors, who know best which programs can be cut while minimizing the impact on the student experience and our core educational mission. Starting today, campus leaders are sharing information about their plans for budget cuts in their units.
At least some faculty are also aware of the plan, according to local public radio.
What is the nature of these cuts? Specific details aren’t out yet, but there is this outline in Blank’s post:
- Program closures and mergers: Several programs across campus will be ended or restructured, including in the areas of information technology, agriculture, and the arts.
- Academic offerings and services: The job eliminations will likely lead to larger classes and fewer course options. Reductions in advising services may hurt time to degree and retention.
- Support services: Services that support students, faculty and staff, such as information technology, will be reduced. We will invest less in maintaining our buildings and facilities. [emphases added]
This involves “the elimination of approximately 400 positions.”
The university will partially offset state cuts by raising costs for certain students: “The nonresident undergraduate tuition increases approved by the Board of Regents on April 10 will provide another $17.5 million in new revenue.”
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel adds more information. Many of those 400 positions are currently vacant. For those that aren’t, Madison should experience “layoffs and nonrenewal of contracts”, such as
the elimination of 92 positions in Letters and Science: 48 faculty and 44 academic staff, including instructional staff, Scholz said. Graduate students who teach labs and introductory courses also would be affected as UW-Madison’s largest college cuts $7.4 million, or 5%, of its $145 million base budget.
About those classes and programs, more numbers:
The College of Letters and Science — which teaches more than 80% of all freshman and sophomore credit hours, and nearly 60% of the overall credit hours at UW-Madison — will drop roughly 320 courses across departments by the end of fiscal 2017. Fewer courses and class sections will reduce the total number of class seats by nearly 9,000, according to the college’s dean, Karl Scholz.
A few quick thoughts, as this is a very fresh story:
- The departments covered include some classic queen sacrifice fields, namely the arts. Information technology and agriculture are often seen as more vocational and technical. I’m not sure why those fields are on the block, given their clear utility.
- Chancellor Blank announced this through a blog post, not a press release nor other traditional media outlet. Interesting.
- From the right come accusations of airing crisis plans before their time.
- Are Wisconsin Democrats fighting this? Is the national party?
- Note the language of internal political ranking: “Our programs and services are all useful and worthy of support, but we have attempted to prioritize those most essential.” I hear an echo of Robert Dickeson’s campus prioritization method here.
(thanks to Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe)