May 3, 2014

The UC puts forward the following statement regarding our transition in leadership and desperate need for funding at a level commensurate with our size and mission:

UW-Milwaukee:  Securing the Present Allows Reaching for the Future

It has been a turbulent year for UW-Milwaukee (UWM).  In April 2013 we were engulfed by the “cash balances” debacle, which negatively affected funding for our campus in the current biennium.  And then in March 2014, Chancellor Lovell announced his surprising decision to become President of Marquette University later this year.

We note with irony that Chancellor Lovell’s departure has resulted in a welcome and positive spotlight being shown on our campus.  An editorial by the Journal-Sentinel (J-S) on April 5, 2014 provided a candid summary of our contributions, problems, and potential.  UWM has energetic faculty and staff that deliver nationally recognized degree programs and engage in innovative research.  Further, as the J-S editorial noted, “UWM is a strong, engaged participant in public life in Milwaukee…creating powerful collaborations within the community…The community asked—and UWM delivered at a very reasonable price.”

However, despite these successes, UWM is a historically lean and underfunded research campus—an operation which stretches its resources to do the job.  This lack of resources now threatens the growth trajectory of research and puts in jeopardy the high quality education we provide Wisconsin students.  Mike Lovell and all of us on this campus have tried mightily to get that story out, as the J-S editorial notes, “UWM can’t continue to fulfill its larger mission on the cheap.”

So let’s go back to the situation just about a year ago.  During the deliberations on the 2013-2015 biennial budget, legislators “found” that the UW-System had “reserves” of close to $1 billion, implying that university administrators had squirreled away unspent money from the tuition paid by hard working families from across Wisconsin.  However, this perception is in direct contrast to the reality at UWM.  The money the legislators referred to was spread among all the campuses in the UW-System, and there was little discussion of the fact that a large portion was research “reserves” at UW-Madison, or how much was actual money and not bookkeeping methods (i.e., money that is already spent, but remains visible in accounts).

“Never mind!” said the legislature.  “There will be few new tax dollars and no tuition increases for any campuses in the UW-System in 2013-2015 and beyond until the System administration shows where all the money is and why it isn’t being spent.”

At UWM those funds were not actually “reserves”, as Chancellor Lovell noted at the time, but funds necessary for research expansion, and were dedicated to bring to fruition new programs and pay for the people and equipment necessary to open the new science building on campus (IRC), remodel the old Columbia Hospital buildings (NWQ), and open Innovation Park in Wauwatosa.  At the start of the current (2013-2014) fiscal year, UWM held $2.5 million as true reserves, or about 0.5% of our annual income, numbers most businesses would consider woefully insufficient and even risky.

We need to go back even further to better understand our overall funding situation.  In 2009-2010, the Regents and State government had authorized bonding authority to support major new facilities at UWM to the tune of about $240 million.  That bonding authority was linked to three planned biennial base budget increments of $10 million each, designed to put people and researchers to work in these new facilities.  The first $10 million installment came in 2007-09.  Then the world economy crashed, so the second installment was “delayed.”  “Wait until 2011-13,” we were told, “And we’ll get you those funds!”  But the second installment didn’t come in 2011-13 either, and the third installment has never been considered.  If we fast forward to the 2013-15 budget deliberations, we again find that no promised base funding increase has been forthcoming.  So without new operating funds (General Purpose Revenue, or GPR) to actually open the buildings being remodeled or under construction, the campus has had to budget internally to pay for the new facilities and bring them on line.  And it was those “reserves” that the legislature claimed were wasteful!

UWM relies primarily on two major sources to operate:  tuition and GPR from the State budget.   This year, UWM also found itself in a precarious position regarding enrollment.  Wisconsin is currently experiencing a drop in the number of high school graduates, so our historical recruitment pool is shrinking.  No new GPR has been added to UWM’s budget since 2009, despite growth in facilities.  UWM has a strong commitment and desire to give the citizens of Wisconsin (and beyond) the best possible education.  However, compared to our peer institutions in other states, we are not competitively funded by the State of Wisconsin (see the table in a March 29, 2014 J-S article). State funding has been continually eroding in the last few decades.  Not adjusting for inflation, GPR at UWM has shrunk from $138 million or 34 percent of operations in 2002-03 to $124 million or 18 percent in the 2012-13 budget.  It is this reduction in State funding that overwhelmingly drove tuition increases over that period at UWM and most other publicly funded universities across the country.  UWM faculty would like nothing better than for the legislature to “turn back the clock” and provide more State funding so that tuition could continue to be frozen or even reduced, but the State has not shown any inclination to realistically consider the needs of our institution.  Clearly it is our State’s next generation, the one that will drive Wisconsin’s future economy, which is ultimately being shorted by this policy.

So what are the impacts of UWM’s chronic underfunding and why should the public care?  What we are experiencing daily is an exodus of talented people, often taking their funding and resources with them, morale at an all-time low, key positions getting harder and harder to fill or stabilize (as witnessed by the Chancellor’s abrupt departure), new faculty recruitments becoming very difficult to negotiate, the student experience eroding, and lastly, the aforementioned expansion plans and their positive outcomes for Wisconsin’s economy being in danger of stagnating or remaining mostly unfulfilled.

In summary, UW-Milwaukee is achieving excellence in research and fulfilling our academic mission through heroic work with limited resources.  This situation is precarious and cannot be maintained much longer.  UW-Milwaukee needs a fair balance of resources if we are to secure our current ability to serve students and create new knowledge for the economy, as well as realize our proven potential to do even more for the State of Wisconsin in the future.

Apr 3, 2014

UC Chair, Mark Schwartz, sent the following email out today to UWM’s Faculty Senate:

“Following Chancellor Lovell’s surprising announcement, the University Committee (UC) has been fully engaged in discussing and considering potential actions in regard to all the events and their implications. The UC held an emergency meeting last Wednesday, March 26th, and Provost Britz was a guest at our regular weekly UC meeting on Tuesday, April 1st.  You can see a brief synopsis of these meetings here on the UC News webpage.  I have also personally spoken with President Cross four times, conveying our concerns, since Chancellor Lovell’s story broke last Wednesday.  My sense is that President Cross will act to address the situation, as well as quickly appoint an interim Chancellor.

Ultimately, this is a very difficult situation and we want to proceed in ways that will be in the best long-term interest of UW-Milwaukee (UWM).  We need to gracefully and effectively manage the transition from one Milwaukee institution to another so that everybody is clear what the Chancellor’s immediate roles and responsibilities are.  Ideally, we need to present a unified and coherent message to the public and our UWM community, and the UC will do our best to keep you informed during this transition.

The press is hungry for a story, so this could also offer a golden opportunity to take advantage of the spotlight to finally get some of the positive stories we have been pushing written.  Several members of the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board talked with me on Wednesday (following up from last Sunday’s story) and they are preparing an editorial on our situation.  My understanding is that this story will be strongly supportive of UWM and our importance in the future of Milwaukee, SE Wisconsin, and the entire State.

Lastly, just to remind you, we always reserve the first portion of our weekly UC meeting for “persons who wish to be heard” so please feel free to come to our meetings (Tuesdays at 1:00pm each week) or contact me (mds@uwm.edu) or the entire UC (uc@uwm.edu) with your concerns.”

Apr 1, 2014

When Provost Britz arrived, we discussed the strategic planning process and the need to continue our trajectory even with the upcoming changes to administrative leadership. Britz feels that UWM has good support of System President Ray Cross, who seems to understand the desperate need for funding  at UWM.

It should be noted that the UC does not appoint an interim chancellor position. The System President, Ray Cross, will make that appointment, though we are in conversation with him about it.

We want to highlight the following quote by local business leader, Sheldon Lubar, pulled from a recent article in the Journal Sentinel: “The UW System is the most important — without a rival second — the most important institution in the state, and the success of our community in Milwaukee and every community in our state is dependent on a highly educated citizenry,” Lubar said. “The university is not just a punching bag and a place you can take money from without any regard to what its impact is.”

Mar 26, 2014

The UC has worked closely with Dr. Michael Lovell during his time as chancellor of UW-Milwaukee (UWM), and all of us are very sad to see him leave us.  We have witnessed firsthand his enthusiastic leadership of our campus, pride in its accomplishments, and tireless efforts to persuade Legislators and Regents of UWM’s potential.  However, we have also shared his deep frustration at this potential being continually deferred by the UW-System and the State, especially recently, due to a desperate and increasing need for funding commensurate with our mission and the number of students we serve.

We will miss working closely with Chancellor Lovell, but congratulate him on this unexpected career move, and wish him and his family all the best in the future.  Looking forward ourselves, the University Committee has already been in contact with UW-System President Cross.  He has assured us of his firm commitment to working closely with the UC throughout the processes of selecting an Interim Chancellor, and choosing faculty to serve on the search committee when it is formed.  We will do our best to keep you informed as these events unfold.

Mar 25, 2014

The UC met with Provost Britz who spoke of the need to be more aggressive about stating our case in Madison. We discussed the idea of increasing the lobbying effort for UWM and revisited the issue of the “carry-forward surpluses” that were egregious at Madison and virtually non-existent at UWM. We later talked about the guerrilla war between institutional happy talk and the ongoing grimness of enrollment and revenue numbers. Madison’s current freshman class is at an overall high, acknowledged as too big, which gouges the rest of the system. There seems to be no centralized planning for the System.

Mar 18, 2014

We met with Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen and Associate Vice Chancellor Jerry Tarrer and had a tutorial and discussion about UWM’s fiscal status and outlook. It was a very useful session, even though depressing in regards to the general fiscal health.

Mar 11, 2014

We met with Chancellor Lovell and talked in fairly general terms about the budget and our endorsement of a pay increase for Graduate Assistants so that we are somewhat competitive in the market and more fair to the students. As always, the question is “Where do we find the money?” though the UC is unanimous in prioritizing this issue and advocating for it at Faculty Senate.

We also discussed procedures for efficient handling and research infrastructure for the use of biological agents.

Provost Britz joined us and spoke about the problems of faculty retention and the number of highly productive colleagues who are being aggressively recruited from UWM. We also discussed the “tuition plateau,” meaning the amount of credits one is able to take as a full time student. A model where credits all cost the same amount as opposed to the current system of categories is worth exploring.

Mar 4, 2014

Academic Staff Committee (ASC) Liaison Daniel Fuhrmann briefed us on the ASC’s discussion of several Academic Staff workload issues, and further developments regarding an Academic Staff mentoring program.

We also met with Vice Chancellor Joan Prince who discussed with us Carnegie Foundation “Elective Community Engagement Classification” which our campus will be applying for later this year.  If our application is successful, this designation will allow UW-Milwaukee faculty and staff to apply to a new source for project funding.

Feb 25, 2014

Before we met with Chancellor Lovell, we discussed UWM’s status as “The Underfunded Campus” and our support of a TA request to bring forward their own concerns about compensation. With the Chancellor, we discussed the need for new faculty in multiple areas. The Chancellor currently needs to privately fundraise for faculty positions and, for example, reminded us that the School of Freshwater Sciences was a response to regional and state needs and requests, so it is particularly frustrating to have to fundraise to fulfill basic functionality. We also discussed enrollment targets for incoming classes. We are funded like a research university of 16,000 students. We now have an “admitted student team” which has helped with our yield of students. Applications and admits are down, but the yield of admits is up.

We spoke with Senator Larson about flexibility regarding resources and  resource allocation and how to better advocate for UWM’s position with the Legislature. We also talked about a “Higher Ed, Lower Debt” campaign regarding financing student loans that Senate Democrats are putting forward.

Feb 18, 2014

We met with Provost Britz and discussed the budget model, the need to realign the budget around priorities, and the need to get salary equity as one of the priorities. The UC emphasized the need to include the necessary salary increases in all budget considerations. We are continually concerned about understanding the very convoluted budget model and how to make it more data-driven.

We also decided that we would discuss these salary issues with Senator Larson in our meeting with him next week.