May 26, 2015

We discussed the proposed changes to System policies related to chancellor and other executive searches. These changes seem to be aimed at diminishing the role of faculty within these searches. Last Friday (May 22nd), campus governance groups received notice that the Regents will be considering these major changes at their June 4-5th meeting. The changes were proposed just before the Memorial Day weekend with a feedback cutoff date of the following Tuesday. UC Chair, Mark Schwartz complained about this extremely short turn-around time. The background documents and the UC’s response can be seen below. There are three relevant pdfs regarding this issue:

1) Here is the current policy.
2) Here are the proposed changes mentioned above.
3) Here is the UC’s response to the proposal.

May 19, 2015

When Chancellor Mone arrived, we discussed the “M-cubed” initiative, involving MPS, MATC, and UWM, and the desire to coordinate programs to allow greater fluidity for students and greater advocacy and planning among administrators. We then discussed entrepreneurial initiatives, and especially a desire to connect with underserved local communities. We ended on the strategic plan and how to put if forward even with the budget cuts.

Academic Staff Chair Sarah Morgan visited and we discussed Catastrophic Leave Program calculations. After she left, we discussed calling an emergency meeting of the Faculty Senate in response to the JFC’s actions. While we are open to a potential necessity, we don’t foresee anything outside of what is anticipated regarding the bad budget decisions the state is making, nor do we see the options of efficacious actions beyond new faculty resolutions. We briefly discussed the Fraud Hotline and how demoralizing it is under the circumstances, what poor timing it is, and whether or not to put out a statement about it. It was pointed out that the hotline was a Regent Audit Committee initiative, started last year, and probably seems like normal routine to those from the corporate world. We decided to not give it more attention for the time being.

May 12, 2015

We met with State Representative Jonathan Brostoff and discussed the ongoing challenges regarding the budget cuts, and the short time left to try to influence the legislators. It was a very active conversation about both short term and long term strategies.

May 5, 2015

Trudy Turner visited and discussed the dire consequences of potential cuts to her Secretary of the University budget, in that these are the modest funds for UC and ASC service. We asked the question, “Does shared governance still matter at UWM, and if so, how is it supported?” Provost Britz arrived and we discussed ongoing issues of the budget, tenure and shared governance, especially the instability of the current situation. We discussed the uncertainty regarding continued value of the sick leave conversion program that is currently being reviewed. We then elected a new chair for next year’s UC (John Reisel) and discussed how UC News will be handled.

Report of the VSIP Survey:

Last week, the University Committee surveyed the faculty on their knowledge of, attitudes toward, and concerns about the recently announced Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP). For details on the VSIP, see the links below.

We’d like to report results from the VSIP Survey. We received responses from 276 people, about a third of the faculty.

•86% of the respondents were aware of the program.
•17% of the respondents think they are eligible to participate.
•29% support the program as proposed.
•26% think it is a good step for solving campus budget problems.
•60% think the program will hurt the academic progress of students.

The survey was conducted before the official determination of who was eligible to participate. The administration has now reported that overall 232 employees are eligible for the program. Of these 90 are faculty. Our results indicate 46 respondents to the survey felt they were eligible. If the survey results are representative, roughly half of the eligible faculty responded to the survey. In other words, a higher proportion of those who thought they were eligible responded to the survey compared with the overall response rate. Inferences about ultimate participation should be treated with caution. With this caveat in mind, the survey results suggest that 24% of the faculty who thought they were eligible expressed interest in participating, so an estimate of roughly 20-25 faculty participants in the program could be expected. Seven percent of the faculty who do not think they are eligible also expressed interest in participating.

One hundred and four faculty provided written comments as well. We are in the process of interpreting these. We hope to provide updated information in the days ahead.

On April 13, Chancellor Mark Mone announced a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) at UWM as a means to address our impending budget cuts. Details on the program are available here:

Updated information (April 24) from the Chancellor is available here:

Apr 28, 2015

We discussed the formation of a faculty advocacy entity, MORFS (Milwaukee Organization Representing the Faculty Senate), which is based upon the UW (Madison) group known as PROFS. It will be readied for future use by faculty governance. Chancellor Mone then arrived and we discussed new pessimism regarding any potential “windfall” in state revenues which would potentially moderate the full hit of the proposed cuts.

Senator Larson arrived and we discussed the political dynamics of the budget cuts. He said that we weren’t organizing well enough regarding “getting the message through” to the legislature, and cited the Alverno JFC hearings as a case-in-point.  IRIS funding will likely be restored due to its solid advocacy, but UWM just wasn’t apparent in the crowd. He suggested taking the long view, and to think of “how to win while losing.”  (Shannon Powell, Larson’s Communications Director) told us that we “are under attack,” so we “need a much bigger quantity of things coming in to legislative offices,” and to also think of “the quality of ways to individually address legislators.” “Go to the donor base,” he said. “Seek the people who give to you, and who also give to Republicans.” “There isn’t enough of this, a consistent drumbeat.” “I’ve offered to come work with the Alumni Association, but have only gotten platitudes.” “There is no useful tool on the Panther Advocates that allows easy access to legislators. There isn’t enough coalition building, and the students are not being pressed into service enough.” “Things like “Selfie Campaigns” don’t have any impact whatsoever with the legislators.”

Joint Finance won’t be taking up major issues until after the revenue reports, sometime in early May. UW funding will be at the end of the queue. Senator Larson says, “The action needs to be action now, not merely thinking about it anymore. Contact people and make their voices heard.” We had a great conversation about political and electoral dynamics, and playing to the future. He said, “We need an alternative vision for the future. We are all ambassadors for this state. We need to invest over time in education, and we believe in strong environmental policy. We believe in public education and we believe in good government. That isn’t gone, we just are not moving in that direction.” “We also need to communicate that this is a self-created issue, that we don’t have a state budget shortfall. The funds are there to support public education, if the politicians want to support it.”

He went on to say that there are three major pots of money: 1)  medicaid money, 2) manufacturing & agricultural tax credit  (that is radically increasing and could be stabilized, thus freeing up this give-away), and  3) K-12 school levy tax credit that goes to corporations and out-of-state property owners. This collectively could result in over $700 million that could be used for restoring the proposed UW and K-12 education cuts.

We then discussed Chapter 36… which will come down to the following: 1) mostly eliminate (Governor’s proposal) 2) undo what Governor proposed, 3) other options.  These options will be carefully laid out for legislators by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which is a good thing, since they are non-partisan pragmatists.

We then adjourned.

Apr 21, 2015

We discussed the absurdity of continuing to operate as if downsizing isn’t happening, referring specifically to the question brought forth in Senate regarding “who will staff the ongoing reviews of undergraduate programs?” If we are asked to “increase efficiency,” shouldn’t it work regarding the ever-increasing service burden as well? When Academic Staff Committee Chair Sarah Morgan arrived, we discussed the “catastrophic leave policy” and how health related absences can be covered. We also discussed the VSIP survey that will soon be going out. We discussed how to break the “austerity narrative” regarding our academic staff appointments and the nature of their contracts. After Sarah left, we discussed a needed edit of our faculty “leave of absence” policy. We came up with a plan of action for this, and adjourned.

April 14, 2015

Distinguished Professor David Petering visited to express his concern about how the administration is handling the budget cuts issue. He feels the potential situation is more dire than is being communicated externally. When Robin Van Harpen and Johannes Britz arrived, we spoke about messaging, and the fine line between communicating the damage that these cuts will do to UWM in balance with the need to not turn off potential students and their families. We also discussed the VSIP (Voluntary Separation Incentive Program) at length, both in its content, its procedural genesis, and how it was communicated to constituents.

Apr 7, 2015

We discussed retirement offers that are spreading around the System. Mark Harris joined us to discuss policies and concerns about research at UWM. Putting the RGI, Research Committee Awards and Arts&Humanities Travel Grants on hiatus is being considered, and we expressed our concern that this doesn’t reflect some of our core values. These activities account for about $3.8 million at current spending levels. We typically award 30 RGIs, 20 RCAs and 50 A&H Travel Grants annually. Harris hopes to be able to solidify these programs for the longer term though he wants to study the array first to analyze relevance for our programs. We had a heated conversation about the concrete and symbolic importance of maintaining research support systems. We ask the rhetorical question, “In which kind of institution do I want to invest my career?” regarding such research support. We adjourned after a brief discussion of our relationships with local politicians.