Since my Jan. 21 message to campus, there have been a number of items emerging in various media speculating about UW System and state budget discussions, as well as additional flexibilities. Today, I am sharing what we have been hearing and possible implications for the UW System and our campus.
What We Understand About the Current Status
There are several topics being discussed. Let me stress here that nothing has been decided, the governor’s proposed state budget will be presented on Feb. 3, and I prefer not to speculate on what may occur. Rather, I will share with you what we have been hearing thus far from:
- UW System administration meetings with chancellors, System faculty, and governance representatives;
- other UW System campuses;
- discussions with UW System President Ray Cross and UW Regent President Mike Falbo; and
- media channels.
The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau is projecting a significant structural budget deficit for the state based on projected revenues and expenses for the 2015-’17 biennium. Cuts to the UW System budget are one element of addressing this. The amount of possible UW System cuts being discussed is of significant magnitude. Any cuts will be particularly difficult because we do not have significant reserves to allow us to adjust to the budget cut, and tuition will continue to be frozen for another biennium.
There are continuing conversations about autonomy and flexibilities for the UW System. As part of this, you may have heard about possible changes to Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 36 and a UW System shift from being a state agency to becoming a public authority. While these changes have not been announced and at this point are uncertain, let me be absolutely clear about my stalwart support to preserve shared governance and tenure at UWM.
What This Might Mean for UW-Milwaukee
Based on these anticipated budget cuts, we must take the steps that protect and promote our key priorities going forward, including: student success (this includes recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation), bolstering research, strengthening our engagement, improving campus climate and culture and elevating our visibility. We must also keep the best interests of UWM at heart and advocate for them.
We are convening a budget reduction task force, which I’ll ask Provost Johannes Britz and Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen to co-chair, as we have done during past budget cuts. It will include members of campus leadership and governance groups. This task force will help us determine how we respond to the predicted cuts and strategically realign our resources and programs.
We will hold regular campus meetings to discuss these challenges and to share information as we learn more. The first of these meetings will be held on Feb. 10 from 9 to 10 a.m. in the Student Union Wisconsin Room. I highly encourage your participation. In addition, we will update the Website regularly.
As we stand together during this time, you have my promise that this campus will be managed and led with openness and inclusiveness as we face what may be one of our biggest challenges to date. We are poised to rise together to meet this challenge and create a strong future for our students, faculty, staff and communities.
With thanks to our exceptional faculty and staff, we have much to build upon even as we face the headwinds before us. Difficult challenges require collegial cooperation and passionately expressing our stories to make the case for supporting UWM. It is incumbent upon all of us to do this, and to ensure that UW-Milwaukee is a top choice for generations of students to come.
Mark A. Mone