UW-Milwaukee’s Chancellor Mark Mone expressed concerns during a speech today for the future of the university, due to Governor Walker’s proposal to cut about $300 million from the UW System in the next state budget.
When Mone last addressed the campus in December, he encouraged Panthers to ‘Move forward together boldly,’ but today, during the spring 2015 plenary address, he said that the UWM community needs to ‘Move forward together during uncertain times,’ setting a less positive tone in the face of the massive budget cuts.
“We are deeply disturbed, and tremendously concerned about the impact overall of this on our campus,” Mone said during his speech.
Mone said if things go according to Walker’s plan, the budget cuts could be in place by July 1 this year.
Walker released his plan Tuesday, premature of the official budget release on Feb. 3, and said he plans to cut $150 million from UW System funding each year, for the next two years.
Today Mone said he plans to meet with other chancellors and the UW System Board of Regents Feb. 5 in order to discuss the logistics and potential challenges suggested by the new budget.
Walker’s early release of the budget plans also caught university officials off guard.
“One of the challenges we face is… we don’t know exactly what the cut will be to UWM,” Vice-Chancellor of University Relations Tom Luljak said. “We are waiting to get as much information so we can be as accurate as possible.”
Mone’s current plan for UWM is to create a special ‘Budget Planning Task Force,’ composed of faculty, staff and students, to figure out how to plan for the proposed cuts and advocate against them.
“This task force is going to be critical for helping us determine how to best manage our campus budget, if the proposed budget changes are made,” Mone said.
Mone said that UWM will be sure to get the public involved after the official budget is revealed. But some faculty, such as distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry David Petering, said that the university and UW System need to be more proactive now.
“My suggestion is that we get ahead of the narrative,” Petering said. “We can’t wait for this to be defined by people like the governor.”
Petering is afraid faculty cuts will be inevitable with the lack of funding.
“Budgets at the departments have been cut to the bone decades ago,” Petering said. “There’s nothing to cut, other than to start cutting people, and I think that’s what you’re going to see.”
Petering said he believes that the cuts could also ruin the progress UWM has made as a renowned research facility.
“It’s easy to destroy, it’s awfully hard to restore,” he said.
Today Walker suggested during an interview with radio host Charlie Sykes, that UW professors may need to pick up more classes to make up for the cuts. Mone had not heard the Walker comments, but said regardless giving teachers extra workload is not a viable solution for research based universities like UWM.
“I completely believe that at UW-Milwaukee, our faculty and staff are already stretched incredibly thin,” Mone said. “I think about the teaching demands in a research oriented environment… I haven’t met a harder working faculty and staff than what we have at UW-Milwaukee. It’s a pretty remarkable place.”
Another effect of the Governor’s proposal includes more freedom for each university from the state. Mone said that the effects of autonomy will take longer to structure and understand, but also thinks there are positives associated with the independence.
The autonomy would give the UW System Board of Regents power over the system as a whole. But many on campus are afraid of losing important standards outlined in a group of laws central to the UW System, which are the laws outlined in Wis. Statue 36.
Student body president Ryan Sorenson wants to keep Wis. Statue 36, which grants shared governance among UW schools, or allows students at each university to have sole control of student government.
“Moving shared governance from state statute to system policy (may bring) a lot of different changes that really impact how shared governance is implemented on campus and the system,” Sorenson said. “I go by the motto ‘don’t fix it if it’s not broken,’ and I think shared governance works on every campus in the system.”
Another issue UWM faculty fear is the Board of Regents ability to remove the tenure, or the inability for university regents to fire seasoned professors and lecturers. Petering said that without tenure, faculty would not be able to share their opinions as freely as they did, even just during the plenary earlier.
“The issue of tenure is going to be central to this for me,” he said. “We are in a situation where tenure is important right now, and there are many fine comments being made due to it.”
Some who attended the speech questioned how hard Mone will work to fight against the governor and state legislature, but Mone assured them he will do everything in his power, and asked for everyone to work together to make UWM’s voice heard.
“I’ve got the passion, I’ve got the anger, and I’ve got the emotion,” Mone said. “I need your guidance to make sure that we move forward in a way that is strongest and most compelling.”