Chancellor Mark Mone and staff from the new budget committees held an open forum today in the Union’s Wisconsin Room to discuss the current state of the potential budget cuts as well as take part in a Q&A to address concerns from students and faculty moving forward.
Mone first addressed Scott Walker’s draft of changing the Wisconsin Idea to strike out the language concerned with community involvement and put in place wording that include developing students into a workforce, a draft that was eventually retracted by Walker.
“We are so pleased to see that any efforts to dismantle the Wisconsin Idea were closed,” said Mone.
Mone stated that the UW System president, Ray Cross, had sent a memo in advance of the announcements of the budget cuts “strongly encouraging” UW System chancellors and administrators to look at reducing upcoming spending. This comes in light of allegations that Ray Cross and members of the Board of Regents had be involved in “backroom dealings” prior to the budget cut announcements.
Cross also outlined in the memo specific cost containment measures that should be taken by UW System administrators immediately, which Mone reiterated. They included a hold on hiring non-essential positions, a hold on non-essential out-of-state travel and a hold on non-essential salary adjustments. These holdings will be put into place to prepare for any official cuts put into place on July 1.
Mone then acknowledged and addressed the goals of the new Budget Planning Task Force headed by Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administrative Affairs, Robin Van Harpen, and Vice Chancellor of University of Relations and Communications, Tom Luljak. The task force’s main charge will be to research options and impacts pertaining the budget cuts for the immediate, medium and long term.
The next part of the speech dealt with reactions from the UW Board of Regents’ meetings earlier this week. Board members expressed uniform concern that these budget cuts will be a “serious and critical challenge.” One board member believed that these budget cuts will be simply too large to absorb for not only for universities, but the state of Wisconsin.
Relating back to the Wisconsin Idea, the Regents also felt compelled to state that research amongst universities is not an “extra,” but rather that it is essential to the University of Wisconsin mission. “[Research] is a critically important, value adding, contribution and necessity for the types of things that we do. It’s why we are so important to this region,” said Mone.
The chancellor spoke later upon a variety of actions taken by the university and himself to take on the budget cuts directly including appearances on multiple public broadcast stations, speaking with legislators in Madison and the sending of over 52,000 messages to students, faculty, alumni and donors of UWM.
The chancellor announced plans to continue to meet with more legislators from the Join Finance Committee as well as the Education Committee and write op-ed articles with local news outlets such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “If I don’t stand up for what I really believe, and what you all care about, and what we do, then I haven’t done my job,” said the chancellor.
Tom Luljak finished the lineup of speeches speaking on an array of newsletters and websites to be rolled out for members of the UWM community to stay updated on potential budget news. This involved a space for those who believe they will be affected by the cuts to share their story on what UWM means to them, and how the cuts could have an effect on their university experience.
The final minutes were allocated to an open Q&A for students and faculty to voice their opinions and concerns.
Among questions asked were those concerned with the year between instatement of the potential budget cuts on July 1 2015 and the instatement of a public authority on the UW System on July 1 of 2016. One faculty member also expressed concern that the restructuring is going to be used as a device to put the majority weight of funding on university students who are already trillions of dollars in debt.