Anonymous Source Releases Planned Budget Cuts
Michael Wilson
mwils249@uwsp.edu
A source has released to The Pointer the results of two emergency meetings held last semester by university administrators, including members of different university governance groups, to affirm investment priorities and plan specific cuts to the university budget.
 
The assembled think-tank hoped to address the changing relationship between the university and the state, which has put a chokehold on funding for public education.
 
The groups met in mid-December of 2011, as convoked by Chancellor Bernie Patterson. According to University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point librarian Nerissa Nelson, this “was a closed meeting that included the University’s budget managers, vice chancellors, deans, and representation from faculty, academic staff, classified staff and students.”
 
Although the specific cuts planned have not been publicly released, the Chancellor did issue a statement and a summary to the faculty in December. Chancellor Patterson was unable to reply with comments this week, but asked his Executive Assistant to provide these two documents. Manzke noted that these two documents are posted online.
 
Now, an anonymous source has made the full notes and documents from the meetings available for the campus. The source confirms specific plans, including what percentages of each college and departments’ budgets will be trimmed, as well as cuts to positions and services.
 
Two questions are being asked: what are the implications of having this information released? Furthermore, what kinds of personal and institutional sensitivities must be considered before informing the campus about these cuts?
 
Making the budget meetings open meetings is the step that I think needs to happen,” said Andy Felt, president of SPARC, the faculty union. “I understand that it's scary, making such meetings open. One imagines crazy people disrupting the meeting and not allowing you to have frank discussions. I think the potential upsides outweigh that potential disadvantage. Erring on the side of openness is probably for the best. It's also the law in Wisconsin.”
 
“It’s hard to say at this point,” Nelson said. “I’m very concerned about program cuts or program realignment. I’m far more concerned and angry that no one is fighting tooth and nail (I mean this more globally) for state funding. Only 17 percent of our revenue comes from the state, which forces the institution to garner money through other means, including increased student tuition. In effect, that makes us more like a private institution – except that we are still subject to state laws and regulations.”
 
“We're all grown-ups,” Felt said. “We understand the concept of cuts. I like to think that we would handle a discussion about cuts with maturity and professionalism.”
 
According to the source’s notes, the UW System represents 7 percent of the state budget, but the UW System shouldered 38 percent of the total budget lapses faced by state agencies this past year.
 
The state’s prison system represents 8 percent of the budget, a larger share than public higher education.
 
The notes discuss a budget cut of “$3.1 million by June 2012.” The notes read, “private institution—we are on track. We cannot accomplish what we need to do with this current climate,” followed by the bullet point: “More tuition driven.”
 
At the summits, the possibility of lifting the cap on tuition increases was also discussed, and plans were made to create an Enrollment Management administrative committee to increase revenue.
 
The notes mention that the College of Natural Resources at UWSP is the “best in the country/world.” Further down, they also mention that “90 percent of staff are paid less than the U.S. average” for their counterparts.
 
Other notes from the meeting, such as “streamline their budgets” and “more students per class” follow the specific total cuts each college will shoulder.
 
In the Division of Academic Affairs, the cuts expected for 2013 break down as follows. The College of Natural Resources will be cut by $95,000. The College of Fine Arts and Communication will lose $115,150. The College of Professional Studies will be degraded by $201,270. Lastly, the College of Letters and Science will take the largest cut: $400,000.
 
The IT budget will see a baseline cut of $95,913 in 2013; the Executive Offices will be cut by $34,184; Business Affairs will be cut by $167,108; the Teaching-Learning Resources budget will drop by $78,249; and lastly, the Division of Student Affairs will be cut by $393,516. This cut does not include segregated fees, however, as these are paid for by students in each campus. “Segregated fees will not go up,” say the notes.