College News

UW restructuring rumors and unanswered questions trouble faculty and administrators

Board of Regents to vote on merger at upcoming Thursday meeting

UW System President Ray Cross proposed a restructuring of the UW System which the Board of Regents will vote on at their upcoming meeting.

Image By: Madeline Heim

Administrators and faculty felt blindsided by UW System’s proposal to pair two-year schools with four-year schools last month, and they still have unanswered questions.

Now, the Board of Regents will take up the merger at their Thursday meeting, though details about how the decision will impact campus finances and faculty job security are still murky.

Seven former UW College campus executives penned a letter outlining questions that they believe the System has yet to answer. Specifically, they expressed fears that if enrollment didn’t drastically increase, other alternatives would have to be found for the two-year schools.

“The chancellors at parent four-year campuses could see these as a drain on their limited resources and might well decide to eliminate the branch campuses,” the executives wrote in the letter.

Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of UW Colleges and UW Extension, has come out in favor of the restructuring because she feels that four-year schools will be able to invest more resources in the smaller campuses.

Despite worries from faculty and staff that the restructuring would not take their voices into account, Sandeen said she didn’t think that people would lose their jobs.

“What we’re doing now is entering into a really intensive planning state where a lot of questions will be answered,” she told The Daily Cardinal.

Noel Radomski, managing director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education noted in an October blog post that UW employees —be it faculty, administrators, academic staff or university staff — weren’t notified of the restructuring ahead of time.

Because of this, he wrote, the decision should be delayed.

“The idea of approving the restructuring proposal at a November 2017, UW System Board of Regents meeting is folly, as is a July 1, 2018, implementation date,” he explained.

Sandeen acknowledged that UW System President Ray Cross didn’t solicit a range of opinions before arriving at his decision but says she has hosted virtual townhalls and believes transparency is important.

“It’s very important to be open and transparent and clear about what decisions are being made,” Sandeen said. “That goes far to helping people calm down and improve their morale.”

But UW College campus administrators were not optimistic. They identified recent budget cuts as partly to blame for the decline in enrollment.

“Moreover, the regionalization forced by state budget cuts three years ago contributed to this decline due to the loss of local campus leaders, community visibility, on-campus services, and on-the-ground recruiters for each campus,” the group said in the letter.

As the UW College and UW Extension programs prepare for a new set of changes, Sandeen said she believes all parties involved in the restructuring will uphold the missions of these schools. Although she’s not worried about the negotiation process, Sandeen said the devil will be in the details.

“It’s very important that we acknowledge that we’re going to continue to serve this important segment of students who deserve a chance so we preserve the mission of the UW Colleges,” she said. 

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