UW Oshkosh has suspended the academic title change process for the school year, which will affect academic staff, according to Chancellor Andrew Leavitt.
Academic staff can request a title change if they feel their current assigned title does not adequately match their job description or the scope measure does not match up with the job they have.
Leavitt, who said the suspension of title changes will save the University roughly between 70,000 to 100,000 dollars, said the decision to suspend the process came from the University’s current financial crisis following falling enrollment rates and larger graduating classes leaving UWO.
“This year we simply don’t have a choice because of the financial situation we’re in, and what we’re trying to do is preserve every resource we can,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt explained how the suspension will only affect the academic staff of the University, not all faculty.
“The suspension of the titling process only affects academic staff, so University staff are not involved in it nor our faculty,” Leavitt said. “The progression that they would normally experience through promotion from assistant to associate to full-time will move forward like it always has. Clearly this is something we’d prefer not to do in, and I don’t think it necessarily impacts our ability to recruit academic staff, but certainly it does impact our ability to retain academic staff.”
Leavitt said the University will still comply with a pay-plan which deals with all campus staff evaluations and compensation based on those evaluations.
“What you need to understand about the pay-plan is that the legislature only provides two-thirds of the costs of the pay-plan. We are to find the other one-third of the costs of the pay-plan and the rationale for that,” Leavitt said. “Historically we’ve been able to raise tuition to makeup that one-third, but our tuition has been flat for five years.”
Leavitt said the ability to keep academic staff at UWO ties into being able to fund the rest of the pay-plan.
“That last third is almost a million dollars, so we do have to find that internally because I think that would have a direct impact on the overall morale of the campus,” Leavitt said. “It would certainly impact the ability to recruit people into this place if we were to fail to fully fund the pay-plan.”
Leavitt said in order to see any sort of monetary compensation, staff will have to meet certain levels of job performance.
“To be eligible for a compensation increase through this pay-plan, you must be a solid performer,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt said there are higher levels of merit the academic staff can reach, but there will only be a small number of people.
“At the highest level of merit, it will impact fewer than ten percent of the employees,” Leavitt said. “You want the most meritorious people to get the highest raises.”
Leavitt said he has been in contact with the academic staff through their shared governance to listen to their feedback.
“I met with the leader of the senate of academic staff and have explained the situation,” Leavitt said. “They are understandably concerned and have voiced their concerns about this issue of morale and equity. They want to make sure that academic staff members are treated fairly.”
Leavitt said the academic staff will be involved with the restructuring of the academic title change over the course of this year.
“They are understanding of the process that we have to embark upon,” Leavitt said. “One of the things they are going to do this year is they want to look at the process itself to see what improvements they can make to make sure the process is doing what we’d hope it should be doing.”
Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs John Koker said he will be a part of the process that will look to restructure the title change process.
“I will convene a team to review current and perhaps propose a new policy and procedure,” Koker said. “This group will consist of representatives from shared governance groups.”
Koker said the University is looking to bring forward a process that allows more feedback input from the administrative staff.
“A process that includes the deans and unit heads and allows them to recommend academic staff for career progression,” Koker said.
Academic Department Associate Cindy Schultz said this suspension is sending a ripple of change through all employee groups on campus.
“I know that they are working on title change across all employee groups in an effort to better describe what it is that we’re doing,” Schultz said. “I think all in all it’s a good thing and I hope that maybe there will be a monetary reward at the end once people’s jobs are truly titled what they need to be.”
Schultz said the suspension affects colleagues she works with in the journalism department and is the result of lack of interest in higher education at the state level.
“It does impact some of our adjunct or academic staff here within the journalism department,” Schultz said. “I think a lot of it goes back to our state budget and our state not valuing higher education as it should be.”
Schultz said she’s aware of what’s going on with the title change suspension due to her involvement with shared governance and expressed feeling frustrated along with the academic staff.
“I’m sure it’s very frustrating for that employee group especially,” Schultz said. “I worry that they’re going to get out of a round of increases within salary.”
Koker said the suspension gives the University a chance to reflect on what needs to be done to fix the current deficit.
“As we consider other options we need to work on a budget that includes funding for academic staff career progression,” Koker said. “This pause allows us to do that.”