Budget cut plan causes opposition

Nikki Brahm, News Writer

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At the faculty budget forum on Friday, a new union, the United Faculty and Staff of Oshkosh, delivered a statement voicing concerns on the defunding of the University system as a whole and UW Oshkosh’s current budget cuts.

Implementation of UWO’s new University budget model will begin in July, which focuses on budget cuts for the next three years with three phases, which all happen simultaneously.

Phase one focuses on immediate reductions of centrally budgeted items that are not a priority. The target amount is to reduce $2.5 million from $5.4 million.
Phase two is to develop budget reduction targets for all division and institutional units, the target is to reduce $6 million GPR from $114.5 million GPR over the next two years.

Phase three is to work to develop and implement revenue-enhancement strategies and raise a net $1 million of ongoing revenue by the second year of the plan.
The central funding proposal worksheet was recently posted online, which lists specific cuts and details on expenses.

The statement UFSO delivered at the open forum said they’ve received over 151 signatures and they oppose the budget reduction option to increase faculty workload and lay off instructional academic staff. They also asked that they consider solutions that support faculty, staff and students and asked for more transparency.

Associate professor and academic chair to the sociology department Paul Van Auken said there’s been a lack of transparency.

“I don’t think that we’ve been given a real clear picture from the administration about what’s been really going on with a lot these things,” Van Auken said. “Which just causes less morale that’s already been pretty low because this is just the latest in the years of cuts and changes that we’ve been forced to go through.”

Van Auken helped start the UFSO union as a way for faculty members to address concerns on the budget cuts and said they are resisting the systematic defunding of the University system.

“[We are] basically protesting the idea that the faculty and staff should have to bear the brunt that stems from these problems that were not of our making,” Van Auken said. “It stems from administration in different ways, from the very top of the state system, based on the systematic defunding of the University over the last few decades.”

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said liberal education is at the heart of what we do at this institution and he doesn’t have any interest in singling out any single discipline or groups of disciplines over any other.

“In our second year that’s when we’ll need to get more specific as to what should be reduced or eliminated,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt said there is a plan in place to address this issue.

“That will be determined through a faculty-led process using our University Resource Alignment Committee, which will analyze both quantitatively and qualitatively the numbers or the values of all of the different things we do, whether it’s academic or non academic,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt said his greatest concern is to minimize the impact changes have on students, faculty and staff and to not allow the budget process to define who UWO is as an institution. Leavitt said students are probably most concerned about class availability.

“We are always committed to make sure that students have the next class that they need in terms of requirements in front of them,” Leavitt said. “What we can’t guarantee anymore is the level of variety that one might have in, say, upper division electives,” Leavitt said. “We may have been able to offer three orfour in a given semester in a department. Now it’s looking like one or two and we simply have to have full classes in order to be able to afford holding the class.”

Leavitt said one proposal they are considering is to decouple the interim class from semester tuition.

“We are the only school that does that and that clearly, while it may be an advantage to students and I certainly understand that, it’s compromised our ability to offer the kinds of courses and programs we’d like to offer because of the reducing budget,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt said he has put out a number of campus communications to students: he has addressed the Oshkosh Student Senate on the issue, meets with the leadership of the Oshkosh Student Association regularly and hosts Coffee and Tea with the Chancellor, where students are invited to attend and he often discusses the budget.

Van Auken said there’s been institutional changes on the UWO campus as well, which is still not completely clear.

“We don’t think [the faculty] should bare the brunt of these major cuts when the brunt of the problem is from somewhere else,” Van Auken said. “We should be looking at the source of the problems and trying to do something about that.”

Senior Karenna Jolin said she is worried the budget cuts will steer UWO away from its liberal arts education program toward a more vocational education.

“If UWO follows the models of UW-Superior and UW-Stevens Point, majors such as political science, sociology, history, journalism and language will be the first on the chopping block,” Jolin said. “Is it possible to obtain a liberal arts education without these programs? I’m not convinced.”

Jolin signed the petition and said she is concerned about the future of the sociology department and other majors.

“Budget cuts have had an impact on which classes are being offered and how often,” Jolin said. “I am concerned that the younger majors may have a hard time enrolling in classes they need due to less classes being offered. I am worried that the sociology major might be cut altogether.”

There will be an open forum on April 18 at 7:15 p.m. in Reeve 307.