Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Minimal impact on students?

What students and staff have to say about recent layoffs
Michael Buckner / Advance-Titan – The chancellor’s office announced in an email that many UWO employees have accepted the voluntary retirement offer and over 30 vacant positions will remain unfilled. This brings the total number of positions affected by layoffs, voluntary retirements and open positions to about 250.

On Oct. 16, the chancellor’s office sent out an email explaining the layoffs of 140 employees. Later in the email, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said, “The actions we are taking are structured with stewardship: to support UWO’s core academic mission, and to have minimal impact on students and student success.” 

However, this isn’t true. Purging these positions at the university will have an immense impact on the lives and success of students. 

Campus has turned into a desolate, post-apocalyptic ruin waiting for help that isn’t coming. It’s been weeks of quiet mumbles exchanged between faculty in the hallways; weeks of speculation; weeks of asking for clarity and not receiving it. 

We feel this as a student body. We know this means increased workload with decreased pay for our teachers. We know this means certain programs will face defunding. We know our direct person-to-person resources will be reduced and our emails will take longer to be answered. 

These layoffs are not a numbers game. Real people are being impacted. People with mortgages to pay, kids to feed, monthly bills, people living paycheck to paycheck. Staff who have served our university for years are being removed and everyone else is expected to carry on like normal. 

Students are losing mentors who have assisted their academic and personal lives. Faculty and staff are losing close friends and colleagues. Many remaining faculty have no idea where they will be in a year, because as far as they know, information is announced by email with no notice. 

Cutting a big chunk of the Project Success program staff is not my idea of ensuring a student’s positive campus experience. Letting go of all full-time staff members of the Office of International Education (OIE), which operates the study abroad program, isn’t upholding the promise of preservation of the student experience. 

How are we expecting these programs to stay running for students to take advantage of? Realistically, we can’t. These programs require a team; how can we expect one staff member to manage the responsibility of an entire office and not get paid for this increased workload? It’s unfair.

An academic department associate (ADA) who chose to remain anonymous from the College of Letters and Science said she had been with the university since 2011 and earned her degree here. She said she was told directly from upper administration that there was a “very slim chance” her position at the university would be threatened. 

Come to find out Monday afternoon she had lost her job. She is now paying off student loans for a university that just laid her off. 

“If this is how they treat their graduates, who the hell wants to work here?” she said. 

“I felt like a family member died,” she said in response to losing her position. “We’re so invested in this campus community; they’re taking our families away from us. It’s not just our livelihoods.”

She went on to say that her role as an ADA makes her the first point of contact for students. This is absolutely affecting the student experience. 

“I have students that come in and just talk to me on a daily basis,” she said. “They feel safe enough, it’s a safe place. A lot of us ADAs are safe people to talk to; we’re not family and we can keep what’s going on with students confidential. I was a student, so I know. I needed somebody to go to.”

She said, “One of my students yesterday came and said ‘I had no idea this was going to happen.’” 

“When they say that cuts like these don’t affect students, that’s not true,” professor Vincent Filak of the advertising, multimedia journalism and public relations department said. “You’re losing all of this infrastructure that helps students on a daily basis. 

“I heard there were cuts to Project Success, which really does make a difference in the lives of students who have important needs that, when met, can be just as successful as any other student without those needs,” Filak said. “To cut staff from Project Success, while opening the door to more students from a wider array of backgrounds, is almost criminal, because you’re setting people up to fail.”

University-wide, professors are unsure what classes they will be teaching next semester; therefore, students are unsure what classes will be offered. No one seems to know what’s going on and it has felt like a hellfire of bad news. 

“It was ridiculous to think that students wouldn’t be touched by this,” Anya Kelley, Advance-Titan news editor, said.  “The morale is so low, professors don’t have the time or the energy to get back to us, students are worried about the class offerings, everyone is so confused and no one is giving us answers.” 

Caprice Swanks, Women Advocacies Senator for the Oshkosh Student Government (OSG), said that as a result of losing adjunct professors, tenured professors will be forced to teach subjects they may know very little about, which will overall impact student learning. 

“Starting next semester we’re going to have a lot of our professors that are staying having to learn about a certain area while we’re also learning,” Swanks said. “That’s really going to affect how we learn, because we’re just learning together at this point.”

In addition to being a member of OSG, Swanks is closely involved with the Titan Captains on campus and fears the uncertain future of the program, another resource for students who will feel the effects of layoffs.  

“Knowing that one of my bosses from last summer has lost their job is really hard,” Swanks said.  “Seeing them lose this job that helped get so many students to come here this school year is really frustrating since we’ve talked about how we really want enrollment numbers to get up.”

Kelly Hueckman, managing editor of the Advance-Titan, said, “At this point, it’s not a matter of whether or not these layoffs will affect students, but to what degree.”

“Whoever said that students would not be impacted by these layoffs is completely detached from student life at UWO,” Hueckman said. “Laying off 140 people is cutting 140 resources for students. Entire departments and offices dedicated to helping students succeed are being dropped; meanwhile, our tuition has gone up. We should be upset and we are.” 

UWO student and communications major Olivia Wingender lost her internship with the OIE. She is allowed to finish out the rest of the semester but was told the OIE would no longer exist past January. 

“We just got a new website up and a new application process going – literally last week I was testing it out,” Wingender said. “I hope the administration tries to do their best, but it’s very frustrating that there’s all these things that have to be figured out now. I’m sure they’re not going to be canceling any trips, but it is affecting students more than they thought it would. You can say it’s not going to affect us all you want, but it’s canceled my internship.” 

“Why do you think cutting out the OIE is going to solve our $18 million debt? Because it’s not,” Wingender said.

We as students are pissed off because we care about the people who fill these positions. We don’t want to see them go. These staff members have helped a lot of us navigate our careers and lives as college students. For the university administration to be so nonchalant about the severity of this entire situation is unsettling. It truly makes you question authority at this school. How do we know that faculty members are protected come spring? What unexpected financial crisis will come forth in the foreseeable future and put our professors in jeopardy? 

“These people didn’t have anything to do with the problem that we’re in,” Filak said. “I can’t find a single custodian I can blame for us being $18 million in the hole; I can’t find a single person who worked with a student at the advising center who is responsible for making us have fewer students, and I can’t find a single person who is an administrative assistant who got us into debt over a certain number of years. 

“This is not their fault, but they have become the cannon fodder for fixing the problem and to that end it’s heartbreaking. It’s like the death of a thousand cuts,” Filak said.


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