Change is coming, decisions affect all

On Sept. 24, an e-mail from the Chancellor’s Office containing the most recent budget updates arrived in the inboxes of all UW-Platteville students, faculty and staff members.

According to one line of the memo, “as an institution, it is very possible that [University of Wisconsin-Platteville] will look very different a year from now.”

Exactly how the university will change remains to be seen, but the most recent budget updates offer a glimpse. The update gave an overview of the budget proceedings so far, and informed the UW-Platteville community that it is now time for the “option identification” part of phase three.

What this means is that it’s time for further cuts to be made, and the “action items” that are on the table are now publicly available.

Some of these action items are very specific. For example, $15,000 in savings is anticipated if funding for the Marching Pioneers is reduced. According to the 2016-2017 budget changes spreadsheet included in the Sept. 24 e-mail, the cut would be to additional funding that had been added in the 2012-2013 academic year.

Other action items are more ambiguous, such as the 2.5 million dollar cut, termed “academic restructuring”, which must come from the three academic colleges, or the “unallocated reduction” to athletics which could range anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000.

The kinds of cuts these more ambiguous action items could signify is not yet determined. One proposal, which concerns the 2.5 million coming out of the academic colleges, suggests changes to the general education requirements. Before the most recent budget updates were made available last week, a proposal to reduce the number of required general education credits was announced at the Sept. 16 meeting of the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UUCC).

That particular proposal, made by the senior leadership team, states that “a recent report indicated that students are graduating from UW-Platteville with far more credits than are required by their major program.”

The proposed solution is to eliminate requirements such as the one credit of physical activity required by all students. This proposal also suggests suspending the writing emphasis, reducing the common requirements and making a distinction between the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs, among other suggested requirements.

The eliminated or reduced general education requirements would result in few sections offered, which would ultimately result in eliminated positions.

“The hard cold fact is that most of our budget is in salary dollars,” Mittie Den Herder, vice chancellor for academic affairs, said in a Sept. 22 interview about the proposal for changes to the general education requirements.

Despite the wide reaching implications of proposals such as the one made on Sept. 16, as well as the action items listed in the updates sent out on Sept. 24, Robert Cramer, vice chancellor for administrative services, said that it is important to remember that the action items are simply proposals for the moment, and that “nothing is set in stone.”

Nevertheless, some items are more concrete than others. For example, Cramer said that Chancellor Shields has committed to reducing the number of senior team members, which essentially includes anyone with the title of “vice chancellor.” This reduction is expected to result in a savings somewhere between $200,000 and $500,000.

The university is still waiting for finalized numbers in terms of what UW-Platteville’s portion of the budget cut will be, as well as final enrollment numbers for fall 2015.

In terms of how the university might look different a year from now, Cramer said that he anticipates that UW-Platteville will see a “narrowed and more focused” academic program as a result of budget cuts, and that there will certainly be “valuable things lost.”

The four campus senates have been asked to reflect on the budget proposal between now and Nov. 9, and provide feedback.

According to the timeline included in the Sept. 24 e-mail, the 2016-2017 budget decisions will be finalized by the chancellor in January.

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