Still no numbers

Specific figures continue to be in short supply during this week’s budget discussions with Chancellor and UUCC

Hannah Helwig, General Reporter

Two budget forums featuring the chancellor ended early after minimal discussion, and the University Undergraduate Curriculum Commission began acting on proposed changes to the general education curriculum as campus-wide budget discussions continued this week.

Definitive dollar savings were in short supply, however; Chancellor Dennis J. Shields noted, for example, that calculating savings while developing the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program had been “a crapshoot.”

Shields answered questions during two 40-minute sessions held in the Nohr Gallery on Oct. 14. The forums were planned to last 90 minutes but both ended early as attendees ran out of questions. Shields set the stage for each forum by outlining UW-Platteville’s structural deficits, the state-level cuts compounding the issue and actions taken since last spring.

“Last spring was about picking off the low-hanging fruit,” Shields said, before fielding questions about when the next cuts would go into effect. Shields said some cuts would begin as early as February 2016, although the majority would occur on July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

Later that afternoon, the UUCC began acting by passing motions which included a retroactive suspension of the writing emphasis—the requirement went into effect two semesters ago—and the first-year experience course. The first-year experience course requirement would be suspended as of Fall 2016.

The motions passed do not necessarily result in decisions, but will be included in recommendations made to Faculty Senate, which will in turn submit recommendations to Shields. The UUCC members decided on Oct. 14 that they would focus on achieving a $4.5 million cut instead of a possible $6 million cut that has been discussed by the administration.

Reactions to the UUCC’s approach varied.

“It’s overwhelming either way,” UUCC chair Chris Schulenburg said. “The question becomes what happens to our recommendations once they go to Faculty Senate. This has been a month-and-a-half of painstaking work. Hopefully our recommendations … are taken seriously.”

Schulenburg said that he does not know of any cost savings associated with the decision to suspend the writing emphasis.

School of Business Director Susan Hansen, who initiated the motion to suspend the writing emphasis and first-year experience course, said it was “partly a budget issue and partly an issue of practicality. We don’t have enough writing emphasis courses available. [The motion] was mainly to avoid a bind that students will get in when they can’t get into classes.”

Hansen said that cost savings associated with a suspension are difficult to determine, but that essentially courses that emphasize writing have to be smaller to be effective. If classes are larger, then not as many sections have to be taught.

Hansen said she expects the writing emphasis requirement to eventually be revisited, however.

Laura Wendorff, who has taught at UW-Platteville since 1993, said that a suspension of the writing emphasis would be disappointing.

“What I see is that what students learn in freshman composition does not get carried through to other classes. In order to learn to write better, students need to continue to have people work with them in their disciplines,” Wendorff said.

Wendorff also said that she has seen a general decline in writing skills over the years.

“You can only get better if you practice,” Wendorff said. “I hate to see students get into job markets where they’re not going to be able to write clearly and communicate effectively.”

Issues of reducing the foreign language requirement or eliminating the physical education requirement were not discussed at the Oct. 14 UUCC meeting, although they were discussed, but not acted upon, at the Oct. 7 meeting.

[email protected]