University of Wisconsin officials recently unveiled a plan to restructure the graduate school after significant growth in the institution’s research and graduate education programs.
While Provost Paul DeLuca Jr.’s plan awaits reports and recommendations from two university committees, the proposed changes have come under fire from faculty and staff.
What are the proposed changes?
Currently, research and graduate education are both overseen by Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Martin Cadwallader, who is responsible for administrating research centers and institutes, research facilities and research, and sponsored programs.
While the two enterprises are a logical combination due to their close relationship in campus operations, a variety of responsibilities have since been added to the position. These include representing UW research programs in Washington, D.C., monitoring compliance with national standards and improving the process of grant submission.
Additionally, the research program’s annual expenditures have hovered at just below $1 billion for the past several years — an all-time high.
Bill Tracy, chair of the University Committee, the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, said while this is indicative of the extreme growth the research program has seen, the administrative side of the enterprise has failed to grow at the same rate.
DeLuca said this long list of responsibilities and expanded amount of research is more than Cadwallader’s position should be expected to handle.
“To concentrate that into one structure is extremely difficult,” DeLuca said. “We need more leadership at the top and below the top.”
To implement this additional leadership, DeLuca has proposed the creation of a vice chancellor for research position that would take control of research and its facilities, industrial contracts, monitoring compliance, and research centers and institutes.
This new appointed official would report primarily to the chancellor, while the dean position would maintain the remaining responsibilities and report to the provost. Compliance administrators would be shifted to report to the associate vice chancellor for research instead of the associate dean for research policy.
A variety of other administrative positions would also be added to ensure the graduate school has adequate forces to address responsibilities, such as representing the school in Washington, D.C., requiring more focused attention.
DeLuca said the new structure would cost the university an additional $600,000 to $800,000 per year once implemented.
Why were they proposed?
DeLuca said a number of inadequacies within the university have come to the attention of Chancellor Biddy Martin and himself over the past several years.
“We’ve had near-miss issues where we’ve had a major difficulty in … how we run our research enterprise. We’ve managed to deal with those problems, but only by last minute extreme efforts,” DeLuca said.
These near misses include problems related to safety and compliance with national regulations research programs receiving external funding must follow.
The lack of administrative resources may also inhibit the school’s ability to secure grant funding, as there is less manpower to advocate for UW at the national level.
To address these problems, DeLuca said the addition of positions is absolutely essential to ensure the graduate school has administrators with focused,and more effective job responsibilities.
“I think the thing that we really need to remember is even though this sounds like it is all about research, literally thousands of our undergrads are involved in these research programs,” Tracy said. “It’s a major part of the education that goes on here. I think its critical to everybody, including citizens of the state who benefit from the research, we make sure this really stays strong.”
Why are they controversial?
While DeLuca considers the restructuring essential to bring the graduate school in line with its 21st-century research peers, some members of the faculty and staff have objected to changing a system they believe is not yet broken.
The University Committee created the Ad Hoc Committee to Determine the Needs and Structure of UW-Madison’s Research Enterprise to explore the issues facing research programs.
Over the course of the semester, nine professors sitting on the committee — chaired by UW biochemistry professor Hector DeLuca — will examine whether the current structure addresses the needs of these programs.
“While there may be things that need to be fixed — I would emphasize ‘may be’ — I would also say we’ve been very successful (in research) so we want to be careful not to dismantle what is the cause of the success,” Tracy said.
An additional committee called the Ad Hoc Committee on the Research Enterprise has also been appointed by the Academic Staff Executive Committee.
Tracy said the committees are an important piece of the university’s shared governance process — a component that has also come under fire because of what many perceive as a lack of detail in the actual plan proposal.
“My sense was there was pretty universal puzzlement over the meaning of the proposed changes and the reasons for the proposed changes,” atmospheric and oceanic sciences professor Grant Petty said. “We don’t really know enough about this proposal to know what the implications are.”
Petty became familiar with the proposed changes through a series of town hall meetings held over the past month for faculty, staff and students where Paul DeLuca presented a Powerpoint outlining the plan.
Many attendants expressed concern about the amount of detail available to them and later about to what extent their voiced concerns would be considered in the project’s development.
“It really boils down to that we don’t know why this plan was presented and we don’t know the details of the plan,” Petty said. “We wish there was more of this kind of information out there for us.”
The sociology department recently submitted a resolution to the Faculty Senate calling for an increase in detail before the plan moves forward.
The resolution, which would come before the Senate Nov. 2, would require the development of a more thorough written plan outlining the restructuring. The implementation of any part of the plan would be halted until the new outline is approved by the University Committee and Faculty Senate, allowing the requested time for consideration and “appropriate opportunity for comment from all members of the faculty.”
Further development of the restructuring plan will remain on hold until the two committees produce their reports and recommendations, tentatively at the end of the semester.
Hector DeLuca said his committee is still simply gathering information.
“We’re just starting to mine up the facts,” Hector DeLuca said. “Whether we will agree with the administrations proposal or not remains to be seen.”
Once the committees release their findings, they will be submitted to their respective university organizations. Tracy said Hector DeLuca’s committee will present to the University Committee, which will then develop recommendations for the provost.
These would then be used to produce a final plan to present to the Faculty Senate.
Hector DeLuca said restructuring would not begin until next year, but a few changes may be implemented sooner, mainly pertaining to compliance.
Paul DeLuca said he will continue to meet with faculty and staff, and two more town hall meetings will be held. The first is today at noon in the Microbial Sciences Building. The last meeting will take place Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. in the Humanities Building.