Chancellor Rebecca Blank held a campus and community forum Thursday, opening the floor to the public to ask questions regarding the future of the University of Wisconsin System.
The forum gave members an opportunity to voice concerns about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $300 million budget cut to the system. Members addressed topics such as increased tuition, layoffs, the school’s redistribution of funds and overall legacy. Blank said UW is prepared to handle these cuts as efficiently as possible.
“I will also note that we have weathered a lot of storms in the last 166 years of history,” Blank said. “These proposed budget cuts and criticisms coming at the university are not terribly unusual, if you already think about this university’s history, and we indeed will find ways to meet these challenges and to maintain the real excellence and quality that this university has.”
If Walker’s proposal is passed, UW schools will absorb $150 million worth of cuts over the next two years, Blank said. One way to cut the deficit is increasing the school’s revenue, which would be done through the inevitable — raising tuition, she said.
Another option that could be explored and will ultimately become a reality is layoffs, Blank said. UW has not specified the amount of layoffs yet.
UW will offer assistance to those who could lose their jobs, giving at least a six-month advance notice. There has been discussion about setting up a “bank of resumes,” where faculty that have been laid off will have a prioritized opportunity to fill new job openings if they fit the job’s qualifications, Blank said.
Layoffs are not the only way the university can save money, and a balance of cuts is the primary challenge, Blank said.
“I have to spread these cuts across the university, in some way, and working with Darrell Bazzell, our vice chancellor for Finance and Administration, we’re looking at ways to spread these cuts so schools, colleges and educational programs don’t bear the sole brunt of them,” Blank said.
As Walker’s proposal is in the early stages, it is too soon to determine what will happen to specific departments or groups, Blank said. The only sure thing is that the university will be seeing cuts, she said.
Blank emphasized during the forum that she will be relying upon deans, directors and department chairs to work together through this period of adversity while deciding how cuts are divided.
“These cuts will impact the educational quality of this institution and a higher education throughout the state of Wisconsin and will degrade student experience,” Blank said. “We are, with these cuts, jeopardizing the investments that generations of Wisconsin students have made over the last 166 years in making the University of Wisconsin, particularly the University of Wisconsin at Madison, an absolutely world-class university.”