Dear Commons Community,
University of Wisconsin administrators began plans for layoffs and buyouts in preparation for the budget cuts proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. As reported in The Huffington Post:
“Scott Walker hasn’t even gotten his proposed budget cuts passed into law yet, but that’s not stopping the state’s prestigious public university system from moving to lay off staff, prompting fears of a “massive brain drain.”
Within the next few weeks, the Wisconsin state legislature will begin considering the Joint Finance Committee’s recommended budget, which may or may not include $300 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin system that Walker proposed in January.
Public university systems are a common target of governors looking to slash state budgets this year. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has proposed similar cuts to that state’s university system, as has Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in North Carolina. But experts say the potential slashing in Wisconsin is among the most significant.
“I don’t think [governors and legislators] have an appreciation for or respect for just how disruptive these draconian budget cut recommendations are, even if they aren’t fully realized,” said Daniel Hurley, associate vice president for government relations and state policy at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “It just puts the institutions and the system overall in a tremendously difficult bind.”
… According to Hurley, these preparations are “good fiscal stewardship. They can’t simply wait and see what happens, they have to take, in this case, extraordinary steps in case there is not a resolution.”
Aaron Crandall, president of United Faculty and Staff, American Federation of Teachers local 223, said morale is down among faculty and staff, “especially since most employees now for sure can anticipate no pay increase anytime soon, and that jobs may go unfilled, which means more work for those employees in units that have vacant positions.”
Seventy percent of Wisconsin residents oppose cutting $300 million from the system budget, according to a Marquette University Law School Poll conducted in mid-April.
The University of Wisconsin system has experienced considerable cuts since the 2008 recession, as have most public universities across the nation. Many other states, however, have begun putting money back into higher education. Only a few states are still cutting, and Wisconsin’s cuts have been among the biggest.
Some lawmakers have expressed concern about the cuts, and members of the legislative committee have proposed a different plan that softens the cuts Walker initially put forward.
The final answer won’t come until sometime in June, however, when the legislature votes on a budget plan.”
We wish our colleagues at the University of Wisconsin well and hope the legislature can ease Governor Walker’s evisceration of public higher education.