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Campus state budget update

The following email message was sent April 9 by Chancellor James Schmidt to all UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff. The message was a status update on campus budget reduction discussions and work with legislators and the UW system regarding the 2015-17 state budget.

Dear UW-Eau Claire Faculty and Staff,

I am writing to update you on the status of campus budget reduction discussions, as well as our work with lawmakers and the UW System regarding the 2015-17 state budget. 

First, thank you for the many civil and thoughtful conversations we've had on campus recently. Discussions at the "coffees" I have been holding, at the campus forum with UW System President Ray Cross, and at the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program information sessions make it clear that you are fully engaged in this important process.

State Budget  

Next week, the Joint Committee on Finance is expected to begin action on the 2015-17 state budget, but we do not anticipate it will take up the UW System budget until after state revenue projections are released later this month or in early May.

In the meantime, we continue to communicate our budget priorities to local and regional legislators:  

  • Reduce the size of the funding cut. 
  • Support the flexibilities in the public authority proposal: budgeting, human resources, capital planning, construction, financial management and procurement. 
  • Support the proposed dedicated funding structure that includes an annual Consumer Price Index adjustment. 

These priorities are included in a letter from President Cross to members of the Joint Committee on Finance that I and my fellow chancellors have all signed. 

Voluntary Separation Incentive Program

On Monday, Human Resources shared with my executive staff the list of our colleagues who have applied for the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program. The list includes 115 people, from all corners of the campus community, including 21 faculty, 22 academic staff, 65 classified staff and 7 limited (administrator-level) employees.

My experience with a program similar to this in Minnesota is that a voluntary separation program can generate position savings and mitigate involuntary separation. It is my intent to accept as many of these applications as possible to help meet our budget challenge. Decisions on which applications to accept will be made no later than April 24, and I will work with my executive staff to make those decisions as soon as possible. Eligible employees will have 45 days to decide whether to accept the agreement, and I expect to know the final participation numbers by early June.

Rapid Action Task Force Reports

The four Rapid Action Task Force reports are now available for review. You can read the four reports here.

While the task forces were formed in part because of our budget challenge, they were primarily asked to identify innovative and creative ways in which we can better serve our students and our mission. The reports contain a range of ideas that can help us reimagine our university, and some of the ideas propose major and significant change. I need your guidance on which ideas will support a stronger future, which ideas need further discussion or refinement, and which ideas we put aside for now.

As you do so, remember the guideposts that we want to achieve: 

  • 100: Percent of our students who will have at least one high-impact experience 
  • 90: We will retain 90 percent of our students from their first to second year 
  • 50: Our four-year graduation rate will increase to 50 percent 
  • 20: 20 percent of our students will be students of color and we will close the achievement gap 

Please submit your response by April 24 from this Qualtrics link.

I also invite you to attend one of the following campus forum where you can ask questions of members of the four task forces as well as share your comments: 

  • Tuesday, April 14, noon-1:30 p.m., Ojibwe Ballroom, Davies Center (University Faculty and University Academic Staff Spring Meeting; discussion of the reports will follow the business meeting) 
  • Wednesday, April 15, 10:30 a.m.-noon, Dakota Ballroom, Davies Center

I know we are working and living in uncertain times — and that uncertainty creates anxiety. Change can be difficult, but I have great confidence in the talented and dedicated faculty and staff that have made this institution one that I am proud to lead. Together, we can make the changes necessary to ensure UW-Eau Claire is a distinctive 21st century university that provides our students an exceptional educational experience. 

Sincerely, 

James C. Schmidt

Chancellor