Did We Save UW-Stevens Point On The Backs of Faculty

The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point made national news last year when it announced that it was scaling back liberal arts offerings and eliminating a number of majors. Nobody was giving them kudos at the time but they were struggling under a deficit and declining enrollments.

But not, low and behold, they have weathered the storm and will continue to review and restructure their programs and they aren’t doing it via the original program eliminations.

And just how did they make this miraculous turnaround? Well here’s the feel good version of the story:

After putting majors like history and geography on the chopping block — and in the process drawing national attention to the future of liberal arts education — the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point announced Wednesday it was changing plans.

The university had enough faculty retirements and resignations in the months following the November proposal that it didn’t need to outright cut the programs, Chancellor Bernie Patterson told the Journal Sentinel.

However, it will adjust them.

My question revolves around the resignations…and the retirements. How many of the faculty and staff resigned or retired because of the original announcements and turmoil at UW-SP? Rather than wait and see…did they take an earlier retirement than planned? And the resignations…did they take the logical path and find a new job before they were terminated? To me, this isn’t manna from heaven but a heavy handed way to force faculty out. (I don’t know if the UW works like a business…but if someone resigns they seldom get severance). So did we save the university at the cost of the well being of the faculty?? Well, maybe so:

Mark Tolstedt, a UW-Stevens Point communications professor, characterized the announcement as a double-edged sword. It’s a positive, Tolstedt said, because majors aren’t being eliminated — and more faculty with them. ”It’s also a negative because that’s only in place because so many people have left this campus,” he said.

OK…now that I’ve railed on about the UW-SP mistreatment of faculty, I also wonder about the faculties concern about their students. Just a quick quote from the above link:

“It’s really great news for faculty and particularly students,” Willis (History Department Chair Lee Willis) said.

I really think we should be thinking about students first…

But remember when I said that earlier link was the feel good story? It was published on line yesterday and in the print edition this morning. But this update was published on line just today:

A day after the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point said it would back away from a proposal to eliminate four liberal arts majors, the university released data showing how many faculty and staff positions it had lost to avoid the cuts.

Over a six-year period ending in fiscal 2020, the school expects to decrease by more than 130 full-time equivalent positions. More than 40 of those will come in the next fiscal year alone.

The combination of resignations, retirements, buyouts  and unfilled vacancies will save the university $3.6 million in the upcoming fiscal year, according to university data.

Faculty at UW-Stevens Point say the next challenge will be restructuring departments with fewer people.

“It is true that the retirements and other changes in personnel have helped them in this situation, no question about it, but this is not over and we’re investing in exciting new directions that should stimulate a lot of engagement,” he (UW System President Ray Cross) said.

emphasis mine

So there is some serious faculty kicking to the curb going on. Once again Wisconsin is devaluing education and taking it out on educators. What we’ll see is more part time faculty without benefits…and lack of continuity in the classrooms. And even fewer students interested in pursuing a career in education.

Party On Stevens Point!


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