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State budget cuts affect campus staff

February 3, 2012

The recent budget cuts and changes have not only affected the state of Wisconsin but also the schools. At UW-River Falls, the budget cuts have caused the administration to not rehire faculty to fill the place of retired faculty, which means larger classes and less one-on-one time with professors.

UWRF is facing many challenges on the human capital side of the budget. “Last year, we had many faculty and staff retire and we were not able to refill all the positions,” said Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Joseph Harbouk.

“We [UWRF] also have vacancies that we are not filling which of course will affect some of the services the students receive,” Harbouk said.

The limited number of faculty is particularly affecting the English department. Lauralee Zlogar, the chair of the English department, said that with the limited number of money allowed to the University and the departments, hiring teachers to fill the positions of retired teachers is limited.

Elizabeth Frueh, the budget director, explained that in order for a request to be considered or accepted, a lot of groups within the administration have to review it and weigh the potential of necessity. All of the processes that happen with a request are explained in the Strategic Plan.

“Basically the Chancellor is the one that approves or doesn’t approve a request for funding,” Frueh said.

The new criteria for requesting funds include: getting a request in by the deadline listed in the Strategic Plan, multi-year contract agreements, new faculty/staff must support three of the existing strategic plan goals and one of the strategic initiatives, funding of one-time projects that will save the University money in the long term, and funding for learning spaces. All of this is new to the Strategic Plan so far. The current challenge of the budget, the budget lapse that the UW-System received, was over a biennium.

“UWRF’s part of the lapse is $1,862,252 which is broken into $1,306,120 for this fiscal year and $556,132 next fiscal year,” said Harbouk.

UWRF also has a tuition increase of 5.5 percent that will last for two years. The problem is going to come down to how it is going to affect the students. As of right now the students are not being affected by the budget lapse. However, the English department is starting to see the affects.

The English department has 14 tenure teachers and 23 adjunct teachers. The adjunct teachers are mainly responsible for teaching the general education courses such as English 100. However, the 14 tenure teachers teach all of the other courses that are required for the five majors offered in the department. Zlogar states, “according to the Modern Language Association, teachers should only be teaching three composition courses per term that have 15 or less students; right now the 14 tenure teachers are teaching four composition courses per term that have 25 or more students within each one.”

There were five tenure teachers that retired last year and only one teacher was hired in the English department. For the next school year, 2012-13, there will be two new teachers hired to offset the gap from the adjunct teachers.

“There is no extra room for more students in courses. We are stretched,” said Zlogar. The end result; classes will only be offered in either the fall or the spring and students will have to plan for when they take their classes and manage their schedules, but space is limited.

“We are holding the schedule together with glue and paperclips,” Zlogar said.

It would be safe to say that with the English department offering less classes, the class sizes might be larger but this led to a ripple effect that will effect other majors and departments.

“We are still working on figuring out how we will meet those budget lapse requirements and try to minimize the effect on the students as much as possible,” said Holbrouk.