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Editorial

UW System president has no answers for UWRF community

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April 2, 2015

“I don’t know what to do” was a common phrase used by UW System President Ray Cross in his visit to UW-River Falls on Tuesday. Students, faculty and staff were expecting concrete answers or at least some possible solutions to ease the folks at UWRF that are already being affected by the UW System budget cuts.

One thing that was made perfectly clear by Cross was that people simply don’t value education anymore. Cross explained that the public believes that it’s more important to have a job instead of working towards a career, and that has negatively fueled the decision for the budget cuts to the UW System.

Cross also explained that changing the public’s view on higher education is no easy task. He mentioned the “Knowledge Values Wisconsin” campaign that was attempted a few years back that had very little impact overall. Cross made it clear that he didn’t know how to change this negative stigma in Wisconsin.

Going into the meeting, there was a feeling that the university was finally going to learn what exactly was being done. Some actually thought Cross was going to tell the audience that UWRF was going to fine after the budget cuts. What the audience members learned, however, is that there is no new information and that nothing can be done to save the campus from the budget cuts.

In Cross’ public forum, the crowd quickly learned that the recent steps, voices and actions from UW System students, alumni, faculty and staff hasn’t amounted to much in terms of change to the impending UW System budget cuts.

The inside conversations between the higher decision-makers weren’t made clear by Cross, but it seems as if the push back from the UW System has left UWRF in the same spot it was in early February.

One positive, according to Cross, is that faculty benefits won’t take another hit. Cross chuckled at this as if the benefits couldn’t get any more embarrassing than they are now, namely 1 or 2 percent pay increases, which don’t equal inflation increases.

Cross covered a broad number of sub-topics. Unfortunately, the focus of the meeting was quickly lost. A presidential tour seemed like a good idea at first: 13 schools in four weeks, but it could be mistaken for a farewell tour.

It would have been comforting if Cross had a speech prepared, and if he didn’t, as he put it, “ramble on” about things unrelated to the budget cuts, but the simple fact is that there really wasn’t anything to say. The public forum could just as easily been a five second speech where Cross threw up his arms and said: “there is nothing that can be done.”