UWRF staffing issues: A campus or national issue?
April 21, 2023
UWRF is currently hiring for many positions after a wave of faculty and staff have either quit or retired. Every college on campus will be getting a new dean. The College of Arts and Sciences is hiring eight new professors. Admissions and the Early Childhood Education Center are looking for new directors. Even the lab farms and the building and grounds crew are looking for new staff. Ever since COVID, staffing shortages are not a new experience happening in the workforce but it can be unexpected for many to learn that it is occurring in higher education as well. Many professors and administrators go through years of school just to get a job in higher education. Why is UWRF experiencing a mass exodus of employees?
In an opinion piece published by The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Colleges Are Hiring. But Do People Want to Work There? Higher ed used to be insulated from the whims of the labor market. No more.” it goes to state many reasons why higher education is experiencing these rapid changes nationally. Issues like budget cuts, lack of childcare options, employees experiencing low morale, professors being “under attack” for teaching certain topics in classrooms, and even suggesting that universities are indifferent to employee concerns.
Many of these nationwide issues like limited childcare or childcare being expensive and budget cuts could definitely apply to UWRF but we think this staffing issue is a more unique problem to UWRF. Rather than budget cuts we think that UWRF is facing a problem with having low starting salaries when other competing institutions close by have better offers. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is about an hour away and just 30 minutes away you have Minnesota universities. The U of M is also unionized which can help professors get better offers, though River Falls has a lower cost of living. The fact that there is so much competition close by, in and out of state, is something unique to the staffing shortage that UWRF is facing. Another possible issue that UWRF is facing is the campus size. Some of the reasons why students attend UWRF is for the small class sizes and a campus community that gives off that small town feeling while being close to the Twin Cities. This could lead to an issue with workload. With the limited amount of faculty and staff on campus they are taking on many different roles. The workload for employees has increased significantly without the pay increase.
Concerns like censorship in the classroom and low morale are national issues that we believe UWRF does not need to worry about. Academic freedom is a concern but we do not think it is a reason for people leaving. We believe that low morale could have been an issue in 2021 or 2020 but generally the campus seems to be getting back into the swing of things. Employee morale can change by the day making this point easily be up for interpretation. UWRF’s staffing problem is something that higher education is experiencing nationally but the reasons why people are leaving UWRF is unique to the campus size and location.