Monday, May 23, 2005

Wells & Earns letter

Dear Editorial Board,

We have read the many Northwestern editorials in which you often praised, sometimes critiqued and, on several occasions, provided advice for University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students, faculty, staff and administrators. We truly appreciate the praise, and we seriously consider the critiques and advice. It is in the constructive spirit of dialogue that we respond to the advice provided in Sunday's editorial “Budget cuts chance for UWO Leadership.”

In essence, you are asking members of the faculty to start demonstrating their leadership by teaching even more students as a way to counter the continuation of huge and historic budget cuts. Asking the faculty to start providing such leadership is three years late and $10 million short. In fact, the UW Oshkosh faculty and instructional staff should be highly commended for teaching more students while absorbing a decline in compensation and an historic $10 million budget cut. Please consider the following:

*The faculty and instructional staff taught an additional 598 or 6.7% more full time equivalent [FTE] students this year than they did in the Fall of 2000.

*To put this into scale, we added what would be the equivalent of more than a 50% increase in enrollment at Ripon College or more than a 40% increase at Lawrence University while adding only four more instructional FTE.

Consequently, the UW Oshkosh faculty and instructional staff should be highly commended for the leadership they have already demonstrated. The addition of these 598 students was accomplished under the following dire conditions:

*Faculty salaries fell from about 8% to more than 10% behind those of a peer group of comprehensive Midwestern universities.

*Faculty received little more than a 1% pay raise this year after a "zero pay raise" last year while paying a greater share of fringe benefits costs. In effect, the faculty experienced compensation decline while teaching more students.

*Operating budgetary support for the UW Oshkosh faculty/staff was reduced by $6.7 million during this biennium, and we are currently facing another $2.6 to $4.1 million cut for the next biennium. As a result, the cumulative effect will be 55 to 75 fewer staff and huge reductions in supplies, equipment, and technology to support the instructional needs of our faculty and over 11,000 students.

It should be abundantly clear that the faculty as well as the academic and classified staffs have already demonstrated extraordinary leadership by serving a greater number of students while coping with more than $10 million of historic budget cuts. We know of no other local, regional, or state public good or private business that has provided more service under such dire conditions. Asking them to continue on the path to burn out while facing a future of ever deepening cuts is tantamount to telling them to seek employment elsewhere.

May we ask you to consider our perspective in your next UWO editorial? We feel that enough is enough! The press and elected officials should support not exploit extraordinary faculty/staff leadership.

Chancellor Richard H. Wells

Lane R. Earns
Provost and Vice Chancellor

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