Chancellor briefs faculty, staff on budget

UW-Green Bay Chancellor Tom Harden circulated an e-mail message late Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 16) in which he thanked faculty and staff members for their continued fine work and briefed them on developments related to the state budget.

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

I write today with an update on the recent and serious developments affecting Wisconsin, public higher education and all of you.

Thursday (Feb. 17) will be an eventful day. As of this writing it is possible, at the state Capitol, one or both houses of the Legislature will be voting on Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill.

On this campus, a “teach-in” is being organized by Student Government leaders to show support for faculty and staff, and quality in public higher education. While that event is taking place over the noon hour, I will be in Madison for meetings with key elected officials and other higher education leaders. I continue to advocate on your behalf.

Some have asked where I stand on specifics of Gov. Walker’s plan. I can tell you I personally support the UW System’s position of neutrality on unionization, which supports the rights of faculty and staff to decide for themselves whether to pursue collective bargaining. As to benefit and compensation issues, in my 18 months as chancellor I have been clear and consistent with our stakeholders regarding the resources and flexibility we need and deserve.

The message I share is that UW-Green Bay is very efficient and highly effective. It is an institution that achieves remarkable success in serving our students, region and state. We owe most of that to our talented faculty and staff. These are people who embrace higher education’s role in helping lead Wisconsin’s economic recovery. Faculty and staff appreciate the magnitude of the state’s fiscal challenge. How could they not? They have worked diligently despite experiencing firsthand the impact of reduced resources, furloughs and pay freezes. UW System institutions including UW-Green Bay entered the recession in a trailing position. Further, drastic cuts will only aggravate our competitive disadvantage relative to our peers.

This message resonates well with community leaders and some elected officials, but there is no denying the climate in Madison is sobering, to say the least. Significant cuts are a given. Despite that, there remains hope that the 2011-13 state budget will in some way recognize the UW System and its people as unique assets for Wisconsin.

That leads me to my final point, and I feel no need to measure or moderate my comments here. Like many of you, I am disgusted by the unfortunate tone of some of the third-party advertising injected into this week’s debate. Reasonable people can agree to disagree. There is no excuse, however, for ads that attempt to mischaracterize decent, dedicated, hard-working public employees. I call on all who would enter this debate to maintain a respectful dialog.  

These are challenging, extraordinary times.  My appreciation for the work you do for our students, community and state only grows, with each passing day.  For that, I offer my heartfelt thanks. I will keep you posted as the situation develops.

Thomas K. Harden, Chancellor, UW-Green Bay