Chancellor Miller comments on budget

In a memorandum to the UW-Green Bay community, June 2, Chancellor Gary Miller summarized the omnibus motion passed by the Joint Finance Committee regarding the UW System. “The motion reduces the budget reduction to the system by $50 million ($25 million in each of the biennial years). The motion also restores the UW System to the compensation pool and provides advances in some of the important flexibilities needed by the system. This would mean our cut, without further modification, would be reduced from $4.6 million to $3.1 million. The budget reduction is still large but we have been encouraged by the constructive conversations we have had with legislative colleagues over the past several months about the importance of higher education in Wisconsin.” Chancellor Miller’s Budget Update Memorandum to campus is posted here:

Chancellor committed to tenure and shared governance despite statutory changes
Chancellor Miller also noted in the budget memo that as he has affirmed in the past, he is a strong supporter of shared governance and tenure as is the Board of Regents. The omnibus motion included changes to shared governance statutes and the removal of tenure from the statutes (now to be included in Board of Regents policy). Chancellor Miller stated that he expects both of these important features of UWGB’s culture to continue.

Town Hall meeting planned for tomorrow (Wednesday, June 3)
Chancellor Miller and campus leaders will be convening a Town Hall Meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 3 in the University Theatre to hear comments and continue our community discussion of these issues.

UW System budget nears vote by Joint Finance

As of this writing, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee continues to debate the governor’s proposal for a $300 million reduction in statewide UW System spending. Earlier today, members representing the Republican majority indicated they intend to reduce the overall cut to $250 million. UW System President Ray Cross issued a statement in response to that proposal.

Cross, Millner release joint statement on tenure issue
Also in the news from Joint Finance are shared governance and tenure, with the latter gaining the most attention. UW System President Ray Cross and Board of Regents Vice President Regina Millner spoke on behalf of the state’s campuses and issued the following statement late this afternoon on the Joint Finance Committee’s proposal for possible changes:

“When the Governor released his budget in January, the leadership of UW System and the Board of Regents spoke with one voice and immediately expressed our commitment to uphold the tenets of shared governance and tenure. Whether these important policies continued in statute or Board policy, we vowed they would live on.

“We remain as committed to these principles now as we were five months ago. We appreciate that the action proposed today by the Joint Finance Committee keeps shared governance language in state statute, and we are reviewing other proposed changes related to shared governance. As tenure was not retained in statute, we will move to incorporate it into Board policies immediately. The Board meets next week. A UW System tenure task force, previously charged with reviewing the tenure issue, will continue its work.

“Our review of all of the Joint Finance Committee’s proposed changes continues. Overall, we are pleased with the substantial reduction of our budget cut and the provision of additional flexibilities, and we are confident our new partnership with the legislature is focused on the future.”

Miller to media: we’ll analyze, consult before commenting
UW-Green Bay Chancellor Gary L. Miller declined to comment to the media Friday afternoon, saying it would be premature to weigh in on the Joint Finance Committee’s version of the 2015-17 UW System budget while the committee continued its deliberations. (A vote was possible late Friday.) Additionally, Miller said, he is inclined to await the UW System fiscal analysis of the JFC’s action and to consult with shared governance and campus leadership before commenting in any detail on the potential fiscal impact for UW-Green Bay, its students and employees.

Resolutions on proposed budget cuts

Governance groups and related organizations at UW-Green Bay have joined others at campuses statewide in voicing their consensus on the UW System budget cuts proposed in the governor’s 2015-17 budget for the state of Wisconsin. Their resolutions:

Faculty Resolution

The UW-Green Bay Faculty Senate approved the following resolution on Wednesday, February 11, 2015:

“Whereas the proposed $300 million dollar budget reduction to the UW-System would irreparably damage the quality of the education we provide and our ability to serve our students, the citizens of Wisconsin, and the state economy, be it resolved the UW-Green Bay Faculty vehemently opposes this unprecedented cut. We also reaffirm our commitment to the Wisconsin Idea and to shared governance and tenure as essential to the existence of the University System.”

Academic Staff Resolution

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Academic Staff Committee approved the following resolution on Friday, February 6, 2015:

“The ability to understand an issue from multiple perspectives allows the identification of the best resolution. The goal is not to find the answer, it is to identify what the correct questions are that need to be asked.

Whereas the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in their interdisciplinary approach to education is committed to producing graduates who are poised to face issues and contribute to the successful navigation of global, social and economic future, be it resolved that the Academic Staff object both the rapidity and excessiveness of the proposed 2015-17 budgetary cuts to the UW-System.”

University Staff Resolution

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay University Staff Committee, on behalf of the university staff body, approved the following resolution on Monday, February 9, 2015:

“Whereas, The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s mission to deliver quality education to a diverse student body by cultivating knowledge, encouraging investigation into disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields, and promoting civic engagement and lifelong learning will be severely hampered by the magnitude of the proposed UW System budget reductions; be it Resolved, That the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s university staff is committed to its unwavering support of our campus mission and opposes the 2015-17 proposed budgetary cuts to the UW-System.”

UW-Green Bay Retirees Association Resolution

President Jim Wiersma, president of the association, presented the following resolution to be made part of the record for the Faculty Senate on February 11, 2015. (The UW-Green Bay Retirees Association is not a shared-governance entity as defined by state statute.)

“Whereas the Board of Directors of the UW-Green Bay Retirees Association is deeply concerned with the consequences of the reduction in funding for the UW-Green Bay campus as proposed by Governor Walker’s 2015-2017 budget, let it be known that this Board is in full support of the resolution passed by UW-Green Bay Faculty Senate on February 11, 2015.”

Miller tells budget forum UWGB cuts could hit $4 million

Chancellor speaks to faculty and staff

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay will need to plug an unprecedented $4 million revenue hole for the fiscal year starting July 1 if UW System budget cuts proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s state spending plan are approved without amendment.

That’s the message UW-Green Bay Chancellor Gary L. Miller shared in remarks to about 300 faculty, staff members and students in an informational “town hall” session late Monday afternoon (Feb. 9) in the Phoenix Room of the University Union.

The chancellor would not speculate on possible layoffs or program reductions — steps he said he would like to avoid if a quality university is to maintain and expand service to students and community — but acknowledged that “everything is on the table” as UW-Green Bay anticipates a proportional share of what would be the largest statewide budget reduction in UW System history.

“These cuts are too large, and they will damage this precious institution,” Miller said of the $150 million annual reduction proposed for the state’s public universities in 2015-17. “We will work to reduce them, but as a University we have to prepare in the event the deepest cuts become reality. We will need to be creative, innovative and collaborative.

“We will plan for a $4 million cut at UWGB. This is a huge cut. On July 1, (if the budget passes, as is), we’ll have to work with $4 million less.”

Miller spoke for about 30 minutes in his opening remarks. He touched upon the UW System autonomy proposal (which he favors, from personal experience in other states) but focused on the budget. Over the course of the nearly two-hour forum, he fielded more than 40 questions from employees and students.

In opening the session, Miller described developments since the governor’s budget was released last week, the process by which UW-Green Bay will develop its plan, and a daunting two-month timetable for influencing the legislative process while simultaneously preparing to address the impact of the cuts as proposed.

He called for thoughtful, “evidence-based” discussion of the budget challenge. He said he hoped faculty and staff would pull together during uncertain times, and he expressed confidence they would.

“This is a fantastic University, with a unique product, an incredible spirit… There will be a UWGB for another 50 years, and more… We need to get through this current challenge in a way that positions us for a bright future.”

He also reminded employees to keep students first – “they’re why we’re here… as well as creating knowledge and serving the community.”

Planning timetable

Phase I, Miller said, began last week with announcement of the governor’s budget and discussion at the UW System Board of Regents meeting in Madison. UW-Green Bay faces a quick turnaround in having to submit preliminary budget-reduction plans to the Regents and UW System Administration in time for the next monthly meeting, on March 4.

Already, the Chancellor noted, he has announced immediate cost-containment measures including a freeze on most out-of-state travel and the filling of open positions. (About 25 permanent positions are currently left open.) Over the next week, Miller expects reports from budget officers and senior administrators on mid-year fund balances and possible savings across campus —although, “after six years of budget reductions,” he acknowledged, “there’s not a lot of flexibility.”

He said he is also beginning the process of soliciting innovative ideas from across campus to respond to the budget challenge.

Phase II will be the period between that early March meeting of the Regents and their next scheduled meeting, April 9, as the UW System and its campuses fine-tune their strategies and incorporate any new information into their planning.

Phase III, Miller said, will be the period from the April Board meeting through the end of June. Legislative action on the 2015-17 budget is expected during that time.


Miller said he will have the final say on UW-Green Bay’s plan, but he described a transparent process that will invite involvement across campus.

“Ultimately, the decision on what to cut rests with the chancellor,” he said. “I am obligated to make decisions, but what we’re trying to do is make the best informed decisions we can make.”

To that end, he pledged regular briefings and consultation sessions with the University’s four statutory governance groups, representing faculty, academic staff, university staff and students.

Miller said UPIC — the new University Planning and Innovation Council, with cross-campus representation — will play a prominent role in identifying and assessing possible courses of action. Additionally, the University Committee and its chairman, Associate Prof. Steve Meyer, have agreed to the temporary addition of ad hoc members to function in a special advising and information-sharing capacity.Encouraging the widest possible involvement, Miller asked the several hundred employees in attendance to stay apprised of continuing developments by way of:

  • following the budget blog and postings at the Chancellor’s web page,
  • future town hall meetings
  • inviting the chancellor and other University officers, as available, to attend divisional and department meetings to talk about the budget

Legislative approval

The version of the 2015-17 biennial budget released Feb. 3 by Gov. Walker is currently undergoing technical and financial review by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Once cleared by the LFB, the document proceeds to hearings and deliberations conducted by the Legislature’s 16-member budget-writing and review panel, the Joint Finance Committee. Public hearings on the budget are expected in late March and April. The bill then proceeds for approval by both Senate and Assembly, and signing by the governor, typically in June.

Miller observed that lawmakers of both parties have questioned the size of the proposed UW System reductions. Alumni, citizens, business and civic leaders are also weighing in, and UW campuses will encourage that participation.

“(As a university) we have an obligation to prepare for a $4 million reduction,” the chancellor told the town hall meeting, “but there’s going to be a major effort to reduce that cut.”

Miller specifically mentioned UW-Green Bay’s influential Council of Trustees/Foundation Board. That group’s advocacy committee has expressed a willingness to lobby on the University’s behalf, and members will receive a briefing on the budget later this week. The Alumni Association Board of Directors has also agreed to join the effort.

Miller acknowledged the high level of interest among UW-Green Bay students and employees, some of whom are already talking about the proposed cuts to neighbors, community leaders and elected officials. “You need to participate in the budget-decision process through any avenues that are available to you,” he said.

He reminded faculty and staff about the strict prohibition against political activity on state time using public resources, and promised to re-circulate the appropriate guidelines.


Q&A: a sampling

Q. Why the apparent disconnect regarding state taxpayer support? Is message not getting out?
A.  We will be talking about UW-Green Bay in a way that communicates 60% of our students are working, 60% are first-generation… our alumni are very successful… our impact on the community and region is impressive. Faculty and staff workload? Chancellor: “I’ve been in higher ed more than 30 years, and the reasons I stayed are the (great challenges and rewards), and the fact people in higher ed are the hardest-working and most dedicated people you’ll meet.”

Q. Is outsourcing of some services, as UW-Superior has done, in our future?
A.  Everything is on the table, but we have not been actively pursuing that course of action. Chancellor: “Rarely does that work out to the extent that people think it might.”

Q.  How soon can I begin using my office Visa card to purchase needed supplies?
A.  We don’t know. Not now, anyway.

Q.  Are furloughs a possibility?
A.  Have not heard that possibility raised even once.

Q. Tuition revenue from cost-recovery programs has been frozen, and will be pooled. Is this permanent?
A.  The University doesn’t have a clear policy for incentivizing programs that generate revenue and determining how much stays with the specific program and how much goes to the larger institution. This is a larger question.

Q.  How do you determine a “non-essential” employee from an essential one?
A.  UWGB refuses to use those terms, and hasn’t. We’re relatively lean. We will seek to avoid any reductions and, in the event that’s not possible in the short term, try to re-staff as soon as we are able. “Everybody we have here is essential,” Miller said. “Every one of you is essential.”

Q. Is the chancellor’s recent public essay on our unique interdisciplinary structure an indicator of restructuring that might take place because of budget cuts?
A.  No, the timing is coincidental… but the University will, at some point, enter a thorough analysis of its organizational structure. In truth, we don’t know enough about the costs (or savings) of maintaining an interdisciplinary administrative structure vs. a disciplinary one. Chancellor: “Let’s be clear. Our interdisciplinary focus is not going away… it’s obviously working… we need to preserve that.”

Q.  What will be the breakdown, if staffing cuts are necessary, between administration and faculty positions?
A.  If we cut every single administrator, from the chancellor on down, it would only amount to about $1.5 million and we’d still owe $2.5 million to the state. Chancellor: “This is a very ‘under-administrated’ university, by national standards. At the same time, our primary mission involves teaching and research.”

Q. What can we (students) do to push back against the cut?
A.  Avail yourself of your opportunities as both students and citizens. The Student Government Association is likely to get involved. Supporters of the University will “push back” at every level. Those efforts will be most effective if they are methodical, consistent, persistent and evidence-based.

Q. Is enrollment growth a possible answer?
A.  Yes. UW System institutions retain tuition dollars. Additional tuition revenue is a direct benefit, provided the University can adequately serve the larger enrollment.

Q.  If approved, when would “public authority” status take effect?
A.  July 1, 2016, allowing for a one-year transition.

Q.  Under an Authority, would faculty and staff still be state employees, and with similar health care, retirement and other benefits?
A.  No to the first part, yes to the second. As written, university employees would not be “state employees” in the traditional sense, but the law as written would keep them in the current health and benefit plans. The chancellor said there are reasons to believe policy-makers would favor continuing that arrangement.

Q.  Any assurances on tenure and shared governance, under a Public Authority system?
A.  While Wisconsin is the only state with these issues addressed in state statutes, “49 other states do it without statutory mandates.” Regent VP Regina Miller, other Regents, UW System officials and campus leaders have been adamant that tenure and shared governance shall remain.

Q.  Quality and capacity of the institution have been eroded by budget cuts over many years… have we finally reached the point where we should scale back or reconfigure our academic program array?
A.  We don’t have an over-abundance of programs, right now, to begin with, but… there would have to be a clear consensus. That doesn’t mean everyone would have to agree. But everyone would have to agree that the choices are being presented in fair and accurate fashion. Chancellor: “I’m (generally) not a supporter of across-the-board cuts that leave institutions ‘mediocre everywhere.’”

Q.  How do we focus on our work? I’ve never seen morale so low.
A.  Concern is understandable, but…. We can get through this cut. There’s a lot of innovation and creativity in this room. Chancellor: “It’s more than a cut to me… it’s what we look like when we come out the other side.”


In the news: More reaction to proposed System cuts

Local 5 News spoke with UW-Green Bay students and Vice Chancellor Kelly Franz Thursday (Jan. 29), continuing to assess reaction to a proposed $300 million UW System budget cut. In the near term, the University will look at areas including travel and staffing, Franz said, even as uncertainties as to the exact size of UW-Green Bay’s cut remain. Students interviewed for the story said they were concerned about the impact of the cuts — and discussion surrounding those cuts — on their professors and their education. “From all the professors that I’ve had here so far, it seems like everybody works really hard,” said UW-Green Bay freshman Joseph Prestley. “If they work any harder, they’re going to work themselves to death.” Full story.

Miller’s public statement on Governor’s proposals for UW System

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Chancellor Gary L. Miller released the following public statement today (Tuesday, Jan. 27) regarding the Governor’s proposal to cut funding and lend autonomy to the University of Wisconsin System.

“The Governor has sketched a sweeping plan to provide the University of Wisconsin System the autonomy it needs to operate in an efficient and productive manner to meet the needs of Wisconsin students and to support a vigorous and growing Wisconsin economy. We look forward to working with the Governor and the legislature to shape the details of a new accountability model of Wisconsin higher education.

“Nevertheless, we are extremely concerned about the depth of the budget reductions the Governor is proposing for the coming biennium. These cuts represent unprecedented reductions in the state’s investment in higher education at a time when the state economy would benefit from the job-producing power of universities and when most other states are increasing their investment in higher education. These reductions come after significant reductions in each of the last three biennia.

“Considerable study and analysis will be required to determine the specific effects of the proposed reductions on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. However, it is safe to say reductions of the size proposed will have dramatic negative effects on our ability to sustain the important business of higher education for Wisconsin and to build partnerships in the New North to help grow Wisconsin.

“In the coming weeks we will be working closely with our faculty and staff, our friends in the community and our colleagues in the legislature to craft a way forward that does not permanently damage the great capacity of this wonderful university.”

Chancellor’s message to campus community on state budget proposal

UW-Green Bay Chancellor Gary L. Miller shared the following email with employees on Tuesday morning (Jan. 27) regarding the 2015-17 UW System budget proposal made public by Gov. Scott Walker:


You have no doubt by now learned of the Governor’s proposal to reduce funding for the University of Wisconsin System by $300 million in the coming biennium.  The Governor is also proposing to give the University considerably more flexibility in the future by placing it in a state authority.  In the coming days we will learn more about the details of both proposals.  For now, let me tell you what we know so far.

University Autonomy

I attach a document developed by the UW System office that gives the details of the UW System autonomy plan as it is now conceived. I am also attaching communication from President Cross and Regent President Falbo.  I encourage you to read these documents carefully.  Creating a University Authority has many advantages for UWGB and I support it, as do the other Chancellors.  Many details must be worked out before the proposed July 1, 2016 starting date.

Three key aspects of the plan are critically important. (1) Shared governance and tenure will be preserved and managed by the authority board as is the case in most other states.  (2) Employees would remain in the Wisconsin Retirement System. (3) The authority would manage employee compensation plans. 

Budget Reductions

The Governor’s proposed budget reduction of $300 million, if approved, represents an enormous challenge for a system still responding to six years of budget reductions.  We do not yet know how the reduction will be allocated to the campuses or what processes we will have at our disposal to smooth the reductions over a period of years.  However, the reductions will have a significant effect on UWGB and the way in which we do business.  Responding to the reductions in the next several months will be a real test of our innovative spirit.

As I mentioned in my recent convocation speech, we will deploy shared governance, UPIC (the new University Planning and Innovation Council) and the university leadership at all levels in developing recommendations to manage the reductions.  After the Governor’s speech next week, the Provost will issue a detailed schedule of our deliberations including important milestones (e.g., spring Regent’s meetings and the fiscal year end).  The schedule will also include time for town-hall style meetings to encourage broad community discussion. 

It is important to appreciate that our reduction strategy must place the university in the best position possible to grow and prosper in a new autonomous UW System.  A budget reduction of this size cannot be accommodated with across-the-board cuts or adjustments at the margins.  We will have to make very hard choices and undertake a reshaping of our strategy, operations and organization. We are at an important place in our history. 

Thank you. I’ll keep you posted as we learn more about these proposals.

Gary L. Miller, Chancellor

UW-Green Bay, other student government leaders write to Walker

Vanya Koepke and Tyler Sterr, president and vice president of the UW-Green Bay Student Government Association, have made public the text of a letter they wrote recently with other System colleagues to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The students weighed in on the side of UW System President Ray Cross’s budget request for the state’s public universities. The text is as follows:

Dear Governor Walker:
As student body presidents and leaders representing the twenty-six UW campuses, we ask that you strongly consider President Cross’ $95 million dollar request for the UW-System.

As you are already aware, the UW-System includes some 180,000 students and over 39,000 faculty and staff. The graduates of our system have numerous proud alumni who have contributed to our state economically in incredible ways. This trend of skilled, creative, and productive graduates continues.

As students we have truly benefited from the tuition freeze implemented by your administration. We are also appreciative of a balanced state budget and a healthy rainy day fund. At the same time, we have been losing talented faculty, staff, and potential students, in addition to overall support for the state UW-System. Politics aside, the universities within the system simply cannot maintain the high quality student experience at the same time state funding support declines and tuition remains frozen.

While we are not requesting state support of that decades ago, we are asking for your support for at least partial approval of President Cross’ request. Such support will benefit the students and faculty of all UW-System colleges that continue to bring much talent into the Wisconsin workforce.

Forward together,

Cross shares plans to reform, transform UW System

President Ray Cross is calling for a series of internal reforms at the University of Wisconsin System, including an outside review of administrative operations and a thorough reexamination of student fees, as part of continuing efforts to more closely align the University with the needs of the state. Cross presented his package of proposed reforms to the UW Board of Regents Friday. You can see the UW System news release.

Journal Sentinel coverage

“Sweeping cost-saving measures are on the horizon for the University of Wisconsin System and its campuses that could affect everything from how student fees and capital projects are approved to how many credits are required to graduate.” That’s how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting the measures proposed by System President Ray Cross to the Regents. Read more.