Office of the Chancellor

 

March 13, 2003
Regent roundtable discussion

REMARKS AND ESSAYS:
Remarks on the UW System budget crisis

UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard shared brief welcoming remarks at the Regent Roundtable listening session hosted here on March 13, 2003. He spoke just before the citizen/student/campus forum. Shepard said UW-Green Bay has no choice but to deal with the immediate and sharp budget cuts that appear likely with the 2003-05 state budget. He stressed his greater concern is the long-term impact of cuts that prevent UW-Green Bay from growing, and reaching its potential to serve the region and support economic development. Shepard's remarks followed an overview of the budget crisis presented by Board President Guy Gottschalk and System President Katharine Lyall, and predictions of severe campus-level fallout by UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells and UW-Fox Valley Dean James Perry.

I welcome you to our region, our community, our campus. And, to a discussion that bears critically on our future. And, that is where I wish to focus my brief remarks: not on today as much as on our shared tomorrows.
    The State we love and its crown jewel, the University of Wisconsin, face great challenges. Regent President Gottschalk, President Lyall and my colleagues have ably described the magnitude of those challenges. They are huge - a reduction in state support of roughly 25 percent.
    However, I remain confident that by drawing on our commitment to preparing better futures - we can find paths through these troubled times that lead to a bright future for Wisconsin.
    Important to our success, though, is recognizing this: The path to a brighter future emanates from the campuses of the University of Wisconsin. People (many of them our students, alumni, friends, employees) are this state's most important resource.
    In an economy that is increasingly knowledge-based and ever more competitive, it unavoidably follows that the competitive edge comes from having a highly knowledgeable citizenry. Even in the current economic slowdown, it is obvious that the regions and the States that have understood this link are fairing the best. Will Wisconsin - and its critical economic dynamo, northeastern Wisconsin - be left behind? Not if we bear in mind, even during tough times, where that path to brighter futures originates.
    This afternoon, we have the opportunity to listen as well as to speak. I wish to emphasize that Green Bay's University of Wisconsin is listening. Units across campus have been preparing 5% and, in some cases, 10% budget reduction scenarios. That work is coming to completion. In several weeks, we will be holding our regular budget hearings, and the reduction scenarios will be shared. We will then, as a campus, decide what those reductions should be. So, this roundtable comes at a very opportune time for us. It will generate even more discussion, and help us make better-informed decisions.
    I said, though, that I would focus more on the tomorrows than on the todays. UWGB, over the last year, has undergone a strategic redirection. Our focus is upon Northeastern Wisconsin and meeting its needs.
    Ours is a region vital to the State's economy, comprising over a million people, and growing more rapidly than any other part of the state. It is also a region in transition. Historically strong in manufacturing rooted in the competitive edge of a workforce with an extraordinary work ethic, it faces a manufacturing environment where competitors in far away places pay relatively much less to workers anxious to work very long hours. Our communities are also changing. Today, for example, Green Bay public schools are enriched by a student body, 25% of whom are students of color.
    Our region is at several cusps: economically, socially, culturally. Green Bay's University of Wisconsin must respond. I regularly have conversations with CEO's who see the economic handwriting on the wall... They are demanding that we take a leadership role for our region in these critical times of transition.
    We have responded. We have presented detailed plans to President Lyall and to our legislative delegation. Important among these plans, I wish to stress, are partnering relationships with UW-Oshkosh as well as the two-year and technical colleges in our area. One fact was obvious as we did our planning, though: we cannot serve our region effectively from a platform of a relatively small campus. Growth is a centerpiece of our long-range plans.
    This is not the day to go into the specifics of those plans. (I would welcome that opportunity at some point.) Today, I simply want to observe that, while we will be talking about the steps we must take backward from where we are today... There is a much bigger loss that we have to bear in mind:
    The steps we are taking back from where it is we need to be... for our region and for our state.
    Yes, next fall it will be harder:
    • Harder for our students to get the classes they need.
    • They will enter the workforce prepared on equipment older than it should be.
    • Waits will be longer to see advisors, and career counselors, and lines will be longer in front of various service windows.
    Today we are a very lean operation. There is no fat. Quality will suffer. And, if we maintain our current size, then access, nevertheless, is going to suffer: in this case, access to classes and to academic support services.
    The conversations that follow will provide opportunities to add detail to these observations - what the impacts are going to be and the creative steps we are taking to try to minimize the impacts. I do not wish to rob more time from those important observations.
    So, again, let me conclude with the observation with which I began: We know as a State, we know as a great University System, and we know as a campus so proud to be an integral part of that state and that system that we are part of the solution. We, around the table today, share an obligation to make sure this fact is recognized and tangibly supported.

 

 

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Office of the Chancellor
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University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
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