Tag Archives: ccoet

Has UW-Milwaukee’s Administration Circumvented Wisconsin State Law?

This post is by Richard Grusin and is cross-posted from his blog, Ragman’s Circles.

ABSTRACT. Wisconsin Statutes and UW-Milwaukee Policies and Procedures prescribe detailed, specific conditions and steps to be taken for a UW campus to contemplate financial emergency, including vesting the faculty of any such campus with the authority to review the institution’s financial situation and to make a recommendation to the Chancellor about whether to seek a declaration of financial emergency from the Board of Regents. UWM Chancellor Mark Mone, Provost Johannes Britz, and Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen have sponsored an extra-governmental Campus Organization & Efficiency Team (CCOET) to avoid declaring financial emergency. Because CCOET circumvents both Wisconsin Statutes and UWM Policies and Procedures by removing faculty from the process of considering financial emergency, Chancellor Mone should immediately disband his Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team. If he fails to do so, then it is incumbent upon the faculty of UWM to consider seriously the declaration of a lack of confidence in Chancellor Mone and his administration.

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On Wednesday, November 11, I attended (for the first time) a meeting of UWM Chancellor Mark Mone’s “Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team” (CCOET). What this meeting made crystal clear to me is that this ad hoc committee (or “team”) is arguably illegal, and perhaps explicitly and consciously designed to make an end run around campus governance bodies and State of Wisconsin administrative law. At the very least, we must ask the question: Does CCOET represent the efforts of Chancellor Mone’s administration to circumvent the lawful procedures written into state law for the “contemplation” of a “financial emergency,” as prescribed in Chapter 5 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code for the University of Wisconsin System?

Let me explain.

The meeting began with a motion to centralize all replacement hiring for the next two years in the Chancellor’s (or more accurately, Provost’s) office. After being amended both to include positions made vacant through “termination” and, in response to AAUP objections raised by Rachel Buff, to involve faculty governance in the approval of any new hires under this centralization, the motion was unanimously passed. Next, a motion recommended by Provost Britz to freeze “carry-forwards” for use by central administration was tabled for further clarification. The remainder of the meeting was largely spent in a discussion led by Math Department Chair and CCOET “Support Team” Co-Chair Kyle Swanson, on two budget models he had developed to arrive at more than $20 million in continuing budget cuts needed to remediate UWM’s $30 million “structural deficit.” Because more than 85% of UWM’s budget is in personnel, and because the non-personnel components of the budget have been cut to the bone and beyond over three biennia of cuts from the state of Wisconsin, the models discussed at the November 11 meeting focused on how much money each academic and non-academic unit would need to cut from its payroll to erase UWM’s structural deficit. The consequences of such cuts, as explicitly and implicitly discussed in yesterday’s meeting, would constitute a financial emergency in all but name.

Procedures for the “contemplation” of financial emergency are laid out in the regulations for the University of Wisconsin System, as published in Wisconsin Statute 35.93, “Wisconsin administrative code and register.” Chapter 5 of the UW System regulations,“Layoff and Termination for Reasons of Financial Emergency,” both defines “financial emergency” and lays out the procedures for “contemplating” a declaration of financial emergency and then for recommending it to the UW System President and Board of Regents. First the definition:

For the purposes of this chapter, “financial emergency” is a state which may be declared by the board to exist for an institution if and only if the board finds that the following conditions exist:

(a) The total general program operations (GPR/fee) budget of the institution, excluding adjustments for salary/wage increases and for inflationary impact on nonsalary budgets, has been reduced;

(b) Institutional operation within this reduced budget requires a reduction in the number of faculty positions such that tenured faculty must be laid off, or probationary faculty must be laid off prior to the end of their respective appointments. Such a reduction in faculty positions shall be deemed required only if in the board’s judgment it will have an effect substantially less detrimental to the institution’s ability to fulfill its mission than would other forms of budgetary curtailment available to the institution; and

(c) The procedures described in ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06 have been followed.[UWS 5.02]

Note that, based upon the discussion at the November 11 CCOET meeting, the two substantive conditions for financial emergency to be declared are clearly in place at UWM: the total budget of the institution has been dramatically reduced to the point where the only way to operate “within this reduced budget” would require “a reduction in the number of faculty [and other] positions such that tenured faculty must be laid off, or probationary faculty must be laid off prior to the end of their respective appointments.”

Because these regulations are designed to lay out the conditions that would allow the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency at any UW campus, they also provide the procedures that any campus must follow in seeking such a declaration, which are described in ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06. UWS 5.05 specifies that the very “contemplation” of financial emergency requires “the chancellor of the affected institution [to] consult with and seek advice from the faculty committee provided for in s. UWS 5.04.” UWS 5.04 stipulates:

It is the right and responsibility of this [faculty consultative] committee to represent the faculty before the board if a declaration of a state of financial emergency for the institution is being considered, and to assure that the procedures of ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06 are followed.

And UWS 5.05 explicitly states:

It shall be the primary responsibility of the faculty of the institution to establish criteria to be used by the chancellor and committee for academic program evaluations and priorities. A decision to curtail or discontinue an academic program for reasons of financial emergency shall be made in accordance with the best interests of students and the overall ability of the institution to fulfill its mission.

So, given that CCOET has been discussing the need to terminate faculty and other positions, or to “curtail or discontinue” colleges, schools, and programs to meet the challenges posed by UWM’s reduced budget, it is difficult not to see its formation as the “contemplation” of financial emergency as defined above, and thus to see the Chancellor as failing to follow statutorily prescribed regulations.

This conclusion is further reinforced if we review the administration’s rationale for creating CCOET. In an email sent on September 11, 2015, to the “students, faculty, and staff,” Chancellor Mone announced the formation of his new team and the rationale for its existence:

UWM is facing severe fiscal constraints due to unprecedented circumstances, including four consecutive biennial budget cuts and several factors that created a $30 million structural deficit over the last decade. Consequently, there is an urgent need to devise strategies that will enable us to swiftly and effectively respond. Based on feedback from many sources, including students, governance groups, deans, alumni, and the Budget Planning Task Force, CCOET is being formed to conduct a comprehensive review of our campus. CCOET will develop recommendations for large-scale actions that will address our substantial fiscal challenges and strategic goals.

As this message also sets out, CCOET has been sponsored by Chancellor Mone, Provost Britz, and Vice Chancellor Van Harpen, in order to address the first of the conditions required for the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency: the “severe financial constraints” brought about by “four consecutive biennial budget cuts.” The language of this message, and of the committee’s purpose and charge is careful not to mention explicitly the termination of tenured or probationary faculty positions. Nonetheless such termination is clearly an implicit consequence of its charge to “Develop recommendations for consolidating organizational units, potentially including combining schools and colleges; deleting functions; shrinking the size of departments, offices, and activities.” Given that these are the two substantive conditions necessary for the Board of Regents to declare financial emergency, it is impossible not to see CCOET as being charged with contemplating actions that are possible only if a financial emergency has been declared. Because the Wisconsin Administrative Code requires the formation of a faculty committee in the event that an institution even contemplates a financial emergency, it would be difficult for a reasonable person not to see CCOET as circumventing state statute.

In accordance with the Wisconsin Administrative Code governing the UW System, UW-Milwaukee has since 1980 had in place well-established policies and procedures for a “faculty consultative committee” to address the contemplation of financial emergencies. Unfortunately, Chancellor Mone has refused to follow UWM policies and procedures to empower the faculty to exercise its rights and responsibilities in a situation involving the contemplation of financial emergency. I will let others speculate upon the Chancellor’s motivations for choosing instead to appoint a hand-picked, administrative-heavy ad hoc “team” to make recommendations on how to deal with the “severe financial constraints” resulting from, among other things, “four consecutive biennial budget cuts.” No matter his motivations, however, clearly one effect of establishing CCOET is to further strengthen managerial/administrative control over the university, particularly the academic side. There will undoubtedly be other effects as well.

To demonstrate further that Chancellor Mone has intentionally, or out of ignorance, circumvented Wisconsin Statutes and UWM Policies and Procedures, I want to turn to anemail correspondence which I initiated with him, and which I then shared with Distinguished Professor of History Margo Anderson. The sequence of emails began withmy suggestion on November 3 that, in advance of his upcoming November 9 Campus Budget Meeting, Chancellor Mone should release to the UWM community the specific, detailed revenue figures on which he has based his claim that the campus’s anticipated expenditures exceed its revenues by $30 million, constituting what he calls a “structural deficit.” After he replied that such materials would still not be ready ahead of that meeting, I forwarded him a blog post written by Professor Anderson, in which she cites UW-Madison’s AAUP-influenced governance procedures in the event of a consideration of financial emergency, closing with a more detailed request for specific budgetary information:

So, here at UWM, how about we produce those “five years of audited financial statements, current and following-year budgets, and detailed cash-flow estimates for future years as well as detailed program, department, and administrative-unit budgets” and then we can get down to work.

On November 6 I received a response from Chancellor Mone, which I forwarded to Professor Anderson:

I’d point out that Margo’s call for more information is based on the presumption that we have declared financial exigency, which we have not. And, I hope that we do not have to go down that path which is why I’ve asked for CCOET to engage the campus in developing recommendations to help prevent that.

Professor Anderson quickly responded that Chancellor Mone fails to understand the relationship between “declaring” and “contemplating” financial emergency (here called exigency), and therefore (willfully or through ignorance) he has circumvented the policy requirements of UW-Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin Administrative code. Anderson wrote:

The procedures require that the Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies be constituted if “at any time a declaration of financial emergency is to be considered.” Note that obviously means before such an emergency is declared, and in fact implies that the committee would consider whether to recommend such a declaration.

Since reports from CCOET clearly document that individuals have asked the question about whether a fiscal emergency is possible, so that committee is already “considering” the issue. I think we all need to heed the procedures we have long had on these matters.

Despite Professor Anderson’s clear explanation that even the consideration of financial emergency should go through the statutorily established Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies, Chancellor Mone continued to misunderstand that the power to “declare” financial emergency is not in his hands, but belongs to the Board of Regents. In response to her email he offered “two thoughts”:

First, CCOET is discussing everything with no specific recommendations to me at this point; the context of this group mentioning financial exigency is to point out that that is a possibility if we do not address our structural imbalance in the next 1.5-2 years. A central goal of CCOET is to go beyond the budget cuts identified for FY16 and FY17 by the BPTF to prevent us from having to declare financial exigency—but that is all a ways off.

Second, while we cannot say definitively what the future will bring, it is my priority to avoid financial exigency at all costs. I don’t think it is out of CCOET’s “jurisdiction” to consider the ramifications, but if they did make such a recommendation in February, all of the required processes that you point out would be followed.

As his “two thoughts” make clear, Chancellor Mone’s reason for sponsoring (along with Provost Britz and Vice Chancellor Van Harpen) a hand-picked, administrative heavy ad hoc “team” to address UWM’s “severe financial constraints” is that he wants to avoid a declaration of financial exigency (or emergency) “at all costs.” But the point of the State of Wisconsin Administrative Code and UWM’s Policies and Procedures is that the criteria by which to contemplate financial emergency belongs not to the Chancellor, or the Provost, or the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administrative Affairs (or to an appointed “team” sponsored by them), but to the faculty: ”It shall be the primary responsibility of the faculty of the institution to establish criteria to be used by the chancellor and committee for academic program evaluations and priorities.” If one wants, as Chancellor Mone clearly does, “to avoid financial exigency at all costs,” then his reasons not to refer the recommendation to a faculty committee, but to hand-pick a sympathetic committee with only a minority of non-administrative faculty members, become patently obvious.

Whether through deliberate, conscious intent, or through simple ignorance of UWM’s Policies and Procedures and the regulations of the UW System as legislated by the State of Wisconsin Administrative Code, UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone (with the cooperation of Provost Johannes Britz and Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen) has put in place a procedure that is at the very least extra-legal and which violates his own campus’s established Policies and Procedures.

In light of this circumvention of both Wisconsin law and UWM policies and procedures, Chancellor Mone should immediately disband his Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team. In its stead he needs to authorize the UWM Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies, providing them with whatever budgetary data they require to make a recommendation on whether to request the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency for UW-Milwaukee. If he fails to do so, then it is incumbent upon the faculty of UWM to consider seriously the declaration of a lack of confidence in Chancellor Mone and his administration.

[NB: The initial version of this blog entry had misrepresented the results of the motion to centralize hiring at the November 11 CCOET meeting, leaving out the successful AAUP-sponsored amendment. The current description is to the best of my recollection accurate.]

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Austerity at UWM: CCOET

This post is by Nicholas Fleisher, VP of the UWM AAUP chapter, and is cross-posted from Language Politics.

Budget cutting is in full swing at UW-Milwaukee. Beyond the loss of meaningful tenure protections (underscored by recent developments with the Regents’ Tenure Policy Task Force) and the gutting of shared governance, UWM faces a looming financial crisis. The crisis is the result of the massive 2015–17 biennial budget cut in combination with a variety of other factors. UWM’s chancellor, Mark Mone, has convened two groups to deal with the crisis: the Budget Planning Task Force, which has dealt with allocating the $30 million in cuts to UWM over the 2015–17 biennium, and the Chancellor’s Campus Organization and Effectiveness Team (CCOET), which is tasked with making recommendations for long-term structural changes to shrink the institution.

The bottom-line goal for CCOET is to cut $15–$20 million from UWM’s annual budget, permanently. CCOET has thus become the visible locus of austerity on campus. Its meetings, which are open to the public, are starting to attract crowds. Transparency, inclusion, and openness are the watchwords. The reality is a bit more complicated.

When asked about the relationship of CCOET to existing shared governance groups on campus, administrators have emphasized the degree to which CCOET’s membership includes representatives from those groups: the University Committee, the Faculty Senate, the Academic Staff Committee, the Student Association, and even our campus AAUP chapter all have members on CCOET. This is a canny way of constructing a committee whose membership is, in the end, dominated by administrators. Somewhat more troublingly, administrators’ responses to date indicate that this sprinkling of representatives is meant to serve as a kind of proxy for actual shared governance. It should be lost on no one that CCOET is, from a governance perspective, simply an extension of the chancellor, and that it therefore bears exactly the same relationship to other governance bodies that the chancellor himself does.

Sitting as it does in this uneasy space in the new shared governance landscape, CCOET’s role and powers have taken on a shape-shifting quality, changing to suit the purpose at hand. On the one hand, the committee is obviously meant to hash out the gory details of the campus’s downsizing: the task is enormous, with huge consequences for the institution, and all the heavies are there. On the other hand, the committee co-chairs often step back and remind us that they are simply generating recommendations to submit to the chancellor, as if to establish plausible deniability in the face of questions about adherence to established governance practices. The chancellor, meanwhile, indicated at today’s campus budget forum that he hopes to begin implementing CCOET’s recommendations within a matter of weeks after they are submitted to him in February, a timeline that holds out almost no hope of a meaningful vetting by the Faculty Senate or any other shared governance body.

The substance of those recommendations, meanwhile, remains a major unknown. CCOET has exhorted the campus community to give it its best ideas about how to restructure the campus to save money. Those calls ring hollow in the absence of detailed, interpreted, publicly available financial data on which to base such ideas. CCOET has trumpeted its transparency, and it is certainly to be commended for holding open meetings and posting meeting notes and selected data presentations on its website. But CCOET, or a subset of its members, is very obviously working with far more financial data than has been shared with the campus. This is, to some extent, inevitable: university budgeting is complex, and even the best-informed CCOET members have remarked publicly on the ways in which they have only belatedly come to understand certain aspects and implications of the data. It is not in and of itself a problem that CCOET has more data, or a clearer interpretation of the available data, than everyone else does at this point. What is a problem is that CCOET will soon be making detailed proposals on how to proceed, without the campus community (or, if last week’s meeting is any indication, even the entirety of its own membership) having had access to that same set of interpreted financial data. How can CCOET’s members, much less the broader campus community, assess the merits of a funding formula with very disparate impacts on UWM’s different schools and colleges without having had the chance to consider other possibilities? The accelerated timeline and the asymmetry of access ensure that only a select few will have an adequate factual basis for making recommendations; everything else is moot.

Meanwhile, CCOET’s recommendations will come on the heels of the FY16 and FY17 cuts enacted by the Budget Planning Task Force. The FY16 cuts were decided on over the summer, but, rather amazingly, the campus administration still does not have a comprehensive picture of what has actually been cut. Those FY16 cuts were one-time cuts in the amount of $15.7 million, coming in part from spending down the campus’s now almost entirely depleted reserves. The chancellor has now accepted the BPTF’s recommendations for the FY17 cuts, which are permanent base-budget cuts of $14.5 million, $8.8 million of which will come out of Academic Affairs. Details of the FY16 cuts have now been collected and will be shared with everyone soon; units have until Dec 23 to provide details on how they will handle the FY17 cuts. Meanwhile, CCOET is working on further permanent cuts of $15–$20 million, doing the bulk of its work without any detailed knowledge of the cuts that have gone before.

So, we are rushing headlong into an extraordinary budget-cutting process that, for all its invocation of inclusiveness and transparency, will be decided by those few who have both the information necessary to make concrete recommendations (or something approaching it) and the power to enact them. Top administrators and CCOET members insist that the research mission of the university is not on the table; but it is hard to avoid the feeling that CCOET’s work amounts to flinging the entire institution against the wall and seeing what sticks. Meanwhile, rumblings about cuts to the UW System in the 2017–19 biennium have already begun.