UW-Madison plans to cut 400 jobs across campus — most of them open positions that won’t be filled — as well as drop some programs and collect an additional $3.5 million yearly from its athletics department to deal with Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $300 million, two-year cut to the University of Wisconsin System, chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Friday.

The cuts will extend students’ time in college, with fewer classes offered because of fewer professors — both full-time and adjunct — around to teach them, said John Karl Scholz, dean of the College of Letters & Science.

In his college, the largest at the university, a faculty hiring freeze will mean 48 open faculty jobs and 44 open staff jobs go unfilled in the next year. That translates to 320 fewer courses that will be offered the year of 2016-2017 and 9,000 students who will miss out on a class spot they otherwise would have had.

Programs would be cut or restructured in agriculture, the arts and technology, Blank said in her statement without offering details.

Blank said Walker’s historic budget cuts will leave her campus with a budget hole as large as $96 million next year, which would be mitigated by an additional $17.5 million in new revenue thanks to higher tuition rates for some students approved recently by the UW System Board of Regents.

“I recognize that this process will impact good people and limit our ability to serve students and the state,” Blank said in a statement. “I particularly regret the impact these cuts will have on our employees and their families.”

In response to the UW-Madison plans, Gov. Walker focused on another part of his plan for the UW System to break its governance off from state control under a newly formed public authority. The plan has hit turbulence in the Legislature and on campuses statewide, but Walker and UW System President Ray Cross have continued to argue for its passage.

“Gov. Walker’s budget reforms give the UW System the tools and flexibility they need to save money and become more efficient, more effective, and more accountable to the students, to their families, and to the state,” Walker’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in a statement.

Blank said the plan, announced Friday, will save the campus $36 million in the next fiscal year that begins in July. It includes $21 million in budget cuts and redirects an additional $15 million from other campus units to the school’s educational mission, she said.

Kate VandenBosch, dean of the college of agricultural and life sciences, said at least two programs within her department will be affected. The college has already scaled back its soil testing facilities, with plans to close the Madison site and consolidate some of its functions at the remaining site in Marshfield.

VandenBosch said the college’s 12 agricultural research stations in the state will likely be consolidated, with some closed, although final decisions on that haven’t been made.

Announcement attacked

A frequent UW critic, Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, criticized the announcement as politically motivated as the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee works through possible changes to Walker’s budget. Numerous high-ranking lawmakers have publicly announced support for reducing the cuts although the extent of the reduction isn’t known.

“Once again, Chancellor Blank issues an announcement to inflame passions of students and faculty against the Governor and Legislature over the budget without releasing details,” said Nass, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges. “Budget cuts are always an emotional issue, and Chancellor Blank is taking every opportunity to be overtly political.”

Blank declined comment on Nass’ remarks but addressed another of his criticisms that she should be targeting high-level administrators first for cuts. She pointed to a 2013 study that found UW-Madison ranks sixth lowest among 32 of its public research university peers nationally in administrative costs.

Deans and department heads will start implementing cuts based on priorities identified in a budget-cutting exercise initiated by Blank last fall, when budget cuts appeared likely but their size was unknown.

Of the 400 jobs to be cut, a majority are expected to come by not filling open positions, said Darrell Bazzell, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

Some current employees will be laid off, although he wasn’t sure how many. Layoff notices could start going out in coming weeks, he said.

The athletic department, which doesn’t get state support, will be asked to pitch in an additional $3.5 million to help offset the cuts, Bazzell said.

At least five System campuses have offered buyouts to older employees. Bazzell said UW-Madison is considering buyouts but has decided to wait to assess the cost and benefits.

Blank said the cuts and changes will come in three main areas:

Program closures and mergers: Several programs across campus will be ended or restructured, including in the areas of information technology, agriculture and the arts.

Academic offerings and services: The job eliminations will likely lead to larger classes and fewer course options. A reduction in the number of undergraduate advisors may hurt time to degree and retention.

Support services: Services that support students, faculty and staff, such as information technology, will be reduced, and there will be less spent on maintenance.

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Reporter, Wisconsin State Journal