Help Forge the Best Way Forward

Kate VandenBosch

Kate VandenBosch

Each issue of Grow magazine is a special treat for me because it is a powerful reminder of our impact throughout Wisconsin and around the world.

Those of you who live in Wisconsin may have seen recent media coverage surrounding the proposed $300 million budget cut to the University of Wisconsin System. This would be the largest reduction to the University
of Wisconsin in history. At this magnitude, the share assigned to UW–Madison, and to CALS specifically, would be unprecedented.

Reductions of this size will make it more difficult for us to provide our students with a high-quality education. Sharing the classroom with globally recognized scientists is a hallmark of a CALS education. Professor John Doebley, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, teaches an undergraduate seminar titled “Genetics in the News.” Our professors are committed to innovative teaching as well. Assistant professor Aurelie
Rakotondrafara is redesigning the popular “Plant, Parasites and People” class
as a blended course that mixes online and in-person instruction. Professor
Bill Bland offered “Earth’s Water: Natural Science and Human Use” as a
flipped course for the first time this year, providing lectures online and using
class time for hands-on work. A sharply declining budget will compromise
our ability to offer such innovative instruction, and classes could increase in
size or be offered less frequently.

We are proud of our college’s 125-year partnership with the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

I am extremely concerned that these cuts will diminish our impact
outside of the classroom as well. The Wisconsin Idea—the concept that
the university’s impact extends throughout the state and beyond—is deeply
embedded in our DNA. We take our public service mission very seriously,
and we are proud of our college’s 125-year partnership with the taxpayers of
Wisconsin. I worry how a cut of this size will redefine that relationship.
This proposed reduction follows several prior cuts for the college. Since
2008, UW–Madison’s share of general purpose tax revenue has dropped by
6.8 percent; CALS’ faculty numbers have declined by 6.2 percent. Yet during
this same time period, our student enrollments have increased by 34 percent.
For any responsible manager, these opposing trends are troubling.

The proposal also includes additional flexibilities for the UW System,
which we welcome. Our faculty and staff are creative and innovative, but
organizational change requires time. Cuts of this size would seriously
decrease our capacity to continue our existing programs—and implementing
them in a short time frame would certainly prevent us from making the best
strategic choices.

We want to continue to grow the future of our students and Wisconsin
communities. I hope we can continue to partner with the people of
Wisconsin to determine the best way forward.