Chancellor’s open forum tackles tough questions

Chancellor%E2%80%99s+open+forum+tackles+tough+questions

Noah Finco

Noah Finco, University Government Reporter

The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse students, faculty and members of the community had the opportunity to take part in a Q&A session with UWL Chancellor Joe Gow at 2:00 p.m Tuesday, Oct. 11 in the Ward Room, Cartwright Center. Those in attendance, comprised mostly of faculty, asked the Chancellor to address their questions on the state budget, Oktoberfest, and the future of UWL Facilities.

The discussion was largely focused on the state budget and how it would affect students and faculty. “There is room to get more state funding for UWL,” stated Chancellor Joe Gow. “In the UW System, only UW-Whitewater gets less state dollars per student than UWL.” On October 7, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents unanimously voted to extend the undergraduate tuition freeze into a fifth year. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stated he was in favor of extending the freeze to a fifth year and is open to discussing the possibility of a sixth year. The Board of Regents has indicated it intends to raise tuition for the 2018-2019 school year by the rate of inflation which is currently at 1.1 percent. This increase would amount to $101.35 for a full-time UWL undergraduate student.

The question of pay and benefits for UWL staff was raised by the audience following discussion of the budget. UWL Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Bob Hetzel spearheaded the response to the concerns regarding benefits for the faculty in attendance. “The retirement contribution will go up from 6.6 percent to 6.8 percent next year. We do not know what will happen to healthcare. All we know is that changes are coming and I would not count on premiums going down.” In terms of faculty salaries, compensation provided by the state has been hovering around zero percent for the last two years. Despite dwindling aid from the state, UWL was able to administer a two percent base pay increase the last two years and plans on increasing the pay for its faculty again. “We are trying the duplicate this increase for the next two years,” proclaimed Hetzel. “We are hearing that the state wants to provide one percent each of the next two years and we want to add another one percent on top of that for our employees.”

The forum ended with an update on the ongoing and future building projects on campus. The new student center is slated to open in January and the improvements to Cowley Hall are underway. The UW Board of Regents recently approved the REC 2.0 addition set for completion in 2018 upon further approval. A request for a status update on the possibility of a new concert hall on campus was requested to which Vice Chancellor of University Advancement Greg Reichert explained “We are currently in discussion with the city about the possibility of a shared facility between UWL and the community.”  A group of UWL administrators is planning a trip to the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire to observe the planning process for their Confluence Art Center Project.

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