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UW-Superior Faculty Speak Out On Program Suspensions

Faculty Say They Were Blindsided By Suspensions

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University of Wisconsin-Superior leaders held the first of three open forums on campus to discuss plans to suspend 25 programs. The university announced on Tuesday it would end nine majors, 15 minors and one graduate program due in part to low enrollment.

Alison Wielgus, media studies professor at UWS, said the media studies major and media communication minor were cut from her department. Wielgus said she doesn’t think the forum is going to change the university’s stance on suspending programs.

“The thing that is frustrating for me about this process is kind of the waffling information about budgetary concerns. My classes are all integrated into other communicating arts programs. A lot of my students are clearly from other communicating arts programs. My numbers are very high,” she said. “My track is very low. That would suggest there are a lot of people available to take my classes. If you are not going to let me go, it costs nothing to keep me on and keep my track available.”

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Khalil Dokhanchi, a political science professor at UWS, said his program has also been suspended due to low enrollment. Dokhanchi said this process isn’t going to save the university a penny because all three professors in his department are tenured. He’s not happy about how the decision was handled.

“This was horrible. I have no problem with some people telling me that you need to improve….The last discussion that we had about this was three years ago. So nobody has come,” he said. “The idea that this has always been on the table …This is like I say I saw a student first year and now I can go 4 years later and say, ‘Remember we had this discussion three years ago?’ This is inaccurate, and, to be honestly and truthfully, is wrong.”

Jackie Weissenburger, interim provost and vice chancellor at UWS, said there are no plans to lay off faculty in the affected programs. However, she said they could be affected in the next few years.

“It is possible that we may cut down on our need for adjuncts, adjunct professors, part-time professors in the future and also cut down on the need for paying faculty overloads to take on an extra course assignment,” she said.

UW System President Ray Cross voiced support of the administration’s move to suspend programs.

“Both Chancellor Wachter and I share a continued focus on providing access to higher education, while maintaining affordability for our students and families. We want our students to be successful and prepared for their future, and this includes closely scrutinizing the success of the programs we offer,” said Cross in a prepared statement. “I have every confidence the chancellor considered enrollment trends, credits to degree, and other factors when she considered suspending these programs. I am pleased no faculty layoffs will occur as a result of these changes, and that we will continue to support our students enrolled in these programs so they can complete their degrees successfully.”

More than 3,500 people have signed an online petition in opposition to the university’s decision to suspend programs this week.

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