UW-Oshkosh faculty vote no confidence in chancellor amid layoffs, budget challenges

72 percent of UW-Oshkosh faculty who participated in vote do not approve of Chancellor Leavitt's job performance

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Nearly three-quarters of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh do not approve of Chancellor Andrew Leavitt’s job performance. 

According to the Faculty Senate, 72 percent of faculty who voted in a formal referendum said they have no confidence in Leavitt. Of the university’s 281 faculty members, 229 participated in the vote. 

The no confidence vote is largely symbolic. It comes after the university laid off 140 staff members and another 76 took early retirement incentives.

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UW-Oshkosh started the school year with an $18 million budget deficit, the worst in the Universities of Wisconsin. Ten of the 13 universities in the system had deficits ahead of the last fall semester.

In a blog post announcing the results, Faculty Senate President Pascale Manning said she hopes to meet with Leavitt soon. She said she wants to discuss the concerns, comments and suggestions voiced in two open forums last month ahead of the vote. 

“Throughout this process, I have emphasized that the Faculty Senate remains committed to working with our administration to assist in meeting the many challenges that we face as a university community,” Manning wrote. “It is my hope that we will embrace this moment as an opportunity to identify means of addressing the key issues that have informed the outcome of this confidence vote.”

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt. Photo courtesy of UW-Oshkosh

Meanwhile, the United Faculty and Staff of Oshkosh, or UFSO, a staff union on campus, called on Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman and the Board of Regents to engage in “a serious evaluation” of Leavitt’s job performance. 

“None of us wanted to do this,” UFSO President David Siemers said in a statement. “But when leaders underperform and our state defunds our universities, someone has to sound the alarm: the people of Wisconsin are losing opportunities because of the deliberate neglect of our great regional comprehensive schools like UW-Oshkosh.”

In a message to the campus community after the vote, Leavitt said his administration has faced the university’s recent challenges “head-on.”

“The faculty referendum results released today are a reaction to hard but necessary decisions I have made as Chancellor,” he said. “In a matter of months, UWO has reduced an $18 million deficit to approximately $3 million.”

Leavitt said the university is closing the remaining gap by restructuring academic programs to save on administrative costs and better reflect student demands.

“We see indications of a solid fall 2024 first-year class of students,” he said. “Everyone at UWO is working diligently to strengthen enrollment next year and beyond.”

Colleges and universities across Wisconsin have faced deficits this year, resulting in layoffs and closures of several two-year UW campuses, including UW-Oshkosh announcing plans to stop in-person classes at its Fond du Lac branch campus.