Dean's Update: February 2015

To: L&S Administration, Chairs, Directors, Associate Chairs and Department Administrators

Please share this message with your faculty and staff.

Dear Colleagues,

This year has started with a bang. One of my New Year’s resolutions is writing monthly updates, at least during the academic year, about things happening in South Hall and L&S Administration.

Of course, the 2015-17 state budget and its effect on UW-Madison and the College of Letters & Science is first and foremost on my mind. I know you have seen the media reports over the past week and I want to provide a brief update on behalf of our college.

As been expressed by Chancellor Blank, I am deeply concerned about the impact the Governor’s $300 million cut to the UW System – approximately $120 million over two years to UW-Madison – will have on our ability to continue our 126 year liberal arts tradition of world-class teaching, research and service. These cuts are the largest to the university in state history. (You can read the latest news and information at

Echoing the Chancellor, I believe:

  • The proposed cuts are too large. A cut of the proposed magnitude will diminish our ability to provide our students a quality education and will reduce the services and resources needed to help our young Badgers be successful at UW-Madison (and beyond).
  • The state is jeopardizing more than 160 years of taxpayer support that has made UW-Madison a world-class university. This is particularly difficult because other states and therefore our peers are investing more in higher education – these proposed cuts will hurt our ability to compete for the best faculty, staff and students.

The flexibility proposals in the budget can help us by providing greater autonomy to the UW System. This would provide flexibilities in purchasing and building projects, and would allow us to create a pay plan (though not necessarily fund a pay plan) for university employees. These are all welcome reforms for our college. But, creating the new authority will take time and there is no budget relief provided in the short term.

Right now there are many details we do not yet know about the Governor’s budget. Details matter. Without those details we do not know the specific challenges ahead of us. It is clear that we will have fewer resources in the coming biennium than we do now. Given the past cuts we have absorbed, there is no fat in the budget. Our challenge will be to make new cuts in a manner that does as much as possible to preserve excellence.

There is uncertainty in the months ahead as the budget process moves through the legislature, UW System and UW-Madison. We anticipate a budget bill to be signed no later than June, but the exact impact on UW-Madison and specifically on our college has yet to be seen. In upcoming meetings I will provide additional information through Chairs, Directors and Department Administrators.

During the coming months, I encourage you to direct your faculty and staff to the budget website ( for the latest news and information. Questions can also be submitted to the budget website, and faculty and staff can join one of three upcoming campus forums next week:

In these challenging times I continue to be inspired – and energized – by the passion of our L&S community. Our alumni continue to be very supportive. Our colleagues are winning awards, writing outstanding papers and books, or giving performances that can only be called remarkable. Our staff are supporting students and faculty colleagues, conducting research, and doing all of the critical administrative and department work that keeps our trains running on time. Our students are excited about learning. One parent just told me their student texted them, “[bleep] Disneyland, UW-Madison is the happiest place on earth.”

All of this, and all of you, make the College of Letters & Science a place of creativity, expression and discovery. I count on you and your colleagues to continue our great mission in educating our students who will be tomorrow’s leaders, and in paving the way to advance knowledge and pushing the boundaries of discovery. These are the hallmarks of our great college and university.

I believe that if we are wise, communicate, and work together, we will continue to be a remarkable place three, 10, and 50 years from now. Please stay informed and involved as the budget process continues; and look to for the latest news and information.                                                       

If you have specific questions, please contact your academic division dean or me. Thank you for all you do.

On, Wisconsin!

John Karl Scholz, Dean
College of Letters & Science
Professor of Economics

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