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Impacts of Governmental Policy Actions on University Faculty and Students in Wisconsin

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

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Paper Authors


John R. Reisel P.E. University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

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Dr. John R. Reisel is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). In addition to research into engineering education, his efforts focus on combustion and energy utilization. Dr. Reisel was a 2005 recipient of the UWM Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, a 2000 recipient of the UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Teaching Award, and a 1998 recipient of the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. Dr. Reisel received his B.M.E. degree from Villanova University in 1989, his M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1991, and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1994.

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During the biennial budget creation process in 2015, the Wisconsin governor and state legislature mandated many fundamental changes to the state statutes involving the University of Wisconsin System. These changes included altering the role of faculty governance at the campus level and the removal of faculty tenure protections from state law. The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin reacted to the state statue changes by modifying Regent policies to maintain some stability. This did involve some fundamental changes for faculty. For example, the Regents placed tenure protection into Regent policy, but also added in Regent policy an additional avenue for removing tenured faculty through a post-tenure review process. Such changes in tenure were seen by many faculty as weakening the protections to which faculty had grown accustomed. Furthermore, the changes in the faculty role in governance opened the possibility for significant reductions in the control faculty had over the mission and operations of the individual campuses.

At the same time, the legislature enacted a $100 million a year reduction in the base budget of the UW System, an included an additional $25 million lapse for the first year of the 2015-17 budget. This cut was accompanied by the continuation of a resident tuition freeze which began in 2013 and continues today. This budget cut and the tuition freeze resulted in most of the UW campuses needing to undergo significant cost savings measures, which have impacted programs, faculty and students.

In this paper, the impacts of these 2015 policy actions on UW System faculty will be explored. Data from 2012-2019 will be examined to determine the change in faculty size across the UW System. The paper will also study the impacts on the number of engineering faculty at the three campuses that have had sizeable engineering programs over the last decade: UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, and UW-Platteville. Finally, the impact on engineering class sizes will be analyzed, as reductions in the number of courses offered has been one of the impacts of reduced budgets. From this data, we will reach conclusions on the impacts of these legislative actions on faculty and students in engineering programs in the UW System.

Reisel, J. R. (2021, July), Impacts of Governmental Policy Actions on University Faculty and Students in Wisconsin Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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