Facing declining enrollment, and unwilling to cut bloated administration, UW-Oshkosh lays off staff.
At the same time, they’re implementing a strategic budget reinvestment initiative to spend $10.8 million on campus beautification and even more DEI.
Plus, financial assistance for special underwear!
UW-Oshkosh is the first system campus to undertake cost cutting measures to deal with their projected $15 million deficit. Of the 13 universities, 10 are projected to run deficits next year.
In the past weeks we’ve seen the mainstream media amplify UW-Oshkosh and the Universities of Wisconsin, formerly known as UW System, in their messaging about campus financial troubles. (Thanks to Senator Hutton for sharing the half-million dollar “rebranding” spent to make campuses “relatable” with a new name, all while wailing about their deficits.)
Today, System announced the closure of UW-Platteville’s Richland Center campus, and the end of in-person instruction at UW-Milwaukee’s Washington County campus, and UW-Oshkosh’s Fond du Lac campus by June 2024.
Virtually every mainstream media article mentions the deficits in the context of the legislature’s budget provision to withhold $32 million the UW system spends on 88 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) staff, as though less than 2/10ths of a percent of their annual budget is driving campuses into insolvency.
As we’ve reported, the DEI positions are part of the massive increase in UW administration – which has nearly doubled over the past 15 years, and in the past year alone, increased 47%.
What’s being missed in the mainstream media coverage of this story is what UW-O is doing, but not saying. And while they’re giving quotes about how they’ve cut to the bone, they’re spending on a lot of things that don’t advance the academic strength of the campus.
UW-Oshkosh Layoffs, Protests
As we’ve reported, campuses have added huge numbers of administrators in recent years. UW-O added 52 administrators since 2014 (when they had 22% more students), eliminating just those 52 added administrative positions would take care of about 20% of the position cuts proposed.
Is that what UW-O is doing? Nope.
Headlines today say UW-O is cutting 1 in 6 of their 1523 employees, having sent layoff notices to 140 this week, and 110 positions will be eliminated through retirements and vacancies. Recent reports indicate some 73 employees have taken early retirement.
The campus says 12 administrators have been laid off, reassigned or retired, claiming this is 22% of administration positions.
Perhaps the UW-O leaders need remedial math. The UW System dashboard shows 122 Administrators, a reduction of 12 is just under 10%, not 22%.
Unsurprisingly, faculty protesting the cuts are carrying signs saying, “Chop from the Top.”
UW-O Strategic Budget Reinvestment Initiative
According to the 2022-23 UW operating budget summary for the Board of Regents, for FY 2022 to 2024, UW-O will be reallocating $10.8 million in one-time funding to support their strategic priorities: increasing enrollment, increasing student retention, more DEI efforts, and beautifying the grounds.
They should have called this the Ignoring Reality initiative.
It’s not remarkable that a campus with financial difficulties would spend one-time money. What’s remarkable is how they plan to spend it.
DEI, which puts them in the crosshairs of a legislature that wants to see less, and from whom they want more funds, and grounds beautification…it’s like paying to have your car detailed when you can’t make your monthly payment.
DEI Seems To Be The Hill UW System Wants To Die On
Not only do they refuse to cut the DEI positions that eat up $32 million of funding while they build deficits, but their refusal is delaying pay raises to employees. Today the legislative committee that approves the pay plan left the UW pay raises on the table. System will continue to protect DEI employees and lay off other staff to manage their deficits.
Some campuses are playing the name game with their DEI. UW-Whitewater just announced they no longer have a DEI department, they’ve just moved all their DEI employees (about 30) to other departments where they will have the same jobs and the same DEI responsibilities. Apparently this is meant to confuse the legislature.
UW-O has also rebranded their DEI…
UW-O Rebranding: Equity and Diversity are Now Called Success and Belonging
The UW-O Campus Center for Equity and Diversity has just been rebranded as the Center for Student Success and Belonging. There’s no word on how much that name change cost, but we do know the cost of the 8 DEI staff on the UW-O campus is about $530,000/year.
What stuff does the DEI/Student Belonging Center do?
Dan O’Donnell recently reported that in September UW-O hosted a “Don’t Yuk Our Yum” intro to kinks and BDSM at the Campus Center for Equity and Diversity put on by a sex toy store. Specifically, a “mission-driven, education-based sex toy store.”
Also on their docket:
- Last week’s Sex Ed Olympics with educational activities involving learning to quickly turn a condom into a dental dam, and a couple days later Sex Trivia competition.
- Last week, they hosted a ‘rage against beauty norms’ event where participants could use a hammer to smash a scale.
- This week they have training in legislative advocacy for LGBTQ+ Rights and spin on current legislative proposals, a Pride Gala (a celebration of queerness!), and training in LGBTQ History.
- Up next month is training on inclusion of LGBTQIA+ students (beyond simply teaching about the ‘many oppressions facing them in a time of rising hate and intolerance’ particularly toward Trans children) by using a multimedia approach to teaching about the joy of LGBTQIA+ identities.
- They also have a strong focus on ‘green’ menstrual hygiene, hosting weekly events focused on “environmental and financially sustainable solutions to menstrual hygiene management” and providing “participants who menstruate” (which those who are not gender deniers would call “women”) a sustainable menstrual hygiene kit.
This is just the DEI/Belonging center. Earlier in the year they hosted a drag show in the ballroom, which they limited to those over 18. No word whether there were protests or complaints lodged at the exclusion from this necessary entertainment of children.
Awarding UW-O Scholarships Based Solely on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity?
That and more.
The UW-O and the UW-O Foundation have awarded 20 scholarships to students based on their sexual orientation and ‘identity” – as long as that orientation and identity was not heterosexual or ‘cisgender.’
This year the scholarship is for LGBTQIA+ ‘activists’ which would, on paper at least, not rule out recipients solely based on their gender or sexual orientation.
The LGBTQ+ campus resource center offers, and fundraises on the UW-O website for, the Transgender Courage Fund that provides transgender students – and alumni – grants “in support of affirming transgender identity,” future success, and housing and medical care needs for transgender individuals.
Underwear Fitting, Pride Café and the Rainbow Floor
UW-O also provides space and support for Gender Outfitters, to give students the ‘ability to access products necessary for gender transition or expression.’ Gender Outfitters offers bras, underwear, chest binders, sizing help, a changing area, safety tips, a ‘safe place’ to send parcels, and financial assistance.
They house a Pride Café and Library – a ‘safe space’ to study and hang out, with free snacks.
They have an inclusive ‘themed community’ called Rainbow Floor to accommodate the needs of LGBTQ+/GSM (GSM=gender and sexual minority) students can choose who they want to live with regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Plus helpful hints on pronoun use.
UW-Oshkosh DEI, Administration, Workload Stats
- 8 employees whose responsibilities are DEI, at a cost of about $530,000 per year.
- 122 Administrators, up from 70 in 2014 and only 55 in 2000.
- 2022 FTE enrollment is 9,042, the lowest since 1980, well before the enrollments of the Fond du Lac and Fox Cities campuses were included. UW System showed UW-O as having the largest enrollment decline of all campuses between 2014 and 2022.
- The employee to student ratio in 2022 is 1:6, in 2017 before the merger, it was 1:7.
- Spent just under $3 million of their $23 million in unrestricted balances in the past 5 years.
- 1523 employees
UW System faculty workload metrics are measured in a few different ways, and UW System releases that data only as a combined measure for all the comprehensives (campuses except Madison and Milwaukee).
Comprehensive campuses faculty workload:
- 2 average weekly group contact hours, the range over the past 30 years was 11.4-12.6.
- 4 student credit hours (number of course credits taught times students enrolled) is the lowest in 30 years where the range was 253.4-293.
- In 1992 the weekly group contact hours was 12.2 (as in 2022) but the student credit hours was 293 which suggests faculty is teaching substantially fewer students.
The Fond du Lac campus, which became part of UW-O in the 2018 UW System merger that put 2 year campuses under the control of a nearby 4-year campus, had only 243 students enrolled this year, and their graduation rate was just over 25%. The reorganization was sold as a way to create efficiencies, streamline the process for students moving from a 2-year to 4-year campus and avoid closures. Now only 3 of the 2-year campuses have over 500 students enrolled; in 2018, 9 campuses did.
If those were the goals, it’s been a robust and fast failure. Deficits abound, enrollment in the 2-year schools has plummeted – down by half, and campuses are closing.
Priorities vs Realities
We have a picture of a troubled campus with declining enrollment, burgeoning administrative staff, a strong focus on DEI programs, and little attention to planning for the future. The ratio of employees to students has increased, and during this time, the DEI positions systemwide began to explode.
Now UW-O and UW System point fingers at the legislature, faculty protests layoffs, and the mainstream media talks incessantly about DEI positions, but nobody is talking about the misplaced priorities.
Birth rates are declining, K12 enrollment has been declining, demographic changes are decreasing the pool of college-age students. Campuses need to accept and adjust to the demographic realities and right-size the campuses.
But UW-O, which has a recent history of 31-47% of incoming freshmen requiring remediation in Math (of which only a third complete remediation) and between 6-20% needing English remediation (with nearly 2/3 completing remediation) is stubbornly, perversely focused on increasing enrollment. This means they will need to dip farther into the pot of students ill-prepared for college-level classes, increasing costs for those students and for the university.
Instead of right-sizing the campus for the changing demand and improving offerings to become more competitive for the shrinking pool of college-ready students, the only solution they can see is trying to find more students. Because students bring tuition.
This isn’t just UW-Oshkosh, they’ve been pushed this way by System. UW System has been well aware of the demographics, but instead of planning for declining enrollments, they only looked at ways to get more students into college.
Former UW System Chancellor Ray Cross in recognizing these demographic changes laid out their priorities saying:
“We must plan for the future now and be increasingly bold in our efforts to get more students through the educational pipeline to help meet Wisconsin’s needs.”
It’s a testament to the UWs complete unwillingness to acknowledge, and appropriately respond to, reality. Perhaps it’s because their reality is making sure that nobody in an institution of higher learning will refer to people who menstruate as women, because their highest priority is pretending that ‘some men do too!’