University of Wisconsin-River Falls

News Source

Jan. 23, 2004

Lydecker Outlines UW-RF Status in Opening Address

After absorbing more than $2.7 million in budget cuts over the last two years, UW-River Falls has "somewhat stabilized" and will continue to move ahead to expand its role in the St. Croix Valley, Chancellor Ann Lydecker said.

Lydecker delivered her forecast during her traditional faculty and staff address that launches the spring semester.

The chancellor told several hundred faculty and staff on Jan. 20 that current Wisconsin fiscal predictions indicate the state is on track for making its revenue projections. That likely will save UW-RF further give-backs this fiscal year and a reduction for the 2004 fiscal year that begins on July 1.

She noted that the campus has been engaged in recent years in efforts to boost the state's economy through the expansion of such majors as biotechnology and computer science information systems.

"We were defining new initiatives related to these goals when the bottom fell out of the state's economy, and we were forced to start cutting. We cut, we cut, and we cut some more," Lydecker said.

"We cut our state GPR dollars, we cut our auxiliary dollars to provide financial assistance to our students, and we cut positions all because the state reduced its support for higher education. We were left picking up the pieces, and pick up the pieces we did.

"To many outsiders, I expect it appears that we haven't missed a beat; that we maintained our stability throughout, and we kept on rolling. But you and I know that we did lose our footing, and we had to re-gain our balance to arrive at this tenuous point of equilibrium."

Even so, Lydecker said, the campus will move forward to serve the region. She noted that the entire University of Wisconsin System is undertaking a massive study to define its future. The massive "charting a new course" study is reviewing revenue authority, operating efficiencies, education quality, mission, and state partnerships.

Lydecker and faculty senate chair David Trechter both are serving on those review committees.

Locally, Lydecker said, it will be important for the campus to continue to expand its presence in the St. Croix Valley. A recent public service inventory of faculty and staff that listed over a hundred contributions of expertise and time to community, regional, state and national public service and professional activities drew Lydecker's appreciation.

"Last fall I challenged each of you to explore ways that you could help us put the 'public' back in 'public education' by finding ways that you and your students could contribute to the growth and well-being of the local region, the state and the nation."

She said the listing demonstrates "we are responding to identified concerns and issues such as developing an efficient and effective workforce, recruiting higher paying jobs into the region, maintaining and enhancing the quality of life, protecting the environment, providing access to high quality education throughout one's life, encouraging and supporting cooperation between rural and urban entities in resolving growth issues, and finding means of providing adequate and affordable health care and human service."

The chancellor noted two upcoming initiatives to expand collaborations, including a series of Quality of Life forums the University will host in River Falls, Osceola and Ellsworth in the weeks ahead.

She also pointed to an upcoming meeting between the five western UWS System campus chancellors to explore additional ways to collaborate.

Speaking of the St. Croix Valley, she noted, "The demographics of our region are changing, and we must be prepared to meet the needs of residents long-time residents as well as new residents both now and in the future. We must maintain our momentum, and perhaps even hasten the pace, as the wave of people, wealth, and opportunity moves out of the Twin Cities our way. We must position our university to be a resource to the region a center for knowledge, new ideas, and the production of human capital the university of the people in west-central Wisconsin and the eastern Twin Cities area."


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