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Education

University of Wyoming reorganization lacks faculty, staff support, says Sen. Rothfuss

University of Wyoming's main administrative building, Old Main.
Old Main by thecoldmidwest is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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The University of Wyoming (UW) is planning a reorganization that would merge colleges and create a new school of computing. But the institution's own faculty are pushing back on those plans — among them, an elected member of the Wyoming State Senate.

The reorganization was first announced in July, in anticipation of declining state revenues. Since then, the scope of that reorganization has shrunk.

Chris Rothfuss, a university adjunct professor and Senate Minority Leader in the Wyoming Legislature, sent a letter to UW's Board of Trustees last week, urging them to slow down the planned reorganization.

"Honestly, I just don't see the process as being a sufficient and appropriate process to make cuts," he said.

In the Legislature, Rothfuss said he will not support university funding attached to reorganization efforts, unless faculty and staff support them.

"A university is about shared governance," Rothfuss said. "It's about everybody working together for the common good, for shared sacrifice. It's not intended to really be an organization of top-down decision-making."

Rothfuss wrote "morale is terrible" at the institution, and that many instructors are looking for jobs elsewhere. Rothfuss added that as the university has weathered repeated cuts to its block grant, it has gained every efficiency possible from reducing administrative staff — and that further reductions only serve to increase the workload of others.

"Faculty and staff are forced to take on more and more responsibility with fewer and fewer resources," he wrote in the letter. "Rather than working with the faculty and staff in pursuit of a common vision, this reorganization plan is overwhelmingly perceived to represent the vision of a select few, and further exacerbates existing problems and concerns."

Rothfuss also argued that the need for a speedy process has been eliminated. Oil and gas revenue is unexpectedly high, so state revenues are higher than previously thought. Additionally, the state is taking advantage of federal funding which prohibits the state from cutting the university's budget.

"The urgency is gone," he wrote. "There is no immediate budget crisis. We have the time to plan the path forward thoughtfully, collegially and cooperatively."

Rothfuss has enthusiastically supported and voted to fund STEM initiatives at UW in the past — including the Tier 1 Engineering Initiative and the Science Initiative, two programs with price tags of more than $100 million. In his letter, Rothfuss said he was initially excited about the idea of forming a school of computing, but that he will not support efforts that involve "cannibalizing" other departments and programs.

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