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Board encourages talk about UWS program suspensions

The Douglas County Board on Thursday adopted a resolution in support of the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

But when all was said and done, it bore little resemblance to one rejected by the Superior City Council on Tuesday night.

Supervisor Keith Allen — after listening to a presentation by Chancellor Renee Wachter and statements from faculty and students — put forth an amendment to change the resolution.

Supervisor Keith Allen made a motion to amend the resolution that was presented to the County Board for consideration.

He proposed striking language that called on the governor and Board of Regents to rescind the program suspensions. Instead, he inserted language to "encourage the UWS administration to put a hold on all suspended major and minor programs until

such time that the administration, the faculty and students can meet in accordance with the governance policy in a public forum as it has been done with prior issues." He struck an entire clause seeking affirmation of support from the governor, Legislature and the Board of Regents. Language supporting UWS faculty and students was struck in favor of expressed support for the entirety of the campus. And instead of sending the resolution to the governor and Legislature, Allen proposed sending it to Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Delta, and Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, as well as the Board of Regents and the Student Senate.

The changes were approved by all but one of the 16 board members in attendance Thursday.

"We're putting our nose someplace it doesn't belong," said Supervisor Alan Jaques, who noted the board was spending more time on the university issue than it did when it approved $5 million in bonding last month. "We shouldn't be dealing with this. I wouldn't like them calling me ... and telling me how to run my business."

Jaques, voted against the amendment, and was joined by Supervisors John Robinson and Scott Luostari to reject the amended resolution.

Allen said after receiving many emails on the issue, he asked those who wrote to call him. He said of the 10 calls he received, most from faculty, he heard repeatedly that policy of the past had not been followed.

"That's what I take exception to," Allen said. He said he could never support the original resolution presented to the Board.

"We're asking them to talk to the students (and faculty)," Allen said. "If they don't do it, that's fine."

Wachter said the size of the university's program array has been discussed since 2012, and with the implementation of performance metrics, the university has to show improvement in student success and efficiency or risk losing state funding.

"When the faculty themselves decided that it was too large and recommended that programs and departments continue to look at low-enrollment courses, majors that would be better off as minors and program sequence," Wachter said. She said there have been many discussions, many that have included faculty, since.

Khalil "Haji" Dokhanchi, who has been teaching political science at UWS for 25 years, said he first learned his program had been suspended when he went to campus for an 8:30 a.m. lecture.

Programs suspended, which includes nine majors, 15 minors and one graduate program, represented just 85 students, less than 3 percent of the student body.

"Trust me, there is no easy way to suspend programs," Wachter said. "It's a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation."

Wachter said her goal is to keep the university as an anchor for this community and the region.

"I am a resident of Superior and Douglas County," Wachter said. "I care a great deal about this university."