University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chancellor Michael Lovell announced last week he would resign in July to become the first lay leader of Marquette University. Lovell’s departure after three-and-a-half years as chancellor came as a surprise to the greater Milwaukee community.
UW-Milwaukee has long enjoyed a good relationship with the Milwaukee business community, and Lovell maintained those close ties. Many of those business leaders recognize the importance to a strong public university system.
Sheldon Lubar, a former regent president and contributor to UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, and Marquette University noted the legislature’s recent treatment of UW System had an impact:
The UW System is the most important — without a rival second — the most important institution in the state, and the success of our community in Milwaukee and every community in our state is dependent on a highly educated citizenry. The university is not just a punching bag and a place you can take money from without any regard to what its impact is.
Lubar was referring to the controversy last year surrounding budget reserves. Lovell strongly defended the reserves and maintained that reserves are necessary to protect the institution from unexpected budget shortfalls.
Karen Herzog and Bill Glauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote Sunday that Lovell’s announcement comes as UW-Milwaukee is at a significant crossroads:
Several major construction projects are well underway, but others are still in the design phase and haven’t been funded. The university’s strategic plan is not settled — although Lovell vowed it will be finished by August, when he moves to Marquette. A massive campaign to raise hundreds of millions of dollars is just a year away. Enrollment has declined in the last three freshman classes, leading to work on a new enrollment strategy. Faculty turnover is distressing.
Geography professor Mark Schwartz, chair of UW-Milwaukee’s University Committee, told the Journal Sentinel that the university is underfunded and the legislature must decide what kind of university it is willing to fund:
The one good thing that comes from this at some level is putting it in the hands of the state and (UW) System to really define what they want us to be. We want candidates to come in with a question mark about our status and our role in the future.