Cluster hiring on slow track

September 3, 2002

The university is moving forward with a slimmed-down version of its cluster hiring initiative to help the university accommodate a $17 million budget cut.

Provost Peter Spear says the university would have selected 11 clusters with 34 positions for the fifth round of cluster hires. However, state budget cuts have forced the university to reassess how much it could pay for the program.

“Now that the budget is settled, it is clear that we cannot go forward with all of the approved round five clusters and positions at this time,” Spear says. “However this program is too important to the university and state economy to eliminate completely.”

The faculty advisory committee in charge of reviewing cluster proposals originally selected 11 clusters from a competitive field of 45 submissions distributed across campus.

Based on input from the faculty advisory committee, Spear selected six of those 11 proposals to receive funding for 16 positions, which is three positions short of what would be needed to fully implement the six clusters. Funding for the three remaining positions and the other five clusters will be contained in the university’s 2003-05 budget request. Searches for those positions cannot begin until funding is approved.

“We identified a manageable group of proposals that are most likely to address unexplored intellectual territory, fill gaps in our work, or serve as models for replication in other areas,” Spear says.

Cluster hiring began in 1998 as a way to advance emerging fields of knowledge that fall across several academic disciplines. Faculty members hired as part of a cluster usually work with multiple departments, schools or colleges.

Cluster hiring is a component of the Madison Initiative, an innovative public-private partnership that matches financial support from the state of Wisconsin with private funding through the UW Foundation and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Beginning this fall, Spear will convene a committee that will evaluate the success of the first five rounds of cluster hiring. The committee will make recommendations on how to improve current clusters and whether to continue the program.

For a list of what will receive partial or complete funding during the current biennium, and a list of clusters for which the university will request funding in the 2003-05 biennial budget, see: http://www.staterelations.wisc.edu/.

University absorbs cutbacks

Gov. Scott McCallum signed a budget repair bill July 26 that cuts UW–Madison by more than $17 million. The bill affects the current state biennial budget, which is effective through June 2003.

In addition to the base budget cut, the bill limits resident undergraduate tuition increases to 8 percent and links funding levels for state financial aid programs with tuition increases.

The budget also:

  • Accelerates the BioStar program so that full funding is authorized over eight years instead of 10 years.
  • Increases funding for the Waisman Center by a one-time amount of $300,000.
  • Consolidates state and university vehicle fleet maintenance under the Department of Administration.

However, McCallum vetoed measures that would have required a surcharge on resident undergraduates who take more than 165 credits, barred state agencies from filling more than 80 percent of their vacancies, and required Department of Administration approval of all publications.

The budget bill does not:

  • Affect the pay plan for unclassified staff.
  • Require state employees to make minimum contributions toward health insurance premiums.
  • Cut the UW System advertising budget.
  • Eliminate study abroad funding.
  • Reduce university travel budgets.
  • Reduce state printing budgets.