Chancellor’s Roundtable: Discussing the UW System restructuring

Student questions address topics such as tuition, athletics and staffing


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

Chancellor James C. Schmidt addressed an audience at UW-Eau Claire and a live-streamed audience at UW-Barron County on Wednesday regarding the UW System reconstruction.

Dialogue and transparency are key goals moving forward in the partnership between UW-Eau Claire and UW-Barron County, Chancellor James C. Schmidt said Wednesday during the Chancellor’s Roundtable discussion about the UW System’s realignment.

“Change happens at the speed of trust,” Schmidt said, quoting author Stephen M.R. Covey.

This Roundtable was unlike others: A large projector screen at the front of the room displayed a live stream of a Barron County class room filled with people seated at gray tables. Nearly 58 miles apart, people enjoyed slices of pizza on their respective campuses.

Alliances between UW Colleges and four-year universities will look different across the state, Schmidt said. Preserving the mission of Barron County and its commitment to the community it is embedded in are two of Schmidt’s most frequent points about the realignment.

“There will be opportunities not only to learn from each other, but to strengthen one another,” Schmidt said.

After making sure the audience was up to speed with the UW System realignment, Schmidt devoted a majority of the hour-long meeting to answering audience questions from both campuses.

Audience members from Eau Claire posed questions about issues ranging from the application process to segregated fees.  

A partnership between Eau Claire and Barron County may lead to an updated application process in the future, Schmidt said. However, Eau Claire and Barron County will uphold their current admission requirements.

Schmidt said students will still apply to one or both schools simultaneously. If a student didn’t meet Eau Claire’s admission requirements, that student could instead attend Barron County and reapply for Eau Claire down the road.

“I believe one of the ways that we can help more fully utilize the Barron County campus is by providing that funnel of potential students to Barron County,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the structure of the campuses’ student-led governments have yet to be worked out between Eau Claire and Barron County student leaders, who will present their ideas to Schmidt.

“They could recommend a combined senate, they could recommend a separated senate or they could recommend a hybrid,” Schmidt said.

Segregated fees will stay on the respective campuses. Eau Claire’s business office web page says segregated fees are “charges, in addition to instructional fees (tuition), assessed to all students.”

“I want the students of Barron County to have the voice of where they want their fees going,” Schmidt said. “I’m not going to take Barron County fees and spend them in Eau Claire.”

The audience members in Rice Lake voiced their concerns about topics including coursework, athletics and staffing.

If enrollment increases at Barron County, Schmidt said the college could expect to see more classes offered. He said he also plans to introduce more four-year coursework at Barron County in the future — for example, a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree.

One Barron County student said he has a full-time job. He told Schmidt courses offered at non-traditional times, such as during the summer, would be very beneficial to him.

Varsity athletics at Barron County will hopefully stay put, Schmidt said. However, Schmidt is awaiting the NCAA’s decisions about athletic expenditures, rules and regulations for the UW Colleges to move forward under the restructuring.

“I’m not looking to take things away,” Schmidt said.

As the restructuring project progresses, Schmidt said he has multiple ways to communicate the decisions reached by committees and action groups.

“I invite you to follow me on Twitter,” Schmidt said, adding that he works to answer questions that are tweeted at him.

There is a sharepoint website made specifically for the Eau Claire-Barron County partnership, complete with an FAQ web page. Schmidt said he will continue authoring his blog and sending out all-campus emails.