Those readers who work in universities or colleges know that higher education is in a precarious place. Even before the current recession, public universities had been squeezed over many years by state and federal fiscal crises. But the recession has made matters much worse. Many institutions that hold substantial assets in the stock market and depend on endowment income have found their revenue stream cut substantially. Even Harvard University was forced to make cuts. And state legislatures seeing their tax revenue decline with economic contraction and faced with growing social need in bleak economic times have demanded that public universities engage in significant belt-tightening.
This year, the UW faced staff furloughs (essentially pay cuts) and substantial restrictions on hiring. And while it would be disingenuous to tell you that the cuts the UW experienced have not affected morale and programming, even in these tough times the university remains a dynamic place! Classrooms continue to be centers of engagement. Faculty, student, and staff research prompts us to see the world differently. And scholars of all sorts pass through Madison, sparking discussion among members of the UW community.
Here, in our newly named Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, the 2009-2010 academic year was a successful one. You can glean a sense of the robust state of the department by reading through this newsletter. One milestone worth highlighting is that the number of majors in our program has more than doubled since our name change. Our undergrads repeatedly indicate that the quality of teaching in our department is excellent and that they are being exposed to ideas here that they’ve found nowhere else on campus. With a significant population of majors, we will now work to build a real community among this group.