Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wisconsin Lutheran College plans layoffs

By Erica Perez of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Feb. 27, 2009
Faced with a roughly $3 million budget shortfall, Wisconsin Lutheran College has notified 18 faculty and staff and two contract employees they will be laid off - a move that will eliminate the political science department at the small Christian liberal arts college, officials said.

Among those laid off are five faculty members, including the only two political science faculty and three educators in the theater, history and Spanish departments, college spokeswoman Vicki Hartig said. Altogether, the layoffs affect 10% of the workforce and will save $1 million.
College President Daniel Johnson said administrators were "mission-focused, market aware" in their cuts.

"We did a thorough review of our budget, and we looked at all . . . academic areas, and several objective criteria were used, one being demand by our students for a particular major or its courses, and we worked to minimize the impact on our students," Johnson said.

Wisconsin Lutheran is among a growing number of colleges and universities facing tough choices amid a national recession. Beloit College announced in fall it would eliminate 40 employees to make up for a drop in enrollment and a $1 million deficit.

Wisconsin Lutheran officials learned in December that donations would be down by an estimated $3 million, Hartig said. That's 9% of the college's revenue, according to the 2008 annual report.
The college tried to avoid layoffs by trimming special events and contracts, but it wasn't enough. Trustees voted this month to approve the staff reductions, which are effective in May.

Wisconsin Lutheran officials did not provide names of the employees being laid off. But associate professors Jerry Poppe and John Freese are the only political science faculty, according to the school's Web site. Assistant professor of theater Chris Kurtz said he was one of those tapped to leave. Other faculty members declined to comment or did not return calls.

The cuts are already reverberating on the 700-student campus. Students and alumni have expressed opposition, including launching campaigns through Facebook.

"This is for all of those WLC Poli Sci Majors who won't let it go down without a fight!" one 50-member page reads. Another page urges students to write letters to Johnson and board members.

A "Save Our Profs" page boasts 166 members and includes messages from students, parents and alumni upset with the way the college handled the decision.

Hannah Picchiottino, a 2006 alum who majored in political science, wrote a letter urging administrators not to shutter the department.

"My greatest fear in WLC losing the Political Science Department is that future WLC Warriors will not have the opportunity to learn about the responsibility that Christian leaders have to participate in our government," she wrote.

Five political science majors will have to change departments, Hartig said. Student Matthew Phillips, a junior political science major, said he felt blindsided.

"Here I am in my third year, doing my darnedest, and they kind of pull the rug out from under me," Phillips, 21, said Friday.

Phillips' new adviser told him he could finish his degree by taking courses in history or business, but that's not what he envisioned.

In other departments, the college plans to hire adjuncts to fill vacancies. School officials are unsure whether they will continue to offer a theater major, but they will keep a minor and continue productions, Hartig said.

Kurtz, one of three faculty members in theater, works on design and technical direction. He foresees major changes in the department, including reductions in technical classes or the number of productions.

After teaching at the college for four years, he has started looking for production work.
"I've loved it," said Kurtz, 36. "The rest of the faculty are fantastic, and the students are awesome.  . . . I'm hurt, I'm sad, but I'm not angry."


Anonymous said...

They should have fired the Charis guys! They could have solved their financial problems and the WELS' doctrinal problems with one swipe.

I'm not surprised they're having trouble, though. There are many WELS pastors who specifically warn their young people not to think about going to WLC. I say good for those pastors!

Anonymous said...

WLC is a great school.

Unless those letters of protest and support are accompanied by checks they will do little.

Chaos said...

Why are the pastors who discourage students from attending a WELS college being lauded, exactly? I have known many wonderful students who have attended WLC and have been thoroughly blessed by their attendance. Are some pastors upset because WLC actually attempts to lead a well-run business and are audacious enough to be open minded? I really think that too many people in this synod are so used to mediocrity and stagnancy that they can't help but be jealous of the institutions that thrive. And now that WLC has hit a speed bump, they can't help but get a little bit of sick pleasure out of it.

The arrogant old school attitudes of too many in the WELS is what is going to help cause some who read Bailing Water to simply Jump Ship.

Anonymous said...

You know folks

the WELS aint gunna be around much longer--at least as we know it.

Something has got to happen.

I'm thinking a whimper...but I wouldn't mind a bang

Anonymous said...

"and are audacious enough to be open minded"

Being open-minded when it comes to doctrine is not just audacious. It is sinful.

Anonymous said...

"Being open-minded when it comes to doctrine is not just audacious."

Without proof this statement is slander.

Bruce Church said...

I like how one prof said that he's hurt and sad, but not angry. Of course, there are five stages of grief, so the anger will come later, especially if no other good job is forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

"Without proof this statement is slander."

Without proof? Are you serious? Read Charis, there's plenty of proof of false doctrine in every issue. For instance, how about the article supporting non-WELS women leading worship at WLC? That's false doctrine. Don't give me this BS about slander. Public false doctrine can and must be refuted publicly.

Anonymous said...

Where, please, may I find the article supporting non-WELS women leading worship at WLC?

Also, my understanding has been that Wisconsin Lutheran College is not at all financially supported by WELS. Is that incorrect?

Anonymous said...

You simply state there is "plenty of proof." Produce it, otherwise it is slander. Read your catechism, the Lutheran one.

WELS has officially approved of women leading women in worship, and those male youngsters who are students(some would call them men, but not the WELS who labels the male students who attend MLC as "not yet men"). Yes, the WELS reasons they are not men. Go figure. Anyway, WLC falls within WELS parameters which also allows women lectors. So a WELS defender accusing WLC on this point stands self condemned.

By the way, where is the vaunted "conservative" synod prez Schroeder in this? (I.e. the alleged false doctrine at WLC). Rather silent, eh? So either he is afraid to take on WLC or agrees with them.


Anonymous said...

"Public false doctrine can and must be refuted publicly."

Indeed, but you simply assert this without proof. Without proof you ask us to believe YOU that this is true simply because YOU say so. Thus you set yourself up a God and Judge by this.

Gregory L. Jackson said...

WLC was officially supported by Marvin Schwan because it was a WELS institution but not part of the synodical training system at that point. The magazine put Marvin on the cover smiling as he dedicated the Marvin Schwan library at WLC. I would call that pretty official. If things go haywire, WLC is not WELS - such as having Martin Marty and Archbishop Weakland lecture there. And WLC begat Charis, which begat Church and Change, which begat Latte Lutheran, various stealth missions, and the Popcorn Cathedral in A-town.

Anonymous said...

Charis has been shut down for a year and a 1/2 by now.

Anonymous said...

John, if you want any credibility, you need to keep Jackson off of here.

Anonymous said...

Actually we need more people who can sign their real names instead of cowering in the tall grass.


Anonymous said...

"Actually we need more people who can sign their real names instead of cowering in the tall grass."

Like Bespoke... and me.

Anonymous said...

All right. The time has come. I'm going to de-lurk and say a few things about my alma mater:

(And I'm going to actually say who I am, unlike Others on here. It takes zero courage to anonymously fling accusations around; it takes real courage to criticize .. and sign your name afterwards.)

WLC, like the rest of the entire American economy, has been hit by hard times. Their endowment fund took a beating. Like everyone else, they have to cut costs, and Journal Sentinel aritcle explained some of the decisions they've made. Their money problems are certainly not because of Charis (which I'm pretty sure is defunct, and has been for quite some time).

And to Anonymous Comment #1, anyone who truly thinks that getting rid of one organization will "solve the WELS' doctrinal problems in one swipe" has perhaps never heard of the concept of the Church Militant. Furthermore, John Bauer WAS Charis, and he's been gone from WLC for at least a couple of years now.

I don't know if Chaos's speculation is correct, but WLC has indeed been a well-run school/business and has been open-minded in solving its problems. Are people jealous of that? I don't know. I certainly hope not. It's not a sin to be successful.

WLC does not take any money from WELS. MLC does. This is not a criticism of either school, but it reflects their different missions, and makes a difference in regards to budgeting. Each school has a different purposes. WLC is not, and never has been, part of the synodical training program. WLC offers a major in education (which I took), but it trains students to be public school teachers, not WELS teachers. If a student wants to become a WELS teacher, s/he is encouraged to go to MLC, because that is MLC's purpose. This is what happened to me when I was considering the environment in which I wanted to teach. I chose to stay at WLC.

For what it's worth, I was there for the Martin Marty convocation (BORING - he spoke about the history of the church, or of Lutheranism, or something like that. It was much ado about nothing, really.), and I remember everyone being all riled up about his appearance on campus. But Marty didn't lead chapel or anything; he gave a convocation speech on church history. (Did I mention it was BORING? yawn...)

In regards to being open-minded about doctrine, I would say that the opposing sides that exist in the WELS today can also be found at WLC. Frankly, I don't think that should be any big surprise or a reason to get one's feathers all ruffled. I know for a fact (because I know them personally) that there are very confessionally-minded Lutherans teaching at WLC, but I know there are also those at WLC who probably side more with Church and Change and with the "Popcorn Cathedral in A-town" (which, by the way, is a HILARIOUS name for it!) And, like what is happening in the WELS at large today, the less-confessionally minded ones tend to make more noise than the Confessional ones. But it certainly doesn't mean that the Confessionals don't exist or don't exert any influence.

Finally, with my previous thought in mind, I think it's a dangerous (and foolish) thing to automatically assume that everyone at WLC supported Charis, and that Charis was WLC. Nothing could be further from the truth. Charis was John Bauer's baby, and a lot of people were less than amused with his ... musings. Charis had problems, definitely. But Charis was NOT WLC's version of "This We Believe" by any means. There's a lot more to WLC than Charis, and for those of you who want to continue to trash WLC because of Charis, I say to you -- GET OVER IT.

WLC is not perfect. It's got problems, just like every other organization that aligns itself with Christianity. But I believe it is a good place for a WELS young adult to attend, especially if s/he is not planning to go into the public ministry, and I'm thankful that I was blessed with the opportunity to attend it.

And Digger, I think Schroeder has bigger fish to fry than worrying about alleged false doctrine at WLC. If you feel an overwhelming need to criticize Schroeder, you really need to find something better than that to grouse about.

My name is Emily Gresens Strey.


Please stand and sing the Te Deum.

(I am now going to return to my reguarly scheduled blogging about my kids and my cooking and my humdrum little life.)

Anonymous said...

"And Digger, I think Schroeder has bigger fish to fry than worrying about alleged false doctrine at WLC."

Other than the fact that that is his call.


Anonymous said...

Ms. Strey,

Conservatives love a good heresy hunt. If Schroeder felt there was heresy going on at WLC he would jump on it. So he is in agreement with the public positions there. This is how it works. (Whether there is heresy there or not, according to WELS doctrine, I don't know. With the WELS doctrine on the role of women, one never knows.)

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing this we/they thing about 'Confessional Lutherans' and 'Church and Change'. Are you saying you have to be one or the other? Please help me understand this.

Joe Krohn

Anonymous said...


WELS is not so much confessional as it is "conservative" and conservatives conserve, i.e. they don't like change in their church, good, bad or otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Joe - you can be both Rock andRoll, too. But you cannot be Rock and Roll and Lutheran.


Anonymous said...

Wow, when will we stop blaming all of our problems on church growth?

Maybe, we should applaud WLC for having the guts to do something for the good of their ministry instead of waiting for a synod convention of un-informed lay delegates and bitter called workers try and solve the problems. Yes, let's just eliminate the whole synodical council at 2929 and run the synod at convention. That will work!! I know as a lay person, I continue to be so thankful to see the pastor's and prinicpals excuse their poor performance and focus on other problems instead of looking in a mirror. How dare I, poor un-informed lay person, challenge my church workers to have some enthusiasm and effort in their calling. I so enjoy coming to my church meeting and seeing my called workers unprepared. I so enjoy all the excuses. Yep, blame this on church growth. Yes, blame this on the laity.

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to see some leadership who make tough decisions, believe in the purpose of each of us to share the message of the Gospel to the best of our ability, and focus our hearts on Jesus.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe, we should applaud WLC for having the guts to do something for the good of their ministry instead of waiting for a synod convention of un-informed lay delegates and bitter called workers try and solve the problems."

Umm, WLC is not a WELS institution. Thus, synod conventions have nothing to do with its "ministry".

Perhaps, before you start criticizing others for being "un-informed", you might want to inform yourself.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:35

You would be referring to the WELS Called Workers Union.

Anonymous said...

Dear Un-informed. I am well informed on how WLC operates and that the WELS does not control nor does the synod convention control WLC. You missed the point. WLC is doiong something now...not waiting for the synod convention to act. WLC acted. MLC should be reducing staff now, not in August.

Anonymous said...

"WLC is doiong something now...not waiting for the synod convention to act."

Huh? I don't get it. You just said that synod in convention does not control WLC. That's correct. So why then is it such a good thing that WLC didn't wait for synod convention to act? Why would it wait? Your argument makes absolutely no sense.

Anonymous said...

Are you dense? You can't see that the implied connection is that:

"WLC is doing something now...{by not waiting to act on significant financial issues like the synod does by} waiting for the synod convention to act."

This is not rocket science. I think everyone here knows how WLC is related to synod..or for the most part not related to synod.

Anonymous said...

Synodical control does complicate matters. MLC is no less liberal than WLC for being under the synod. But when MLC asked to have instructors' salaries frozen or reduced, to save the budget, WELS refused. That was during the glorious Mueller-Gurgel captivity, when tuition fees were run up and money skimmed. Long ago, half the synod budget went to worker training. I heard that from the head of worker training.

Bespoke has spoken

Anonymous said...

Wow. Money skimming. Nice one there B-spoke. I think B stands for broken. Do you even have an 'A' game?

Anonymous said...

MLC actually acted before WLC did. At its most recent meeting, the MLC board decided not to fill three vacant faculty positions, effectively cutting three positions (without having to terminate three calls).

Anonymous said...

WELS just announced a salary freeze for all synodical workers.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - March 5, 2009 3:05 PM. Read the Kuske report before you offer gratuitious comments.
B. Spoke

Anonymous said...

MLC needs to look at support postions first. Not filling open prof. positions is the easist form of reduction. The hard part is now and now is almost too late.

Anonymous said...

B. Spoke,

In what way was the information "gratuitous"? And what in the Kuske report has anything to do with this topic?