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Questions remain about end of UWO-Fond du Lac in-person instruction, campus future

Posted at 5:55 PM, Feb 02, 2024

FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — How was the decision made to close the UWO-Fond du Lac campus? Some leaders say they felt out of the loop. Officials say it was the UW system's call.

  • Some local leaders think there should have been more community conversation about the future of the UWO-Fond du Lac campus.
  • The County Board Chair says more plans will be announced in coming months.
  • Video shows more on the decision-making process.

It’s the final semester for students at UW-Oshkosh Fond du Lac, which is ending in-person instruction at the end of the school year.

Local leaders say they felt left in the dark about the decision, and the future of campus buildings remains uncertain. They want that to change in future negotiations

Tiffany Brault, a Fond du Lac County Supervisor, said she and other board members were surprised in October to learn about the end of in-person instruction.

“I was hoping that at least as a local leader, we would get some heads up,” Brault said.

Brault is a UWO -Fond du Lac alumna and said she wishes the community had been part of the conversation.

“I feel like that leads to a lot of distrust for people," Brault said. "At least having a community conversation could open up some trust in the process. Even if we still had to close our campus, I think people just want to feel involved.”

When the decision was announced, County Executive Sam Kaufman released a statement saying this could be an opportunity for the county.

At the time, he said he'd been speaking with UW officials about the campus’s future during the year prior to the announcement.

Off camera, Kaufman said, “my obligation has been to keep Board leadership informed, which I have been.”

Fond du Lac County Board Chair Steve Abel, another college alum, said the decision came from the UW-System, not the county.

“I think there's things that could have maybe changed over the years that maybe would put us in a better position to, quote-unquote, have continued classes there. But unfortunately… the UW system didn't want to do it that way and just informed us basically they're going to discontinue classes at the end of the school year,” Abel said.

But, he said the campus's fate wasn't exactly a surprise.

"I think that it didn't take a rocket scientist to to see that okay, they were starting to look at these two year campuses and how sustainable they were the way they were running them," Abel said.

I reached out to UW leadership. In a statement, a spokesperson told me, in part: “We want to work with the counties to determine the best way for our universities to serve their communities."

As for the future of campus buildings, Abel says those conversations will remain private for now.

"There's been discussions and negotiations going on since. . . I don't want to say they're sensitive, but you just can't, you gotta get some things out of the way and sort things out before you can bring the general public in," Abel said.

But Brault said she, the the rest of the community, hope to hear more soon.

"I always think that communication is better than no communication," Brault said. "So if we can find ways to at least just talk with each other and learn from each other, that's better."

Abel said there will likely be a closed-door meeting of the county board to discuss the campus’s future in late March, and a plan will be presented to the public by early summer.