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College Votes To End Land Tenure Center

The Land Tenure Center, a more than 40-year-old interdisciplinary effort to address land, poverty and environmental issues in developing countries, is coming to an end as a free-standing administrative unit on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Academic Planning Council on Wednesday, May 14, let stand a conditional decision it made at a November 20, 2002 meeting to disband the LTC as an independent unit. No further University review or approval of the APC decision is required. The change is effective July 1.

Elton Aberle, CALS dean, said “The decision was difficult because LTC has contributed greatly to our understanding of land tenure and related issues in developing countries. It has trained students who have gone on to become leaders, and it has helped developing countries solve problems and create better lives for their citizens.

“Unfortunately, current budget difficulties confronting the College and the entire University have led to the LTC demise,” Aberle stated.

Aberle explained that the CALS APC approved a plan last November that recommended an end to the LTC as free-standing administrative unit, but also at that time asked the College to appoint a committee to explore alternatives for LTC organization. Aberle appointed that committee with representation from faculty and staff across campus. The reorganization committee issued its report April 8.

Aberle said that the reorganization plan has considerable merit and addresses concerns raised by two earlier LTC faculty reviews that pointed to a lack of faculty involvement in the Center in recent years. However, the reorganization report also asked the campus to provide $100,000 of ongoing annual support to continue operation of LTC as an independent, administrative unit.

After receiving the committee report, Aberle convened a group of campus leaders to review the proposed plan and seek the necessary financial backing. None of the deans and directors assembled was able to make the required base budget commitment. All face severe cuts in their unit budgets brought on by the current state financial crisis.

“Without the base support, the Center cannot continue as a free-standing, independent administrative unit. The CALS APC action effectively ends the LTC as we have known it,” Aberle said.

CALS faculty formed the LTC in 1962 and provided much of its intellectual leadership. Although a campus-wide effort, it was administered and funded through CALS.

The Center has 12 administrative and research staff associated with it at this time. They have sought and administered grants, operated a webpage and library, and conducted other outreach functions. During the past 10 years, the College has provided LTC with base funding of nearly $200,000 per year.

When state budget conditions worsened early this year, the College decided to withdraw its base support and issued layoff notices to LTC staff in January. The College is now working with employees in an attempt to find alternative job opportunities within the University.

The Development Studies Ph.D. program administered through LTC will be transferred to another appropriate campus office.

Aberle explained that the end of the LTC as an independent and separately budgeted and administrated unit does not mean the end of faculty contributions to land tenure and related issues. Such studies and student training went on both within and outside of the LTC, and will continue.

LTC supporters expressed considerable concern over future use of the Land Tenure Center “nameplate.” During the APC discussions, Aberle said that the change in the LTC administrative organization would not permit continued use of the name to reference a free-standing administrative unit that no longer exists.

However, he also suggested that if a group of faculty wished to form a program to coordinate and facilitate scholarly activities in the land tenure area, it would be possible for them to incorporate the LTC in the program name.