CALS staff step up for May 21 furlough day service projects

Instead of heading off to work in the biological systems engineering department on May 21, Patrick Litza will instead go to the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.

He’ll be joined there by his wife and two children, ages 14 and 10, and a group of about 15 other UW-Madison employees who will be using part of the designated university-wide furlough day to pull shrubs at the protected natural area on the west end of campus and plant less invasive ones instead.

All over the community, university workers like Litza will be performing community service work on the campuswide furlough day, one of 16 unpaid days that all state employees were required to take under the two-year state budget that started July 1, 2009.

“By participating in this event, each of us can make a difference in even a small way,” Litza says. “It’s a chance to do some good and move beyond this whole notion that a furlough is a bad thing because you’re not getting paid. In addition to providing a sense of personal satisfaction, this is a way of showing that UW-Madison does have compassion for the community.”

A group of academic and classified staff are working to organize the day of service, which developed from a resolution passed by the Academic Staff Assembly that encouraged academic staff to consider volunteering during their furlough days.  One of them is Charlene Krembs, CALS manager of administrative computing services at CALS and a member of the planning committee. She says that UW-Madison workers recognize that furloughs are a hardship are causing some financial difficulties.

But, Krembs adds, “a lot of us feel fortunate and that taking furlough days is better than people losing their jobs, so let’s work with it and see if we can get some good out of it. We’re hoping there will be a lot of people who feel the same way.”

Those interested will be able to register through the Office of Human Resource Development and then access a database of available volunteer opportunities for the day through the United Way of Dane County, where people can register for projects. Those who arrange their own volunteer work can also take part.

Participants are invited to two kickoff events: Monday, May 17, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Tripp Commons at the Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St.; and Tuesday, May 18, from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. in the atrium of the Health Sciences Learning Center, 750 Highland Ave. Damon Williams, vice provost for diversity and climate, will speak at the Tripp Commons event, while Provost Paul DeLuca will appear at the Health Sciences Learning Center.

Those who will do volunteer work are also encouraged to join a Facebook group for the day’s activities, where they can post updates about their plans, as well as offer reports and post pictures from their volunteer projects.

To sign up to volunteer, please visit

(Adapted from a release by Stacy Forster, University Communications)