Richland County considers suing UW System to save UW-Richland campus

By: - January 20, 2023 2:49 pm

UW System President Jay Rothman announced in December that the UW-Platteville Richland campus will close to in-person classes after the spring 2023 semester. (UW Richland Twitter)

Community members and local leaders are weighing their legal options after the University of Wisconsin System’s decision to end in-person classes on the UW-Richland Center campus last year. 

UW-Platteville, the four-year university that operates the campus, has proposed that Richland focus on online education while the county considers suing the System for violating its contract. UW System President Jay Rothman has blamed the decision on declining enrollment and financial pressure. 

Community members and local elected officials have protested the decision to shutter the campus to in-person learning. The county owns the campus buildings while the system is responsible for providing adequate staff. 

Proponents of a lawsuit have argued the 1966 agreement between UW System and the county requires the system to keep the campus open unless certain conditions are met. The lease between the two bodies runs through 2042. 

“Rothman’s unilateral directive appears to be the best example of breach of contract and financial responsibility the County could ask for in court,” the Valley Sentinel, a local newspaper based in nearby Spring Green, wrote in an editorial. “Applicable here, the agreement is binding until the state doesn’t adequately fund the campus, only then are there potential avenues to exit the agreement. Until that time, the UW System has an obligation to maintain the campus, and to provide adequate instructional and administrative staff.”

Officials at the county, UW-Platteville and the UW System continue to work on a plan for the future of the campus, though without much consensus. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported this week that the Richland County board had met behind closed doors to consider its legal options.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.