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Board of Regents to improve UW System employment policies - Day 1 Regents meeting news summary (Sep 8, 2005)

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September 8, 2005

University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents
September 2005 Meeting
Day One News Summary

Board of Regents to improve UW System employment policies

WEST BEND ― The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will consider immediate and long-term changes to the state public university system's personnel structure following weeks of scrutiny of the UW's employment policies and practices.

After discussion at an all-Regents session on Thursday (Sept. 8), hosted in Washington County by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, the Board's Business and Finance Committee planned to draft a set of recommendations for consideration by the full Board.

"We've made big mistakes," said Regent President David G. Walsh of Madison. "There are some instances in which we blew it. We've got to give more direction, and we've got to do it right."

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly suggested that the Board consider actions to restore confidence with the public, fix aspects of personnel policies and practices that need fixing, utilize best practices, and ensure the UW System can remain competitive.

"We take very seriously our role and responsibility and will be open, diligent and accountable to our stakeholders," Reilly said, reiterating that, overall, he believes the university's personnel system to be "solid and fair."

"We value and respect all of our employees," Reilly said. "The vast majority of university employees are dedicated, hard-working professionals. I am proud of them, I am proud to be associated with them and all that they do to keep this system great."

Reilly noted that, with Board leadership, he has already suspended offering concurrent appointments to individuals from outside the system who are hired for limited appointments. He has also directed that the system's General Counsel must review any settlement arrangements, financial and otherwise, with indivuals departing from "at will" appointments, He also said those employees must include a documented work product when a period of leave is granted.

The system has been criticized in recent weeks for the actions of some employees related to university policies and practices, including so-called "back-up" appointments, compensation of use of sick and vacation leave.

Reilly also reiterated his commitment to working with the Legislature to provide information and context for a nonpartisan audit.

The Regent Business and Finance Committee agreed to incorporate the suggestions of the full Board into a set of recommendations to be considered for implementation.

The suggestions included:

  • requiring a vote of the full Board of Regents to lift the suspension on granting limited appointees rights to another position as part of employment terms;
  • beginning investigations of university employees accused of crimes immediately after charges are filed;
  • a review of sick leave and vacation policies
  • reviewing chancellor compensation packages with all members of the Board; and
  • in line with President Reilly's actions, requiring central review of all employment settlements, and a documented work plan, similar to a sabbatical, for employees in transition to another position.

The committee members agreed to work into the evening to draft a resolution for the full Board's consideration Friday.

Campus chancellors noted that broad systemwide policies could be problematic in the future, as each campus has different personnel needs.

"We have to keep our eye on the whole as we review the parts," said UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells.

UW-Parkside Chancellor Jack Keating said the committee would have a tough task in applying general rules to all campuses. UW-La Crosse Chancellor Doug Hastad said he thought the current rules have worked well for his campus.

"I can think of many cases where the personnel rules have helped us, and helped the employees," Hastad said.

Others in the room noted that while universities across the country do offer some job security for employees, the UW's appear to be extensive in comparison.

Earlier, General Counsel Patricia Brady reviewed the historical roots of the UW's personnel policies, some of which trace back to the turn of the century and the university's commitment to academic freedom.

She outlined the differences in employment terms for classified staff, who are governed by rules under the state of Wisconsin and union contracts; faculty, who have often gained tenure; and academic staff, who can serve as instructors or in other academic-service roles.

Brady also explained the differences in terms of employment that provide those who agree to serve in limited administrative roles rights to assume another position they may have previously filled or been granted by contract. These employees serve "at will" of university leadership, and the majority of these employees gain these return rights under state statute, she noted.

Brady noted that many employees leave limited administrative roles in a straightforward manner, but that even in situations that involve disciplinary actions, employees do have rights under university rules, as well as state and federal law.

"Like any system, we can make improvements based on experience," Brady said, noting, however, that most public universities do offer employees some variation of the personnel rights offered within the UW System.

Regent Vice President Mark Bradley of Wausau said the Board and the state Legislature agree that some job protections are appropriate.

"My concern is when the discretion gets abused," he said.

Regent President Walsh reminded the Board that, by statute and rules, "there is no such thing as a back-up appointment." He said the review of employment policies and practices came about because of a very few "bad incidences."

"We're not monitoring the house," he said. "We're not paying attention to some aberrations."

Regent Thomas Loftus of Sun Prairie said he believed the use of return rights for limited appointees had exceeded the original intent.

"I think the public is saying 'run your business the way you need to to get the best people, but don't do it in a silly way'," said Regent Michael Spector of Milwaukee. "I think we're on the right track."

Regent Peggy Rosenzweig of Wauwatosa said she believes the Board must curtail the use of these kinds of terms of employment. She also urged the Board to take a strong stand on the proper use of employment policies, and advised that the Legislature may also attempt to change related state statutes.

Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee said he doesn't believe such action should be left to the Legislature.

"I think we have to direct [campuses] with some sense of the Board to the criteria that we need," Salas said, adding that he believes the Board should act before the completion of a state audit on these matters.

The Regents also noted the need to review policies related to employees with criminal convictions.

Regents agreed that on all related matters, the Board should act swiftly and strongly.

"I'm committed to changing those personnel practices that aren't compatible with a 21st century public university system," Reilly said. "It is just this kind of intense scrutiny that will make us stronger in the long run."

UW campuses assist students affected by Hurricane Katrina

President Reilly applauded UW campus communities on Thursday for their tremendous contributions to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"As communities around the country do their part to aid the victims, I want to thank UW campuses for doing all they can to help these students maintain their footing on the path of higher education," Reilly said. "The Wisconsin Idea is about extending the UW borders to the state, and in this time of disaster we will extend them to the nation."

Reilly announced that nearly 100 students displaced by the hurricane have already enrolled in the UW System. He commended all of the campuses for their efforts to assist those affected, including UW-River Falls Chancellor Betz's proposal to adopt and help rebuild one of the damaged campuses. 

Learn more about the UW System's relief efforts

Board outlines priorities for academic year

The Board agreed on Thursday to adopt several goals and priorities to guide discussion for the academic year.

Regent Vice President Mark Bradley highlighted four major themes that the Board will emphasize in the upcoming year. They include improving access to the UW System, increasing the number of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin, improving the quality of the student experience, and strengthening and building relationships with stakeholders.

"These goals reflect the discussion we had at the retreat," said Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee, who served on the committee that outlined the goals. "I think it's important that all the Regents are on the same page with these parameters before we move to something more specific."

President Reilly stated that next steps included consulting with the campuses to come up with specific strategies to drive these goals.

Regents get a firsthand look at community-based education

Before the start of their official meetings on Thursday, members of the Board of Regents participated in two "workshops on wheels"-concurrent bus tours that highlighted UW-Extension's work in Washington County.

State legislators, county board members, UW chancellors and other leaders joined the Regents for the tours, which focused on downtown revitalization and agriculture.

The downtown revitalization tour included a stop on Main Street in West Bend, for a presentation by Jon Lange, president of the Downtown West Bend Association, and Julie Cayo, West Bend's Community Development Planner. These and other local partners have worked closely with UW-Extension to increase local leadership capacity and organizational effectiveness in support of the economic development. This collaboration has resulted in one of Wisconsin's most successful Main Street Programs.

At the UW-Washington County campus, Dean David Nixon and Dan Anhalt, director of continuing education described collaboration with UW-Extension to serve working adults and other non-traditional students. In addition, Carol Vetter, president of United Steelworkers Local 850, praised the benefits of labor-education programs provided by UW-Extension's School for Workers. The human resources director at Regalware in West Bend, echoed that praise, explaining how both workers and managers alike have benefited from this unique program.

A second bus tour took Regents on a visit to Sunset Farms in Allenton, a progressively managed modern dairy operation with 625 cows. Owned and operated by members of the Wolf family, the farm has benefited from UW-Extension's successful "Milk Money" program, which helps producers improve milk quality and boost profits.

Local UW-Extension agriculture educators described how UW-Extension has leveraged university research to help local producers remain profitable and productive by adopting new technology and proven techniques. Participants learned about the ongoing importance of Wisconsin's agriculture industry, and the number of local jobs created by agriculture-related businesses.

Meeting at Washington County Fair Park, the Regents enjoyed a roundtable lunch with members of local 4-H clubs. The 4-H youth facilitated discussions about the morning bus tours and the importance of university-based youth programs statewide.

Education Committee

UW-Extension is working to expand access to baccalaureate degrees for adults and under-served students in Wisconsin, the Regent Education Committee learned Thursday.

Dean of Outreach and E-Learning Lee Zaborowski highlighted five strategies UW-Extension is using to reach its goals, including researching and analyzing the educational needs of adult students; finding and contacting potential adult students; providing information and advising, developing, coordinating and promoting online learning and developing a process for reviewing and awarding credit for nontraditional learning.

"We want to provide structure and eliminate the barriers that keep people from completing degree programs," Zaborowski said. "I believe UW-Extension can play a key role (for the university) and provide a lot of support in meeting this goal."

Zaborowski added that UW-Extension intends to match the $500,000 provided in the 2005-07 state budget to the Committee on Baccalaureate Expansion to help campuses put baccalaureate degree programs online.

To clarify the priorities of the Education Committee, Regents discussed specific themes and priorities including increased access; enhancing student success and quality by ensuring academic programs meet the needs of students and the state; and strengthening teacher education, diversity and student support services.

"It is clear that our responsibility is to students and their search for knowledge," said UW System Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Cora Marrett. "It is very important to look back on the university's mission statement and these priorities as we make decisions."

Student Regent Christopher Semenas of UW-Parkside asked if improving student support services would be a main priority for the Education Committee.

"We need more emphasis on reviewing student services if we want to retain the diverse and nontraditional students we wish to recruit." Semenas said. "We will lose these vital student populations without the proper services to advise and guide them."

The Education Committee on Thursday discussed and accepted the Annual Report on 2004 Undergraduate Drop Rates which, although systemwide drop rates were below 5 percent, will be presented to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance. UW Colleges were the only institution with a drop rate above the 5 percent threshold, but have reduced drop rates significantly since 1999.

In other business, the Education Committee:

  • Examined the annual Program Planning and Review Report which will provide a sytemwide overview of academic program activity.
  • Considered the addition of an online degree program for a Consortial Master of Business Administration, as well as a UW-Stout program for a B.S. in Golf Enterprise Management
  • Approved resolutions allowing UW-Eau Claire to offer a B.A. and B.S. in Women's Studies and authorizing a consortium between UW-La Crosse and UW-Milwaukee to offer a program for a Doctor of Physical Therapy.
  • Approved a four-year extension for UW-Milwaukee's charter school, the School for Early Development and Achievement, to operate a public school.
  • Passed a resolution approving amendments to the UW-Oshkosh Faculty Personnel Rules.
  • Authorized UW-Madison, UW-Stout and UW-Superior to recruit for Provosts and Vice Chancellors within their respective salary ranges.

Physical Planning and Funding

The Physical Planning and Funding Committee heard a presentation on Thursday from Byron Knight, director of Broadcast and Media Innovations at UW-Extension, Michael Brophy, dean at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County and Tina Hauser, digital project manager at Wisconsin Public Television, about a new datacasting program being piloted at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County.

Datacasting, Knight explained, uses digital binary code to transmit information to computers and other data devices. Such technologies are currently used to deliver video content to K-12 classrooms for instruction, as well as to deliver important information to first responders, such as firefighters, in the case of an emergency.

The program at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County will utilize this technology to enhance student learning even further.

In a video presentation, Knight and his team explained that datacasting is advantageous to both instructors and students as it allows for the transmission of a tremendous amount of information in a very short amount of time.

Following the video, Hauser reviewed the details of how datacasting technologies will be used at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County - three instructors from the campus will create material available for datacasting, with help from Wisconsin Public Television to create video and audio material. A group of students will be loaned laptops equipped with datacasting receivers and will be able to receive course content datacast by WPT.

"Students using the laptops will receive information the same way students in the classroom do," she said.

The assessment for the project, Hauser said, will be based upon how effective datacasting is in delivering course content, and whether students' learning experience is improved. Hauser said the hope is that this project will create a model for datacasting for course delivery.

Brophy explained the specifics of the project on his campus, saying it will incorporate information from continuing education, Spanish and engineering courses.

He said one of the most beneficial aspects of datacasting technology is that it allows instructors to deliver timely content to their students, adding that datacasting also improves delivery of information.

"The idea is that if you create a program Wednesday afternoon . that night it will be available to students," he said.

Brophy also noted the financial benefits of datacasting, saying that his campus is "saving a ton of money here."

 "We hope this [pilot project] will put UW System at the forefront of this technology," Knight said.

In other business, the Physical Planning and Funding Committee passed the following:

  • A resolution approving the implementation of  the Master Term Sheet for the University Square Redevelopment Project at UW-Madison;
  • A resolution naming the new UW-Madison Park Street Residence Hall the "Newell J. Smith Hall";
  • A resolution granting authority to increase the scope and the budget of the UW-Madison University Ridge-Phase III project by $1,192,200 Program Revenue Supported Borrowing;
  • A resolution approving the Design Report for UW-Superior's Wessman Arena Locker Room Addition project for a total project cost of $1,124,000;
  • A resolution granting authority to construct various maintenance and repair projects at an estimated total cost of $7,523,500;
  • A resolution recommending the 2005-07 Capital Budget revision, which includes reduction of funding for the UW System Classroom Renovation/IT Improvements project from $7 million to $2.5 million General Fund Supported Borrowing and the reduction of funding for the UW-Stout Jarvis Science Wing Renovation and Addition project from $40.6 million to $35.1 million General Fund Supported Borrowing, be submitted to the Department of Administration and the state Building Commission.

Business and Finance Committee

UW-Extension is helping entrepreneurs in Wisconsin gain access to the resources they need to begin and grow their own business, the Regents Business and Finance Committee heard Thursday.

Erica Kauten, director of the Small Business Development Centers through UW-Extension, told the committee about the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network, a gateway to statewide services for entrepreneurs.

WEN also provides services for high-tech businesses seeking guidance on development and technology transfer, she said.

Kauten explained that working with educational and government agencies, WEN offers a range of technology and market tools, and efficiently uses state and federal dollars to maximize scarce services in Wisconsin.

In addition to the discussion on employment policies and practices, the Regents Business and Finance Committee:

  • Approved a resolution that would authorize the UW System's participation in the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, an interstate initiative to increase educational opportunities for students;
  • Approved a resolution to accept the 2005-06 Auxiliary Reserves Report and the 2004-05 Report on Base Salary Adjustments to Recognize Competitive Factors;
  • Heard a quarterly report on Gifts, Grants and Contracts.

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The Board of Regents will resume its September meeting on Friday, Sept. 9, at 9 a.m., in room 1113 of the Washington County Cooperative Extension office in West Bend.