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University committed to mission in tough economic times (May 8, 2009)

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May 8, 2009

University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents
May Meeting
Day Two News Summary

May 2009 Day 2

University committed to mission in tough economic times

MILWAUKEE –Following up on new reports that the state’s budget crisis is likely worse than anticipated, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly reiterated to the Board of Regents Friday that the University will not be immune from the impact of the economic downturn.

But he also reaffirmed that the University will continue to advocate for strategies that minimize further harm to its core mission of teaching, research, and service.

“We will be challenged to reduce expenditures while preserving a high-value educational experience for our students, and we will have to look at all options for doing that,” Reilly said.

Reilly said that while it would be premature at this point to say how UW System will deploy its options, he assured the Board – and the people of Wisconsin – that the University will maintain its commitments to quality and affordability.

“I believe the question before us now is how do we do the least damage to those commitments in the face of the state’s severe fiscal challenges, so that the university can continue to help the state and its residents rebound from this major recession, and position itself for a bright future post-recovery, in the spirit of our Growth Agenda for Wisconsin,” Reilly said.

Reilly added that the UW System will be working closely with Chancellors and other colleagues across the System over the next few weeks to develop a plan that reflects such commitments and purpose.

“We will make our case – which I’d argue is Wisconsin’s case – very strongly to the Governor and the Legislature as we put that plan together,” Reilly said. “Their reactions will help shape what we have to do.”

Reilly said he remains confident that there will be recovery from the current tough economic times. “The question then will be did Wisconsin comport itself through the recession in a way that propelled it ahead in the recovery and beyond? We intend the answer to that question to be ‘yes,’ and for the UW to have adequate resources and resilience to help Wisconsin get to that ‘yes,’” Reilly said.

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Board well-equipped to handle tough decisions, says Regent President

As part of his regular report to the Board, Regent President Mark Bradley assured the UW System and the people of Wisconsin that the Board is well-equipped to handle the unprecedented and difficult circumstances now facing it.

“This is a very challenging time to be a member of the Board of Regents,” Bradley said. “These challenges, in many ways, are historic. None of our predecessors have had to deal with the magnitude of challenges we have before us. At the same time, none of our predecessors have been under such intense pressure to increase the number of graduates from our institutions rather than decrease them. 

“I’m daunted by the task – but I’m undaunted in my belief that we have the ability to handle this wisely… We have very knowledgeable, sensitive student representation on this Board. We have educators. We have people who run companies in the private sector very successfully, and who are dealing with similar crises with their employees. We have Regents with local, state, and national political experience. We have Regents who have set policy in difficult times with local school boards and with the technical college system and with the Board of Regents. We have Regents with experience in banking and finance and regulatory law and investments. We have Regents with lots of private and public sector personnel experience. And, to ground us all, we have Regents who have recently had children going to college, public and private, and we have Regents who currently have family members who are attending our institutions,” Bradley said.

“I think we have the talent and I know we have the dedication. It’s going to be a matter of rolling up our sleeves and using those talents to make the best decisions we possibly can. I’d like to assure the UW System and the people of this state that we are all committed to that.”

Bradley also shared with Regents some of the accolades recently received by members of UW System and the Board. 

Bradley noted that President Reilly was honored in April with the Signature of Excellence Award by the University Continuing Education Association at its 94th annual conference in Boston. The award honors the chief executive officer of a higher education institution who has demonstrated exemplary service to the field of continuing higher education and unique qualities of leadership. 

Bradley also told Board members that President Reilly and Chancellor David Wilson of UW Colleges and UW-Extension had each been presented with a commendation from the Governor recently for their involvement with Project Lead the Way, which supports efforts to get more science, technology, engineering, and math education – the STEM disciplines – into Wisconsin’s middle and high schools. 

He added that President Reilly has been elected the Vice President of the National Association of System Heads (NASH) by his peers from around the country. 

Bradley also congratulated Regent Mike Falbo, who was recently presented with the 2009 UW-Parkside Liftetime Recognition Award. On behalf of the Board, Bradley also expressed appreciation for the services of Regent Elizabeth Burmaster, who recently accepted the position of president at Nicolet College in Rhinelander.

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Board approves Madison Initiative

With one abstention, the full Board enthusiastically approved the proposal by UW-Madison to implement an undergraduate differential tuition beginning in fall semester of 2009.

Before final voting, Regents heard additional feedback on the Madison Initiative from several students and Board members.

UW-Madison junior Chynna Haas said the initiative would help students like her, who come from working-class families, to have greater access to the state’s flagship university.  “I ask you to support this initiative and show the people of Wisconsin and students like myself that you do value the Wisconsin Idea and it’s not empty words, and that you do value us at this university and within the System.”

Jonah Zine, the incoming chair of ASM’s Academic Affairs committee, registered his opposition to the initiative, saying he considered it a short-term fix for a longer-term problem facing higher education.

Regent Tom Loftus, who called himself an enthusiastic supporter of the plan, said that the approval of the Madison Initiative sends a clear signal to the campus, legislators and the wider community about the importance of supporting higher education even in tough times. “This is also a time of opportunity for the university system,” Loftus said.

Regent Jeff Bartell said the only hesitation he has in supporting the initiative is the effect it might have on the state’s future funding of higher education. “We have to keep the heat on our decision-makers in Madison to properly fund the University System. We can’t just keep asking students to pay for it,” Bartell said.

Regent Colleene Thomas said that based on the many conversations she’s had on the Madison campus in recent years she’s convinced both of the need for such an initiative and the benefits it will produce. “I am convinced that this initiative will respond to some of the most urgent needs on the campus. I also think it will improve morale a lot,” Thomas said. “It’s a terrible time to put this additional cost on families, but I think it will benefit the university in so many ways.”

Regent Michael Falbo, who abstained from voting, said he totally supports the goals and uses of the funds generated by the initiative, but he couldn’t support the source of those funds. “I wish you the greatest success with this,” he said.

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UW System in open communication about ongoing flu situation

Tom Anderes, senior vice president of finance, provided Board members with a status report on how UW System institutions are preparing for a possible escalation of the H1N1 influenza outbreak. He said that about three-quarters of all UW campuses have full plans already in place, and the others have plans in the works.

In addition to ongoing contact with their local health agencies, all UW institutions are in communication with each other about their plans and concerns, he said.

Dr. Julie Bonner, director of the Norris Health Center, provided an overview of UW-Milwaukee’s response to the flu situation. She said the emergency operations team has been meeting on daily basis with the primary goals of minimizing transmission of the virus and limiting its severity.

In other business, the Board:

  • Approved a Doctor of Nursing Practice – or DNP – at UW-Eau Claire and UW-Oshkosh;
  • Approved the Ph.D. in Clinical Investigation at UW-Madison;
  • Approved two appointments to the Natural Areas Preservation Council;
  • Approved the appointment of Christine Holmes to the Oversight and Advisory Committee of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s Wisconsin Partnership Program;
  • Approved  the B.S. in Community and Nonprofit Leadership at UW-Madison;
  • Approved the Collaborative Online Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Management at UW-Parkside, UW-River Falls, UW-Stout, and UW-Superior, with administrative and financial support from UW-Extension;
  • Approved the Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication at UW-Stout;
  • Approved the Master of Physician Assistant Studies at UW-Madison;
  • Approved the UW System’s annual request to the Vilas Trust Estate for support of scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and special programs in music and other areas;
  • Approved the non-routine shareholder proxy proposals;
  • Approved two seven-year food service contracts with Sodexho Operations, LLC, to provide dining services at UW-Eau Claire and UW-Parkside;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to seek a waiver to allow the selection of a Design-Build company to design and construct the Physical Plant Shops/Office Building Project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to execute platting documents, grant utility easements, and transfer land for the development of Research Park II;
  • Approved UW-Oshkosh’s request for authority to increase the budget of the Elmwood Center Remodeling and Addition Project and construct the project;
  • Approved UW-Platteville’s request for authority to purchase a parcel of land and to accept a gift of two parcels of land for the purpose of future road construction;
  • Approved UW-Stevens Point’s request for authority to construct a new residence hall enumerated in the 2007-09 Capital Budget;  the project will construct a 323-bed, six-story suite-style residence hall that will replace Hyer Hall;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s request for authority to increase the budget of the Hovlid Hall Renovation and Addition project by $600,000; and
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to increase the budget of an all-agency maintenance and repair project to renovate the University Houses Preschool on the UW-Madison campus. 

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The UW System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting June 4 and 5, 2009, in Madison

 


Related: Read May 7 (day 1) news summary