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Regents’ discussions underscore importance of flexibilities and accountability (April 8, 2011)

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April 8, 2011

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

April 2011 Day 2

Regents’ discussions underscore importance of flexibilities and accountability

PLATTEVILLE – The University of Wisconsin System met or partially met its goals on 18 of 22 indicators used to track its higher education performance for 2010-11, the Board of Directors was told Friday.

“For our external stakeholders – including legislators, donors, and other people who care about our university’s performance – we offer a clear-cut framework, measureable goals, and an honest assessment of progress toward those goals,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly.

Beyond traditional measures like enrollment, retention rates, graduation, and resource management, the UW System report also evaluates and reports on the System’s impact on Wisconsin communities through civic participation, community outreach and engagement, and economic development.

Reilly reminded the Board that this is the 17th annual publication of the report.

Heather Kim, Associate Vice President for Policy Analysis & Research, provided the Regents with an overview of the most recent report, “Investing in Wisconsin’s Future.”

Kim said this year’s report features several improvements, including incorporating the More Graduates for Wisconsin plans to increase enrollment and improve retention and graduate rates. It adds new indicators on closing the achievement gaps and access for transfer students. It also provides greater focus on multicultural and disadvantaged populations.

A sampling of findings from the report:

  • Enrollments in the UW System reached record levels, but were still below the target set for fall 2010. Actual headcount enrollment was 182,090. The target was 182,246. At the same time, students of color increased from 11.0% in fall 2009 to 11.8% in 2010.
  • Undergraduates receiving Pell Grants increased from 20.0% in 2008-09 to 26.0% in 2009-10.
  • Rates of access, retention, and graduation for most students of color remain below those of white students.

Regent Danae Davis acknowledged the need to provide measures of accountability that meet the needs of legislators, particularly within the context of the Wisconsin Idea Partnership plan, but she urged the Board “not to lose the purpose of holding ourselves accountable for the things that matter to us.”

Regent John Drew called it a great report. “The current proposed Budget is going to pose serious challenges to maintaining any of the pluses,” he added.

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Regents speak out in support of Wisconsin Idea Partnership

Following up on Thursday’s discussion, Regents voiced their strong support for the Wisconsin Idea Partnership – a plan to preserve the integrated University of Wisconsin System and provide all UW campuses with new managerial flexibility.

“If anybody has any doubt, we are 150% behind the Wisconsin Idea Partnership,” said Regent Brent Smith. “We’ve been well served by the System for the last 40 years and we are still served by all of our campuses. It’s the best for our students, best for our campuses, and best for the State of Wisconsin.”

Regent David Walsh reiterated that the Board is charged with representing the best interests of all the people of Wisconsin. “We can’t lose of track of who we’re speaking for and what our bigger goal is, and that’s why the Wisconsin Idea Partnership is so important,” Walsh said. “It keeps the system together and keeps us heading down the road that I think the legislators and decision-makers want us to measure our decisions by, and that’s access and affordability and quality.”

Regent José Vásquez said he finds it frustrating that the Board has been portrayed as a “Johnny come lately” to this discussion, noting that the UW System has been actively seeking flexibilities from the State for years.

Regent Mark Bradley noted that in his eight years on the Board, he can’t remember any subject that has produced more mail than the proposed initiative to separate UW-Madison from the System. He said a strong theme in that public correspondence is the System’s record of success. “They may not be able to recite how we’re ranked in the top three or four of efficiency, but they have the feeling we’re doing OK. They may not be able to recite where our tuition levels are compared to other states, but our steady, moderate and predictable rates…have resonated,” Bradley said. “The most impressive thing is the personal letters trying to convince me to keep the system together.”

Reilly countered efforts to characterize the Wisconsin Idea Partnership as an argument for maintaining the status quo. “It’s not,” Reilly said. “It’s an argument for significant, new flexibilities that all our chancellors need to have and in the context of a System that includes all campuses and all chancellors.”

Reilly added, “It is radically important for us to have the flexibilities that the Wisconsin Idea Partnership argues for, and lays a pathway to very clearly. Yes, it’s about change.”

Regent Danae Davis noted that she is proud that, as a group, they have “taken the high ground” while keeping “an eye on the prize.”

“We are absolutely unified on this,” said Regent Judith Crain.

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Regents support revised board composition

The Regents voted 12-5 to support a resolution of support for legislation that would ensure regional representation on the Board.

Regent President Chuck Pruitt, who presented the resolution, said that if the legislature grants the University new management flexibilities, it’s important that its members know that the interests of their region will be represented by someone who appreciates their unique needs.

The bill, introduced with bipartisan support, calls for representation on the Board by at least one citizen member who resides in each of the seven U.S. congressional districts.

Regent Tom Loftus pointed out that appointments to the Board need to consider qualifications in addition to geography, to include minority members or representatives of organized labor, for example.

Regent Jeff Bartell noted that as a corporate lawyer he has tended to dislike constituent boards. He said he supports the notion in this case, however, particularly given the Wisconsin Idea Partnership framework. He added that members of the current Board are assigned to “buddy” certain campuses to achieve regional representation.

Student Regent Aaron Wingad said he would support the resolution but with some reservations about reinforcing the idea that a particular regent is the “Milwaukee regent or the Eau Claire regent.” “We need to resist that,” he said.

Read the resolution on regional representation. [PDF]

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Board submits System’s history of academic freedom into the record

Regent Tom Loftus led discussion of the history of academic freedom in the UW System, which will be entered into the Board’s official records.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants in this arena. It’s important to reaffirm one more time, in this era we’re now in, that academic freedom is paramount in the UW System,” said Loftus, noting that a threat to the academic freedom at one institution is a threat to all.

Loftus’s call for the report was prompted by the recent open records request by the Republican Party of Wisconsin for access to the e-mails of William Cronon, a UW-Madison professor.

Regent Judith Crain reported to the Board that Cronon, who had attended the Education Committee’s meeting the previous afternoon for an unrelated issue, had characterized academic freedom as “a foundational principle of American higher education.” She added that he’d cited the ongoing need to balance two competing public goods: open government and academic freedom.

Regent Mark Bradley noted that “our universities are becoming the last place where we’re going to get fact-based analysis. If we don’t protect the right of people to say they’re going to look at the facts and analyze them … They need to be able to do that in an environment where they will not be penalized or attacked for it.”

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In other business, the Board:

  • Approved a resolution of appreciation to UW-Platteville for hosting the April 2011 meeting;
  • Approved the 2011-12 request to the Trustees of the William F. Vilas Trust Estate in support of scholarships, fellowships, professorships and special programs in arts and humanities, social sciences, and music at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee;
  • Approved the proposed B.A./B.S. in Environmental Sciences at UW-Madison;
  • Approved the proposed B.A./B.S. in Environmental Studies at UW-Madison;
  • Approved the proposed B.S./B.A in Microsystems and Nanotechnology Engineering at UW-Platteville;
  • Approved the proposed B.S. in Health, Wellness, and Fitness at UW-Stout;
  • Approved the proposed Master of Public Health at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Approved revisions to Faculty Personnel Rules at UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison;
  • Approved the non-routine shareholder proxy proposals; formally accepted four bequests with a total value of $2,623,400;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to increase the project scope and budget of the Hockey/Swim (LaBahn Arena) project; 
  • Approved UW-Platteville’s request for approval to sell two parcels of vacant land totaling about 1.6 acres to the UW-Platteville Real Estate Foundation, Inc. for $110,000, the proceeds of which will be retained by the university;
  • Approved UW System’s recommended nine All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects at six UW System institutions totaling $6.2 million including $2.2 million of gift/grant funds. Those projects include window replacements, space remodeling and renovation, and utility upgrades.

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The UW System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting May 5, 2011, at Van Hise Hall, in Madison

 


Related: Read April 7 (day 1) news summary