Regent committee also approves changes to university sick-leave policy; strengthens audit function

MADISON-Officials of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and its Medical School told the Board of Regents on Thursday that a proposed name change for the school was part of a process to expand the school’s public-health mission, but Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and State Senator Lena Taylor gave emotional testimony in favor of instead locating a School of Public Health in Milwaukee, where they argued, the public health needs are greater than anywhere else in the state.

The testimony came as the Board considered renaming the UW Medical School as the School of Medicine and Public Health. The renaming is part of expanding the school’s public-health mission. In 1999, the state insurance commissioner granted the UW Medical School and the Medical College of Wisconsin approximately $300 million each in proceeds from the sale of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin. The funds must be used for public health purposes, as outlined by the Wisconsin Partnership Fund for a Healthy Future. The Board of Regents in 2003 approved a five-year strategic plan for the use of this funding, which included the expanded mission of the UW Medical School.

UW Medical School officials told the Board that they were committed to improving already strong public health programming in Milwaukee, but Barrett argued that if a school of public health were established in Madison, it would reduce the chances for similar opportunities in Milwaukee.

The Board’s Education Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve the resolution approving the name change. But many committee members noted that they voted to approve the measure only to advance the measure for consideration by the full Board on Friday, not necessarily to signal their agreement with it. Committee members said it should be made clear that approving a School of Public Health at UW-Madison should not preclude similar programming in Milwaukee.

Phillip Farrell, dean of the UW Medical School, told the Board that the school is seeking to fulfill its public-health mission through “synergistic” partnerships and private dollars intended for that purpose. The renaming of the school and related programs would not require additional state dollars, he said. The UW Medical School has active programming in place to address public health concerns throughout the city of Milwaukee, notably the Center for Urban Population Health. The school also directs programming and field study in the state’s more rural areas, he added.

“We are a statewide medical school, and we will be a statewide school of Medicine and Public Health. The people of Milwaukee are as important to us as the people of Madison, and the rest of the state,” Farrell said. “We are eager to close the so-called gap between medicine and public health. This is really the Wisconsin Idea in action.”

Farrell said UW-Madison has the connections, infrastructure, faculty, staff and students to properly support and grow a school of public health. Doing so in conjunction with a school of medicine would be somewhat of a new national model, but that the joint school is not necessary for accreditation, he said.

Dr. Pat Remington, director of the UW-Madison master’s of public health program, said the degree program would be the cornerstone of the new, integrated School of Medicine and Public Health, and that he has been “amazed” by the uniform support for the new mission of the school. Remington also noted that a number of public health students are participating in field studies in Milwaukee.

Barrett said in large part, the city of Milwaukee is grateful for the work of UW-Madison. However, Milwaukee was recently ranked as among the nation’s poorest cities, Barrett said, and because the city has overwhelming health needs, the city can serve as an important laboratory for the school’s students and faculty.

“I am asking the university to have its laboratory in the city that, unfortunately, has the lion’s share of problems in this state. It’s important to be on the ground there,” said Barrett, who also acknowledged the health-care needs of the rest of the state. “Rural and central city health care need have far more in common than most realize.”

Taylor, who represents the state’s 4th Senate District, urged the Board to delay a vote, or to vote no, on the proposed renaming. Milwaukee is the state’s largest city, with the largest health department, and has the largest opportunity for case studies, she said. She encouraged the Board to look at ways to more effectively use the “virtual” school of public health that already exists through UW-Milwaukee.

“As a legislator, we can hardly support the universities we have,” Taylor said. “If you’re going to do something, let’s do it with the market that can best serve Wisconsin.”

Barrett and Taylor said a school of public health would be able to assist Milwaukee in solving problems related to child asthma, teen pregnancy, AIDS, and other community health concerns. “I need your help,” Barrett said. “If there’s a challenge for this state and this university system, it’s how to solve this problem.”

Barrett said that if the Board grants the name change to UW-Madison, he believes it would hurt, if not eliminate the chances that Milwaukee would be able to secure a similar school. “I don’t know that this state can support two schools of public health,” he said.

Doug Normann, of the La Crosse County Health Department, encouraged the Board to “move forward briskly” with the school’s renaming, which he said was a part of a thoughtful proposal that would better integrate health disciplines and lead to significant improvements in community health. He said the data-drive proposal took into account recommendations from many in the health field and was based on proven models.

“We can’t make improvements with the way the system currently is, we have to improve the system,” Normann said.

Greg Nycz, executive director of Marshfield’s Family Health Center, said the Regents should consider the school’s renaming independently from problems in Milwaukee, but remember the day’s discussion as a “wake-up call” about the city’s health issues.

“This shouldn’t be about which counties have bigger problems,” Nycz said. “It looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck; we should call it a duck. Let’s consider naming the duck, and moving forward from there.”

Tim Size, executive director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, said the Board should consider investments in both Madison and Milwaukee and that need for collaboration through a school of public health was clear, but that the Regents were being asked to consider a different question, that of the renaming, at this point in the process.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Carlos Santiago said he agreed that a school of public health should be located in Milwaukee, and noted that his campus has been working with the Medical College of Wisconsin to develop a joint Ph.D. program in public health. Santiago added that the Board was hearing frustration from the Milwaukee community that research is not translating to practice in Southeastern Wisconsin, and that the city must have this kind of expertise to succeed in the knowledge economy.

“UW-Madison is doing all the right things; Milwaukee’s lack of infrastructure is keeping collaboration from reaching fruition,” Santiago said.

Regent Peggy Rosenzweig of Wauwatosa wondered what was preventing a “win-win” solution by asking UW-Madison to locate the school of public health in Milwaukee. Farrell said that while the school has extensive and active programs in Milwaukee, it would be “absolutely impossible” to move the infrastructure Madison has developed to Milwaukee.

Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler of Oshkosh asked how the school would be impacted if the Board delayed the name change. Farrell said the sense of indecisiveness would be perceived as “backpedaling” from the approvals the Board has already granted toward the school’s expanded mission.

UW-Madison Provost Peter Spear also said a delay could affect the campus’ search for a dean to replace Farrell, who is stepping down as Dean at the end of the year to return to the faculty.

Regent President David Walsh said that because the funding allocated to UW-Madison for public health purposes was nontransferable, and because additional state dollars are unavailable, he was unclear how the Board could afford to establish a separate school of public health in Milwaukee. In response to a question from Walsh, Barrett acknowledged that he would not have argued his case before the board if the proposal were simply to expand programs in Madison, nor if the renaming had not been proposed.

Regent Michael Spector said he sensed that the UW Medical School was “staking claim” to public health programming, and that he feared approving the change would preclude similar work in Milwaukee. Cora Marrett, UW System Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, reminded committee members that the Board approves new academic programs, and would be able to direct programming in Milwaukee.

UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley said it was important that the Regents not lose sight of the 85 percent of the state’s population who lives outside of Madison and Milwaukee, while still balancing these needs of these cities.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the room who would disagree that the future of the state of Wisconsin is inherently tied to the future of the city of Milwaukee,” Wiley said.

Regent Thomas Loftus of Sun Prairie asked Chancellor Santiago if it was most important that any school of public health serve the city of Milwaukee, or that this particular school be located in the city.

“There should be a school of public health in Milwaukee,” Santiago said. “That’s the key. UWM does not have the resources at this time.”

Regent Danae Davis said that going forward, Milwaukee officials should be invited to participate in planning for such public health initiatives, saying that it did not matter why Milwaukee’s needs were being discussed, but rather that the concerns were heartfelt.

Student Regent Chris Semenas said because the funding is earmarked for public health purposes and the programming has been planned, the Board should move forward with the renaming, but that people on both sides of the issue should continue to communicate.

“This is providing the atmosphere in which we can have the discussion that’s lacking,” he said.

Committee Chair Elizabeth Burmaster of Madison said the university was fortunate to be a part of the beginnings of collaborations like this.

“I am confident this will evolve into the reality that we all hope it will,” she said. “I saw this as a step forward for our state.”

View a PowerPoint Presentation on the proposed UW School of Medicine and Public Health pdf

Faculty, academic staff weigh in on university employment policies and practices

The Business and Finance and Education Committees on Thursday continued their reviews of UW personnel policies and practices, specifically addressing concurrent appointments and use of sick leave. The Business and Finance committee heard from UW-Parkside Chancellor John Keating and UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells, as well as faculty and academic staff representatives.

Representatives of UW-Milwaukee and UW-River Falls addressed the Education Committee, saying that faculty and staff on those campuses believe the university’s current policies about appointment status and sick-leave policies were effective and fair.

Consulting faculty and staff is a necessary step when changes to university policies are proposed under shared governance, a statutory provision that guarantees faculty, staff and student rights to participate in decision-making about university policies.

Keating said UW-Parkside eliminated concurrent appointments four years ago, without negative effect. The representatives said they had consulted with their colleagues on campus to solicit opinions on concurrent appointments and sick leave usage, and did not raise significant objections to a potential policy change that would require medical certification for employees using sick leave for absences of more than 10 work days.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Carlos Santiago said his campus believes UW employment policies and practices are clearly spelled out in university rules, and that they are largely enforced. He said any concerns would stem from financial implications of ending employment terms of university staff.

Sarine Schmidt, who chairs UW-Milwaukee’s Academic Staff Committee, said staffers believe current policies appropriately require a doctor’s certification only when an employee is suspected of abusing sick-leave privileges. To require other certification may place undue burdens on employees who need time to recuperate from illness or care for a family member, she said.

“We can count on [these policies] to be effective management tools,” Schmidt said.

Scott Emmons, chair of UWM’s University Committee, said the faculty wanted the Board to consider continuing to offer concurrent appointments for those in limited-term positions, and to limit transition leave for employees moving back to the faculty from such positions to 2 semesters.

Representatives Nan Jordahl and Sarah Egerstrom of UW-River Falls largely agreed with UWM’s recommendations and stressed that the current policies allow effective recruitment and retention of faculty and staff.

Jordahl said the faculty at first had a “knee-jerk” reaction to some of the changes proposed, but that they would accept whatever policies the Regents determine. Egerstrom said if changes must be made to current policy, academic staff strongly favored a “10-day trigger” over a five-day proposal.

UW-River Falls Chancellor Don Betz said he believed the concurrent appointment structure to be unique to Wisconsin, and that other measures may also be effective in encouraging high-quality faculty and staff to take on administrative roles, but that ultimately, an appointment system must ensure effective recruitment.

In other business, the Education Committee approved several resolutions for consideration by the full Board, including:

  • An amendment to the Charter School Contract for the Milwaukee Academy of Science;
  • A resolution authorizing an Online M.B.A. as a University of Wisconsin Consortial Degree;
  • A resolution authorizing a B.S. in Golf Enterprise Management at the UW-Stout; and
  • A resolution authorizing revised faculty personnel rules related to the dismissal for cause policy at UW- Eau Claire.

Business and Finance Committee

In addition to hearing testimony from faculty and staff representatives, the Business and Finance Committee on Thursday unanimously voted to require UW employees to provide a doctor’s certification when using sick leave for a period of 5 days or longer.

Before the vote, Associate Vice President Alan Crist discussed options for changing the university’s sick leave policy.

Current policy describes appropriate uses for sick leave, such as personal illness, injury, or disability, but does not address circumstances under which faculty, limited appointees, and academic staff must provide a medical certification for using sick leave. Crist described the policies of other state agencies and some local private employers, noting that whether to require certification is often left to managers’ discretion, but private companies often specify a number of days as a trigger for when medical certification is required.

Regent Thomas Loftus emphasized the value of the sick-leave benefit, noting that changes would be made amid concern in the Legislature about recent UW employment situations.

“It’s prudent that the Board of Regents do something more akin to the private sector,” he said.

The committee also reviewed the UW System’s internal audit function. UW System President Kevin P. Reilly reviewed a  charge that came out of the September meeting, specifically that the President review and prepare a recommendation on whether the UW System’s internal audit function is sufficient, and whether the System Auditor should report directly to the UW President and the Board.

Vice President Deborah Durcan described the role of the Office of Operations Review and Audit as that of an internal management consultant.  She noted that the office’s mission is similar to that of auditors in other university systems. She also described the role of campus auditors, who typically conduct audits in potentially high-risk areas. She noted that due to severe budget cuts, four UW campuses are currently without an auditor. Administrators are considering options to share auditors geographically, but some do not want to share their auditors because of the value they add.

Under the current reporting structure, the Office of Operations Review and Audit reports to the Vice President for Finance and presents reports to the Board’s Business and Finance Committee. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, while designed to protect investors in publicly traded corporations, offers guidance for strengthening the audit function in higher-education institutions. The National Association of College and University Business Officers recommends establishing an audit committee and establishing procedures for receiving and handling confidential complaints from employees.

President Reilly expressed concern that some campuses no longer have a campus auditor. He said the cuts reflect that in making budget cuts, the UW System’s goal has been to protect instruction at all costs and to take cuts on the administrative side, as far removed from student services as possible.

President Reilly said he believes the audit function can be strengthened. He presented seven recommendations for strengthening audit-related reporting relationships in the UW System. He recommended that the Board officially designate Business and Finance Committee as the audit committee of the Board of Regents, and officially designate the Vice Chair of the Committee the audit liaison.

President Reilly also expressly stated that any Regent may submit a request for an audit or review, and recommended formalizing a regular reporting relationship between the Director of Operations Review and Audit and the UW System President.  He said the Director should have unfettered access to the UW System President, and the Board, at any time.

The committee also discussed the role of internal auditors and the extent to which the Office of Operations Review and Audit has the ability to identify projects independently.

The committee approved all of President Reilly’s recommendations, with the addition of a name change for the Business and Finance Committee. The committee voted to rename it the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee to make clear that this is the committee with which the audit function resides. The name change will require a change to the Board’s bylaws, which can be addressed at the next Board meeting.

Operations Review and Audit Director Ron Yates presented the results of a program review on safeguarding student Social Security Numbers. The federal Privacy Act of 1974 required federal, state, and local government agencies to provide proper notice when requesting individuals to disclose their Social Security Numbers. Yates reported that all UW System institutions have stopped using the Social Security Number as a student identification number for new students, and institutions have made progress in ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to student records.

The committee approved a resolution directing the UW institutions to implement the recommendations in the Operations Review report:  to collect and use student Social Security Numbers only as permitted or required by federal or state law, and only as reasonably necessary for the proper administration or accomplishment of the institutions’ business, governmental and educational purposes; provide the notice required by Section 7(b) of the Federal Privacy Act of 1974 whenever they request that students disclose their Social Security Numbers; and limit access to and the display of records containing student Social Security Numbers.

In her report, Vice President Durcan noted that the Legislative Audit Bureau is preparing its scope statement for a review President Reilly requested. The review will include sick leave usage, the use of consultants, and other areas. She expects the LAB audit to be long and broad. She also noted that the UW System utility appropriation may be significantly short for this fiscal year, because of rising energy costs.  The committee discussed utilities issues and then decided to continue the discussion at a future meeting, because of its significance. Vice President Durcan also discussed DOA procurement issues.

The committee also heard a Trust Funds report on 2005 Proxy Season Voting Results.

In other business, the Business and Finance Committee approved two resolutions for consideration by the full Board, including:

  • A resolution approving a statutorily mandated report about serving adult students through biennial budget appropriations;
  • A resolution approving a statutorily mandated report about FTE positions created by the UW System in 2004-2005.

Physical Planning and Funding Committee

The Physical Planning and Funding Committee opened Thursday in a joint meeting with the Business and Finance Committee, where UW-La Crosse Chancellor Doug Hastad and Vice Chancellor Ron Lostetter presented the Master Plan for the UW-La Crosse campus.

Hastad stressed that the plan is driven by the academic mission of the university, and Lostetter said the plan supports:

  • creating a central campus mall and a cohesive, pedestrian-friendly campus environment with traffic and parking located at the perimeter;
  • expanding the planning focus for recreational and athletic open space; and
  • amending the campus boundary at the east edge to include property currently owned by the School District of La Crosse. This change would allow the campus to seek to acquire the site if the school district ever chose to place it for sale.

The committee also approved two requests to name facilities at UW-Platteville. The first request was to rename the Living and Learning Center on the university farm as the Cooper Living and Learning Center, after Jerry and Fran Cooper, who have a long history of dedicated service to UW-Platteville. They have served as active members of the Pioneer Patrons and the University Alumni Association, and Jerry Cooper has received the UW-Platteville Foundation Distinguished Service Award.

Likewise, the Committee approved naming the Physical Plant Building at UW-Platteville the “Fred Geise Building.” Fred Geise provided 36 years of dedicated service to the university by directing physical plant operations from 1936 until his retirement in 1972. Geise also offered his knowledge of buildings and methods of facility maintenance as a mentor and advisor to other UW System physical plant directors.

In other business, the committee approved requesting state funds to begin the planning of four major building projects to be funded and constructed in the 2007-09 biennium. Those projects are:

  • construction of a new academic building at the center of the UW‑La Crosse campus;
  • construction of a new academic building with general-assignment classrooms and laboratory space at UW‑Oshkosh;
  • a Communications Arts Remodeling and Addition project at UW-Parkside; and
  • construction of a new academic building to replace substandard classrooms at UW-Superior.

Assistant Vice President David Miller reported that the Building Commission in September approved approximately $80 million in project costs. Of that amount, $54 million will be General Fund Supported Borrowing, and $26 million will come from Program Revenue. Miller reported that the Building Commission voted to introduce legislation to make minor statutory revisions to the state building program.

View a PowerPoint on UW-La Crosse's Master Plan pdf


The Board of Regents will resume its October meeting at 9 a.m., Oct. 7, in Room 1820 of Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.