New policy requires employee background checks

MADISON—University of Wisconsin System campuses will have additional tools to ensure the safety and security of students, faculty, staff and resources following two actions by the Board of Regents on Friday (Dec. 8) to implement criminal background checks and recommend change in the faculty disciplinary process.

New employees in the UW System will now undergo a criminal background check as part of the hiring process, following the Board’s vote Friday to implement such a program systemwide. Each UW institution will develop and submit a plan to locally implement the policy.

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said the checks are another way campuses can ensure the safety and security of students, faculty, staff and resources, Reilly said, adding that he implemented a similar policy at UW-Extension when he was chancellor there.

“Based on that experience, I’m glad we did,” Reilly said.

Background checks are likely to be performed using state and federal databases. The policy requires that UW hiring officials follow Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination based on arrest or conviction record, unless the circumstances of those are “substantially related” to the potential employment.

Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee said he had a few concerns about the policy, including the potential cost, which could reach $250,000 per year.

“If that’s what the people of the state of Wisconsin want, then we’ll make that expenditure,” Salas said.

Salas added that he was concerned about the possibility of outsourcing the task of performing the background checks, and would want to ensure proper oversight of that process. Al Crist, assistant vice president for human resources said he would work with legal counsel to ensure any information collected under the new policy would be treated confidentially and appropriately.

Reilly said that, to date, four UW Faculty Senates had voted to support the policy, four voted to oppose it, and three raised concerns they believe need further explanation. He and other staff will continue to work with governance groups to meet their concerns.

In addition, the Board will forward to the Legislature a set of proposed changes to state administrative code that will allow the university to quickly address instances of alleged serious criminal misconduct by UW faculty or staff.

The proposed rules create an expedited process to dismiss faculty and staff who engage in serious criminal misconduct. The rules would also allow the university to suspend such individuals without pay in specified circumstances.

The rules were drafted so as not to infringe upon constitutionally-protected conduct, expression, beliefs, or academic freedom, and to assure adequate due process.

Regent Mike Spector of Milwaukee, who chaired the Special Regent Committee on Faculty/Staff Disciplinary Process, said the group tried to narrow the proposed statutory changes to maintain security on campus, but without substantially harming other interests of faculty and staff.

“I think we did achieve what we wanted to achieve here, with a lot of time and effort from all concerned,” Spector said.

Spector thanked the committee and staff of the Legislative Council for its work, recognized many representatives of faculty and academic staff governance groups who forwarded input on the proposed changes.

Regent President David G. Walsh of Madison praised Spector for his work as chair to reach consensus among members of a group with strong, different opinions on the process.

Walsh added that a hearing before the Joint Legislative Committee on Audit last month was an opportunity to review the significant steps the university has taken on personnel policies and practices. Reilly added that legislators were appreciative that the audit process led to solutions, and signaled that they were pleased with the UW’s progress.

“The important part is that we’re moving forward in a positive way,” Walsh said.

Regents, Milwaukee community support public health efforts

Milwaukee mayor says he will work to make school of public health “a reality”

The Board of Regents on Friday accepted a report on planning for public health needs in Milwaukee, and members signaled their endorsement of expanding the university’s capacity to serve the city of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who also addressed the Board 14 months ago, returned to thank the Board and members of the committee who studied Milwaukee’s public health needs.

“The UW System and UWM can play a greater role than it has in addressing the health care needs in the state’s largest city,” Barrett said. “The place we have to start is with the disparities in Milwaukee. The reality is that they are as serious today as they were year ago.”

Barrett said some of the pressing public health issues in Milwaukee include racial disparities in infant mortality, low birth weights and lack of immunizations, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen birth rates.

He noted that a school of public health in Milwaukee can also train more workers for the health care field, in which a large part of the current workforce is nearing retirement age. Further, he said, locating a School of Public Health in the state’s most diverse city can be an opportunity to train workers from all backgrounds to develop cultural sensitivities for future work in health care.

In addition, as private health care facilities expand in affluent areas, public health will have to play a larger role in other parts of the community, Barrett said.

Barrett said the university’s endorsement of a school of public health in Milwaukee is an example of how the Wisconsin Idea works across the state.

“I think this would be great for the University of Milwaukee; I think it would be great for the entire system,” Barrett said. “I have not seen a level of community support like I have seen for this.”

Barrett said foundations, corporations, hospitals, and others have all recognized the importance of expanding public health education and capacity in Milwaukee.

“I am prepared to do the heavy lifting, to work with you, to get those interests involved in this work we can make this a reality for the entire state,” Barrett said. “The key here is to keep the momentum going.”

Reilly added that faculty experts are working with state legislators to help the state solve challenges related to health care costs.

Regent Vice President Mark Bradley of Wausau noted a recent editorial that suggested creating a school of public health in Milwaukee would be duplicative of education available at UW-Madison. He asked Chancellor Carlos Santiago to talk about what would need to happen to create such a school at UWM.

Santiago said UW-Milwaukee would be interested in establishing an accredited School of Public Health in a setting where collaboration could enhance a local focus. He said an accredited school at UW-Madison might reflect a different environment, as it includes both medicine and public health emphases.

“We want to be unique in how we approach the issue of public health, because we think that’s what Milwaukee needs at this time,” Santiago said.

Davis reminded Regents that partners in Milwaukee and Madison are already working together on public health efforts, and will continue to expand those collaborations.

“This isn’t an ‘us versus them’,” Davis said.

Walsh reminded the Board that accepting the report of the study committee was just one step, and Regents and interested partners would need to continue to communicate and learn about the complex issues related to public health programming.

“This report is the best evidence we’ve seen of what we can all do as we move forward together,” Walsh said.

Board recommends 5.23 percent employee pay plan, other policy changes

The full Board voted Friday to formally recommend a 5.23 percent pay plan increase for faculty and unclassified staff in each year of the 2007-09 budget biennium.

The recommendation asks the Governor and the Office of State Employment Relations to set aside $48 million per year in tax dollars in the state compensation reserve to fund the pay plan in full. The recommendation would not require additional tuition increases beyond those needed to support the UW’s proposed 2007-09 biennial budget request, approved in August. The resolution also renews the Board’s call for the ability to offer employee domestic partner benefits.

Also on Friday, the full Board heard about a decision of the Education Committee to delay a vote on an action that would update and unify several Regent policies related to freshman admissions, some of which date back to 1972. The action would also ensure continued compliance with U.S. Supreme Court rulings that describe how campuses can consider both academic and nonacademic factors.

Committee Chair Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee said Thursday she expects that the full Board supports the policy and would approve it as proposed. However, she said, that the delay would allow the Board and university staff to clarify questions about the complex admissions process.

Admissions policies guide UW institutions as they determine which students will benefit from the educational experience at a UW campus, and also contribute to the academic environment. Regent policy establishes a framework and minimum requirements for admission to the UW System; individual campuses may establish more specific requirements and local procedures.

Regent Jeffrey Bartell of Madison advised that the Board may want to be mindful of expected U.S. Supreme Court decisions related to race-conscious admissions in cases it heard earlier this month.

“I think we should take the time necessary to consider this policy and make sure it reflects the very best work we can put together in adopting it,” Bartell said.

Regent Judy Crain of Green Bay added that the Board should also be aware of how a systemwide policy will affect individual institutions, and Regent Milt McPike suggested that board members should become familiar with UW admissions policies so that they can assist stakeholders across the state.

Walsh said Friday that the Board may decide to hold public hearings about college admissions.

In other business, Regents also approved resolutions to:

  • Authorize UW-Stout to implement a master of science degree program in Information and Communication Technologies;
  • Authorize UW-Milwaukee to implement a Ph.D. program in Communication;
  • Approved a revised policy that allows campuses to formally recognize student organizations that limit membership and leadership positions to those who subscribe to the group’s belief or value statements, but do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of constitutionally protected characteristics;
  • Approved the renewal of the contract for UW-Parkside’s charter school, the 21st Century Preparatory School, for five years;
  • Adjust the salaries of three senior academic leaders for competitive and market factors: UW-Parkside Chancellor Jack Keating ($8,000), UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard ($10,000), and UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells ($15,000);
  • Forward a report detailing how the UW System would implement a 10 percent budget reduction, an exercise that followed the governor’s budget instructions;
  • Add three capital projects to the Board’s 2007-09 Capital Budget request: Remodeling and an addition to UW-Eau Claire’s Davies University Center, at a cost of $48.8 million in of program revenue cash and borrowing; Renovation of UW-Madison’s South Campus Union & Memorial Union Theater at a cost of $139.7 million of program revenue cash, borrowing, and gift funds, and Construction of a residence hall at UW-Parkside for $17 million program revenue supported borrowing;
  • Grant authority to UW-Madison to enter into a land use agreement with the Olin House Trust to renovate Olin House, the UW-Madison chancellor’s residence, and accept the completed renovations as a gift-in-kind;
  • Grant authority to ask for the release of advance funds for the UW-Madison West Campus Utility Improvements Project;
  • Decrease the budget and scope of the Sterling Hall Renovation project and reallocate funds from that project to the Biochemistry II project and the West Campus Utility Improvements Project;
  • Grant authority for maintenance and repair of a parking ramp at UW-Madison and the installation of a new chiller at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Grant authority to increase the budget of the Chadbourne Residence Hall Renovation project as bids came in higher than expected due to increased prices of materials and labor; and
  • Cancel its January 2007 meeting, as allowed by policy.

Board shows appreciation to Cora Marrett, Margaret Lewis

The Board thanked two outgoing members of the UW System staff on Friday with resolutions of appreciation.

Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee said she had mixed feelings and emotions about saying farewell as she presented a resolution of appreciation on behalf of the Board to Cora Marrett, senior vice president for academic affairs for the UW System.

Marrett is leaving UW System Administration to become assistant director of Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Davis said that when thinking about Marrett’s service, she was struck by Cora’s brilliance, class, leadership and passion for her work. She wished Marrett well in her new role at the NSF, but said the Board will miss her insight.

“Our loss — their gain,” Davis said. “We can’t thank you enough for the legacy you will be leaving behind.”

Marrett said she appreciated the Board’s recognition, and reminded Regents that her new role was made possible through her continued role as a tenured faculty member in the UW-Madison Department of Sociology.

There are strong connections between the UW, the state of Wisconsin, and the work of the National Science Foundation, Marrett said, reviewing initiatives she will guide related to undergraduate education; human resource development, which funds programming in science and engineering; and advanced technological education.

Marrett said she hopes the NSF and the UW System will both continue their commitments to the value of education.

“I anticipate no break in my connection to the ideas and the ideals for which you stand,” Marrett said.

Regent Peggy Rosenzweig of Wauwatosa, a former state legislator, presented a resolution of appreciation to Margaret Lewis, outgoing associate vice president of university relations, and also a former state legislator.

Rosenzweig said during her time in the Legislature, Lewis was among those who stood out as a talented public servant. Mayor Barrett was also among those notable colleagues, Rosenzweig said.

“There were some who emerged as the best and brightest,” Rosenzweig said. “They were two who were really passionate about public service.”

Rosenzweig said she remembered being at the podium when Lewis left the Legislature, and was honored to be able to celebrate her contributions as a Regent.

Lewis said that when she began her work at the UW System 12 years ago, she had recently returned from a trip from Japan, where she gained a greater understanding of business, government and education in that country, and in the United States.

“We are strong because we are creative, because we assimilate new people and ideas, and adapt to an ever changing world,” she observed.

Margaret said she chose to commit years of her career to public higher education because she believes in its role in giving “ordinary people a fair chance.”

“We can’t be satisfied with any lost children,” Lewis said. “Wisconsin must reinvest in access for all its residents. Our reputation cannot be sustained on words of support alone, while state support stagnates. It’s up to all of you to see these efforts through. Our future and that of future generations depends on it.”

Lewis said she will continue to be a friend of higher education in Wisconsin.

“I will always be a proud alum, and a lifelong advocate,” she said.

Read the resolution of appreciation for Cora Marrett pdf
Read the resolution of appreciation for Margaret Lewis pdf

Business, community leaders step up for “Growth Agenda,” Reilly reports

More than 40 business leaders, community organizations, and academic governance groups have sent letters of support for the UW System’s biennial budget request, titled “A Growth Agenda for Wisconsin,” President Reilly told the Board on Friday.

Recently, statements of support have come from the Whitewater, Wausau, Oshkosh, and La Crosse communities, he said.

We’ve received additional support from those who will play a big role in making the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin a reality: our faculty, academic staff, and students,” Reilly added.

The UW-Stout Academic Staff Senate and Faculty Senate have passed resolutions in favor of the Growth Agenda, joining their colleagues at UW-River Falls and UW-Superior, as well as the UW-Green Bay Student Association.

The United St. Croix Valley Legislative Days organization is also set to advance the UW System Growth Agenda as a legislative priority, Reilly said.

Reilly also introduced new members of the UW System’s Communications and External Relations team. David F. Giroux has been named the new Executive Director of Communications and External Relations. He previously spent six years as UW-Extension’s director of public information, and has held media, public relations, and management positions at Alliant Energy, and the American Red Cross.

Grant Huber, now working in the office of State Sen. Judy Robson, and Jessica Tormey, chief of staff for State Sen. Alberta Darling, will be joining the team as Special Assistants for Communications and External Relations at the start of the New Year, Reilly said.

Reilly also recognized Erica Kauten, who recently retired as director of UW-Extension’s Business and Manufacturing Division, for receiving the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2006 award in the “Supporter of Entrepreneurship” category.

“She may be officially retired, but her work to improve the small-business climate in this state leaves a legacy that will continue to strengthen Wisconsin’s economy for the future,” Reilly said.

Finally, Reilly told the Board that four students have been selected as recipients of the first Alliant Energy/Erroll B. Davis Jr. Achievement Awards. Alliant Energy has created a $400,000 endowment to support the awards, which honor the outstanding scholarship and community service of students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups pursuing a degree in Business or Engineering at UW-Madison or UW-Platteville, campuses in Alliant Energy’s service area.

The awards will be formally presented in February.

President Walsh reminded the Board that the Governor continues to develop his budget, and understands the need to provide support for the UW’s “Growth Agenda for Wisconsin.” Walsh said he expects the budget process to be difficult, however, given pressures in several areas of public need.

In addition, Walsh also reported that he has met with legislative leadership in recent weeks, and Sen. Majority Leader Judy Robson has assured him that Regents will be confirmed when the new Senate convenes.


The UW System Board of Regents will not meet in January 2007. The Board will hold its next meeting on Feb. 8 and 9, 2007, on the UW-Madison campus.

Related: Read Dec 7 (day 1) news summary