MADISON, Wis.—Tommy G. Thompson addressed his first meeting of the Board of Regents Thursday as interim President of the UW System and said getting students back on campus in a way that is safe for students, faculty, staff, and the university community is a top priority.
“This is vitally important to me and to you, and we have to do it right,” said Thompson, the former four-term Wisconsin governor.
“I am going to fight to make sure we have the resources to get our universities back in action – with fully engaged educational and research opportunities – because it is critical to Wisconsin,” he said.
Thompson told Regents he has met with Governor Tony Evers regarding the UW System’s request for $110 million to support the testing, tracing, and personal protective equipment needed to successfully and safely bring students back.
Thompson is also working with Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Senator Tammy Baldwin, also on the Senate Higher Ed Committee, to secure higher education funding in an upcoming federal bill.
Noting that many UW universities already have been having advanced discussions and detailed planning with local health care providers and local public health officials, Thompson said the UW System is also connecting with the Mayo Clinic, Prevea, Marshfield Clinic, Gundersen Health, Exact Sciences, and Aurora Health regarding testing options at campuses within their regions.
“We have extraordinary challenges right now. It is critical in the months ahead that we focus on doing what we have to do right now to make the UW the best it can be,” Thompson said.
In introducing Thompson to the Board, Regent President Andrew S. Petersen said Thompson offers the kind of leadership the UW System needs right now.
“His bold ideas, extensive federal and state contacts, his expertise in the health care space, and his remarkable ability to convene people of different viewpoints to find bipartisan solutions is precisely what we need at this unprecedented moment in history,” Petersen said.
Update on UW plans for Fall 2020
Regents unanimously approved a resolution to adopt a set of principles related to the return of students, faculty, staff, and visitors to UW System campuses this fall. The principles call for UW campus leaders to prioritize the health and safety in their decision-making, and for campuses to adopt policies or protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19, considering public health recommendations made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state/county health departments.
Recommendations included requiring the use of face coverings in all indoor public spaces and strongly encouraging their use outside when physical distancing is not possible. Recommendations also called for physical distancing, where feasible, as well as frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, and self-monitoring daily for symptoms of COVID-19.
“I doubt very much if we did not do this that professors would feel comfortable coming back and teaching,” said President Thompson. He further noted that this mandatory policy “goes right to the heart of what we’re talking about, opening up our campuses.”
Regent Karen Walsh expressed concern that faculty members make decisions whether to teach online or in-person at their own discretion. Rob Cramer, vice president for administration, said each campus is developing processes for accommodation.
Title IX preliminary hearing approved
As part of complying with new Title IX regulations, the Board approved a Notice of Preliminary Public Hearing on scope statements related to the revision of Chapters UWS 4, 7, 11, and 17 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code.
Katie Ignatowski, Director of Compliance and Integrity, provided Regents with background and context for the current Title IX discussions. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires that all educational institutions which receive federal funds of financial assistance prohibit sex discrimination in their education programs and activities. Over the past 18 months, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has engaged in rulemaking to further examine and clarify schools’ responsibilities in responding appropriately to reports of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and stalking involving faculty, staff, and students. On May 5, 2020, the ED released a final rule with which all recipient educational institutions are required to comply by Aug. 14, 2020.
Inter-System Transfer Agreement Approved
Regents approved an Agreement and Joint Statement on the Inter-System Transfer between the Wisconsin Technical College System and the University of Wisconsin System. The agreement is in response to the provisions of the 2019 Wisconsin Act 46 and Wis. Stats. 36.31. The Wisconsin Tribal Colleges and Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities will also be invited to participate in the agreement.
The inter-system cooperation seeks to optimize the portability of credits and credentials between the systems by revising and increasing the minimum number of core general education courses required to be transferable from 30 credits up to 72 credits under the Universal Course Transfer Agreement. It also promotes and improves program-to-program articulation.
In other business, the Board:
- Approved the Fiscal Year 2021 Audit Plan;
- Approved a minor facilities renewal project at UW-Green Bay’s Mary Ann Cofrin Hall/Wood Hall;
- Approved UW System’s request for various maintenance and repair projects, including a chilled water extension at UW-Madison’s Primate Center and replacement of fiber optic cables at UW-River Falls;
- Approved a contractual sponsored research agreement between UW-Milwaukee and CalciGenix, LLC;
- Approved delegating authority to the UW System President to approve decreases in segregated fees for academic year 2020-21 resulting from programmatic changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- Was notified the August 20-21, 2020, Board of Regents meeting previously scheduled to be hosted by UW-Green Bay and the Oct. 8-9, 2020, meeting to be hosted by UW-River Falls, will be held in Madison.
The next meeting of the UW System Board of Regents will be Aug. 20-21, 2020, in Madison.