OSHKOSH, Wis.The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents  unanimously  approved the UW System’s 2015-17 biennial operating budget request at its meeting Thursday in Oshkosh.

Regent John Behling called it “a tremendous budget proposal,” but queried how forwarding the UW’s request would reconcile with the Governor’s previous statement that state agencies should expect flat funding.

“I think it is an investment in the future of this state. Period,” said President Cross. “We’re proposing to play a major role in helping to focus the energy of the (UW) System to meet the needs of the state and to align our resources to help meet those needs because we think that is the best way to improve this economy. I welcome the opportunity to engage in that conversation.”

Regent Vice President Regina Millner expressed her support for the proposed budget. “There are only a few government agencies with the capacity to grow the state’s economy. We’re one of them,” Millner said. “I’m hoping that the legislature can understand this is in state’s best interest.”

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells takes the podium

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells takes the podium

UW-Oshkosh puts on a show

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells, who is retiring at the end of August, made his final appearance before the Board to lead a presentation, “We’re in This Chancellorship Together.”

Four current and former students – Jordan Schettle, Jordan Johnson, Joe Infusino-Braun and Stephanie Peffer — “interrupted” Wells to highlight important priorities they’d been involved with at UW-Oshkosh, including STEM education, student internships, entrepreneurialism, sustainability, and the university’s transformation of its general education program.

“We won’t become a great institution until we do something about continuing to enhance the quality of education that all undergraduates receive here,” Wells said. He closed by making a final pitch for improved faculty and staff compensation. “If our faculty and staff don’t feel fully respected, appreciated, engaged, supported, and empowered to do all the things that we’re asking them to do on behalf of our students … then it’s hard for us to become an ever-better institution,” he said.

See UW-Oshkosh’s story: Students steal ‘show’ during Chancellor Wells’ Board of Regents presentation

The host campus also made presentations to four standing committees:

  • Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Committee: Chancellor Wells led a presentation highlighting campus initiatives in the areas of economic development and business collaboration. He also provided an update on campus progress related to the UW System Economic Development Incentive Grant program and initiatives led by the UW-Oshkosh Foundation.
  • Capital Planning and Budget Committee: Tom Sonnleitner, UW-Oshkosh’s vice chancellor of administrative services and students, led a presentation on “Comprehensive Campus Development,” including an update of the facilities master plan.
  • Education Committee: Provost and Vice Chancellor Lane Earns led a presentation on academic and strategic planning at UW-Oshkosh: “Closing Achievement Gaps with High Impact Learning.”
  • Business and Finance Committee: Chancellor Wells and Tom Sonnleitner led the presentation “Contingency Planning during Rapidly Changing Times,” providing insight and perspective on campus strategies to address its share of the biennial budget shortfall while providing $2.5 million of enhanced funding for three of the university’s highest priority strategic initiatives.
More meeting photos at UW-Oshkosh's photo gallery.

More meeting photos at UW-Oshkosh’s photo gallery: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uwoshkosh/sets/72157646287580477


Diversity Initiatives update

Significant progress has been made by UW institutions in ensuring greater access and more success for underrepresented student populations, but much work remains to be done, according to a preliminary report presented to the full Board.

Vicki Washington, associate vice president in the Office of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Student Success, told Regents that maintaining a robust workforce within the state will be dependent on the university’s ability to educate more students from diverse backgrounds. “Our pursuit of greater diversity is also in line with our mission as an institution of higher education,” she said.

An in-depth update on the status of the campuses’ progress towards meeting top Inclusive Excellence goals will be presented in October.

Committee action

Audit Committee:

Steve Wildeck, vice chancellor for administration and finance, UW Colleges and UW-Extension, and former interim vice president for finance, UW System, provided a summary of the report issued by the consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and UW System’s plan to address recommendations related to Human Resource System (HRS) internal controls. Wildeck said the System has embraced the LAB and PwC recommendations and believes that these have strengthened internal control security and created a strong work plan going forward.

Research, Economic Development & Innovation (REDI) Committee:

Regent Tim Higgins, chair of the REDI Committee, led a discussion regarding the endorsement and rollout of two new REDI initiatives introduced earlier this year. The initiatives include capacity-building research block grants for all campuses as well as a Regent Scholar program designed to provide grants to individuals and departments that foster excellence and best-practices with collaboration involving faculty, students, and the business community.

In other business:

  • Reed Hall, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, provided an update on WEDC’s efforts to collaborate with the university and state businesses to build export relationships and to foster increased foreign direct investment in Wisconsin in order to strengthen the economy and expand global connectivity.

Capital Planning and Budget Committee

Associate Vice President Alex Roe reported that most buildings at UW-Platteville damaged by the EF-2 tornadoes of June 16 are slated to be repaired and ready for the start of fall classes. It’s estimated that 12,000 man-hours of labor have been involved in the restoration efforts. UW-Platteville will be presenting a more in-depth report at Friday’s meeting of the full Board.

Roe also reported that the Department of Administration has retained an independent consultant to assess the state-owned heating and cooling plants … properties and that consultant has been in contact with all institutions potentially affected. Roe reported that there are no defined plans to date regarding these facilities.

In other business, the Committee:

  • Approved UW-La Crosse’s request for authority to construct the Parking Ramp-Phase II project. The project will construct two additional levels, providing 382 stalls in the existing UW-La Crosse parking ramp, which was built in 2013. The additional parking gained from this project will replace surface parking lost to the construction of a satellite chiller plant project and a future new residence hall;
  • Approved UW-Platteville’s request for authority to increase the budget and construct the Residence Hall Renovation-Phase I project. This project will renovate Dobson and Melcher residence halls, both of which were built in the 1960s. Both buildings will receive upgrades to electrical, plumbing, resident room lighting, telecommunications, and interior finishes throughout. Fire sprinkler systems and accessibility upgrades will be included for both halls;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval of three All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects with an estimated total cost of $3,185,000 at UW-Stevens Point and two UW Colleges campuses;
  • Received a report from UW-River Falls on promoting student and community engagement with the campus’ improved farm facilities, which are considered educational laboratories, preparing students for agriculture-related careers.

Education Committee:

David Ward, interim senior vice president for academic and student affairs, briefly reported on systemwide action plans and policy reviews related to developmental/remedial education. Noting that UW System has conducted five major studies of remedial education since 1971, Ward told the Committee that provosts from all UW institutions are actively engaged in the System’s ongoing efforts to reduce the demand for remedial education and increase the success of remedial education.  President Cross is expected to make an announcement on the issue at Friday’s meeting.

In other business, the Committee:

  • Approved UW-Madison’s M.S. in Biomedical Informatics. The degree program will serve students in data sciences, as well as health professionals and clinicians. The program addresses market demand in the biomedical research community to manage, share, analyze, and fully exploit expanding quantities of data in the biomedical sciences;
  • Approved a revised proffer of $7,853,718 for UW-Madison from the Trustees of the William F. Vilas Trust Estate;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s request for an addendum to its mission, last revised in 2010. A UWSA review of UW institutions’ mission statements revised after 2009 revealed that some missions needed to be aligned better with s. 36.09(1)(b), which requires that specific program responsibilities and degrees offered are explicitly stated.
  • Reviewed Statements of Scope for Administrative Rules regarding Chapters UWS 4, 7, 11 and 17, Wis. Admin. Code. UW System seeks to modify Chapter UWS 4, Procedures for Dismissal of Faculty; Chapter UWS 7, Dismissal of Faculty in Special Cases; Chapter UWS 11, Dismissal of Academic Staff for Cause; and Chapter UWS 17, Nonacademic Student Misconduct, to recognize the guidance that the U.S. Department of Education has published in regard to higher education institutions’ methods of addressing and responding to sexual misconduct and sexual assault allegations involving university employees (such as faculty, academic staff, and others) and students;
  • Reviewed a request by UW-Superior to revise its mission. This is the first reading, and no action was taken.

Business and Finance Committee:

In his report, Senior Vice President for Administration David Miller told the Committee that a number of efforts are underway, or soon to be underway, that will benchmark financial system costs, enhance internal controls, and improve analytical reporting functions. These actions will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of UW System operations.

In other business, the Committee:

  • Approved an amendment to UW-Madison’s existing contractual agreement with Crown Castle NG Central LLC for Distributed Antenna System for Cellular Services. The university is currently experiencing very poor cellular coverage in significant areas of need, including new housing facilities (Dejope, Gordon, and Leopold), WIMR I, WIMR II, Union South, and Memorial Union. In order to provide desired cellular coverage in these facilities, significant investments need to be made for internal building distributed antenna systems (IDAS) in each facility. The investments needed are several million dollars of new infrastructure within the buildings;
  • Approved a five-year services agreement wherein the UW-Madison Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences will perform certification and analysis services to INC Research, LLC. The agreement is expected to generate revenue to the University estimated at $1,165,096 based on current service rates with additional revenues possible as future rates increase.  The work will be overseen by Dr. Barbara Blodi;
  • Approved a 2½-year agreement services agreement wherein the UW-Madison Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences will provide web interface, technical support and other services to Chengdu Kanghong Biotechnology Co., Ltd. The agreement is expected to generate an estimated $753,859 in revenue to the university with additional revenues possible as future rates increase. The work will be overseen by Dr. Barbara Blodi;
  • Received a summary of gift, grant, and contract awards for the period July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014 will be presented. Total awards were approximately $1.4 billion, a decrease of $23.7 million compared to the prior year. Federal awards increased by $33.8 million while non-federal awards decreased by $57.5 million;
  • Received  a semi-annual report on the status of three large IT projects underway in the UW System, as required by Wisconsin Statutes 13.58(5)(b)(3). These projects include UW Colleges and Extension’s Campus Network Infrastructure Project (CNIP), UW-Milwaukee’s Migration to Office 365 Project, and UW-Milwaukee’s WiFi Project. All three projects are on target with respect to schedule, scope, and budget;
  • Heard a report from UW-Platteville Chief Business Officer Rob Cramer as part of its campus-based efficiency review. Cramer discussed how the institution engaged a consultant to review space management and information technology activities at the institution and the outcomes of that project. The study was funded by UW System;
  • Was noticed by the UW Medical Foundation of its intent to create a new legal entity to replace the organization currently operated as University Health Care, Inc.  The UW Medical Foundation also requested a waiver of a requirement that it provide the Board of Regents with 60-days’ notice prior to undertaking such activity. The Medical Foundation sought the notice waiver to allow for more timely, efficient movement along its chosen path. While the Board of Regents has no approval authority over the substance of the changes being sought, the Medical Foundation is bound by a 1995 agreement with the Board to provide the notice as stated.

All resolutions approved by Committees will go before the full Board for final approval on Friday.

Photo credit: UW-Oshkosh Photo Services

The UW System Board of Regents will continue its meeting at
9 a.m., Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 at UW-Oshkosh.

Related: Watch video webcast of Aug. 21, 2014, meeting | Read August 22 (day 2) news summary