New report aligns accountability measures with strategic priorities

MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System met or partially met its goals on 17 of 20 indicators used to track its higher education performance for 2008-09, the UW Board of Regents was told Thursday.

“The performance measures we are tracking go far beyond the traditional, widely-used indicators – measures like access, enrollments, retention, graduation, and resource management. We also want to take into account UW System’s impact on Wisconsin communities,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly, introducing a presentation on the newly revised UW System Accountability Report.

Sharon Wilhelm, Interim Associate Vice President in the Office of Policy Analysis & Research, provided Regents with an overview of the report, “Investing in Wisconsin’s Future.”

See UW System’s news release on the UW System Accountability Report

The new title and revised focus convey how the university’s strategic priorities are aimed to benefit the people of Wisconsin, Reilly said. “I believe that the basic tenets of our Growth Agenda have taken hold, and that people appreciate our clear-cut framework and goals. Building on that broad awareness and understanding, this new report allows them to see how we’re making progress towards the goals they support.”

Reilly reminded the Board that UW System began this process more than 15 years ago, when the university became the first statewide system of higher education to publish an annual accountability report.

Wilhelm noted that five new accountability indicators have been added to this year’s report to better reflect the UW System’s Strategic Framework. New indicators include: degrees conferred; degrees in high-need and leading-edge fields, including the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics); community outreach and engagement; annual revenue; and Wisconsin partnerships, an indicator under development to help measure progress on the university’s strategy of increasing collaborations.

Regent Danae Davis commended the report and its alignment with Growth Agenda strategies. In follow-up, she suggested that the wealth of available data should be supplemented by analysis of persistent issues. There should be discussions of why, for example, graduation and retention rates for students of color continue to trail other students, she said.

Wilhelm reminded the Regents that “Investing in Wisconsin’s Future” is one of several UW reports tracking accountability measures. Others include individual reports by each of the 15 UW institutions and the College Portraits prepared as part of the Voluntary System of Accountability.

Biennial Budget update

As the UW System shoulders its part in addressing and recovering from the current global economic crisis, President Reilly reiterated to the Board that some “very difficult” times are ahead.

“On the way to that recovery, we will need to manage our way through about $161 million in reductions, and $94 million in givebacks, for a total of $255 million,” Reilly said. “Make no mistake. Getting through the next several years will be very difficult.”

He told the Regents that resulting budget cuts could include increased class sizes and fewer class choices; more vacant faculty positions and higher workloads for faculty and staff who remain; cutbacks in campus services; and slower progress toward expanded safety measures that require more mental health counselors, emergency planners, and police officers.

“If the budget stays pretty much where it is now through the rest of the process, we will do everything we can to avoid the ‘worst case’ scenarios,” Reilly said, saying the UW would avoid double-digit tuition increases and other drastic measures.

Reilly added that the university has worked hard to reinforce the message that the budget reductions proposed early in the budget process already posed serious challenges to UW’s students and campuses, and that additional subsequent cuts would have been very damaging. The UW System stands to lose 5.2% of its State support during the next two years.

Reilly acknowledged that the mandated compensation cutbacks are tough on the morale of faculty and staff.

“We have been adamant in our support for competitive compensation for faculty and staff, having embraced a long-range plan to bring UW salaries closer to the compensation levels offered by peer universities,” Reilly said. “Those plans have been derailed by the financial crisis, but I know that we will advance that cause again as soon as we possibly can.”

Reilly noted that the budget bill advanced by Governor Doyle and the Joint Committee on Finance does include a provision long advocated by the Board – the ability to offer full benefits to domestic partners of university employees.

Regarding state-imposed employee furloughs, Reilly said the details are still being worked out through the Office of State Employment Relations, or OSER, and many questions remain.

“We do not control the basic furlough ground rules. The state does,” Reilly said.

He told the Regents that the university has been advocating for flexibility to implement what amounts to a 3% pay reduction. He also noted that the number of furlough days will be commensurate with employees’ full- or part-time status.

On a brighter note, Reilly reported that the Joint Finance Committee has advanced UW System’s capital budget for 2009-11, funding high-priority academic buildings, residence halls, building repairs, and other projects.  The capital budget now includes 36 major UW projects – up from 34 in the budget advanced by the State Building Commission.

“All of these will have a lasting impact on our ability to educate students and conduct world-class research. They will also boost the State’s ability to compete in the knowledge economy. And in the short term, the construction projects alone are expected to create about 16,000 new jobs,” Reilly said.

Regent Jeff Bartell was among several Board members questioning the rationale for furloughing all UW employees whose salaries are covered by federal funding or other outside sources. “If the money doesn’t come back to the state, why are we doing it?” Bartell asked.

Tom Anderes, Senior Vice President for Administration and Fiscal Affairs, responded by reiterating that state officials, not the university, make the call on how furloughs will be implemented.

“On one level it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. On another level, trying to administer a situation where you have some on furloughs and some not would be a real nightmare administratively,” Reilly said.

In a time with so many unknowns, UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow stressed the value of continued open communications within and between institutions and the System.

“There’s no denying this is an unprecedented time and there’s a great deal of uncertainty and tension.  Hopefully we can do it without job loss, but I’ll tell you, we’re at a point right now where all the ideas we had are pretty well used up. You start getting down to some pretty unpalatable things.”

Reilly reminded the Board that it will be asked to approve the university’s annual budget for 2009-10 and to set tuition at its July meeting.

Campus Safety Report

Campuses are relatively safe places, by most measures, but that is not something to be taken for granted, said Reilly, in introducing an update on campus safety and security.

“This is an issue on which we can never let our attention flag. We need to grease the wheel before anything squeaks,” Reilly said. “Given our current economic climate, that is sometimes a tough challenge – but it’s something we cannot, and will not, let slide.”

Reilly formed the Commission on University Security in spring 2007, following the Virginia Tech tragedy, and charged it with developing recommendations for how UW institutions could prevent, intervene, respond, heal, and resume operations when confronted with the threat, or actual incidence, of major violence on campus. Around that same time, Governor Doyle established the Task Force on Campus Safety.

The reports from both groups formed the basis of the UW System’s Report on Campus Safety, which was first presented to the Board last June.

Associate Vice President Larry Rubin, who led the presentation, said each UW institution has undertaken steps toward developing and implementing campaigns tailored to its own campus climate and demographics.

Rubin told Regents that federal stimulus funding might be available for campus safety and security initiatives. “But, in truth, most of the funding for meeting the expectations in the report has come from campus reallocation, segregated fees, and, in some cases, differential tuition,” he said.

Petra Roter, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UW-Oshkosh, explained how her campus has been evaluating and implementing safety strategies. The challenge is ongoing, she said, not only because of budget constraints but also due to the ever-changing nature of threats.

“As more time is spent dealing with individuals in distress, campus emergencies and safety, it takes away from the day-to-day duties,” Roter said. “There’s always new safety risks. I thought I’d seen it all, but I’m always amazed what things come up.”

UW-Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling, who chaired the President’s Commission on University Safety, reiterated that modern technology can help to manage crisis situations, but ultimately each individual has to take some responsibility. E-mails and text messaging can alert vast numbers of people about an emergency situation, she said, but the time lag in distribution might be longer than is safe.

Regent Jeff Bartell commended the progress that’s been made since last year’s report. “This isn’t a report that just sat on shelf. It’s been worked on and implemented throughout the system. There are still lots of challenges, but I think we’re moving forward,” Bartell said.

New student regent introduced to Board

Aaron Wingad, a UW-Eau Claire junior majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in Spanish, was introduced to the Board as its new student representative.

Wingad will replace UW-Madison graduate student Colleene Thomas, who is leaving the board after serving a two-year term.

Wingad’s term is effective immediately and will run through May 1, 2011.

Education Committee approves revisions to UWS Chapters 17 and 18

The Education Committee made some last-minute changes to language spelling out the authority of hearing examiners to determine how student witnesses may be questioned in disciplinary hearings before voting 5-1 to approve the revised UWS Chapters 17 and 18 covering student conduct and conduct on university property.  The full Board will vote on the revised rules on Friday.

The late revisions to Rule 17.12(4)(c) state that “the hearing examiner may take reasonable steps to maintain order, and to adopt procedures for the questioning of a witness appropriate to the circumstances of that witness’ testimony.”

The changes were made in response to concerns led by Regents Jeff Bartell and Judy Crain about some ambiguity in earlier language regarding the hearing examiner’s purview, particularly in cases involving sexual assault.

Following the vote, committee chair Regent Danae Davis expressed her thanks to Regent Michael Spector and other members of the team who have worked on the lengthy and complex rule revision process.

“We are quite proud and appreciative of the integrity of the process exhibited by Mike and the team. They truly consulted – and re-consulted – with all interested parties and their representatives,” Davis said.

“The changes we are recommending reflect a lot of discussion, give and take, and a desire to be responsive but also an attempt to not only perpetuate the off-campus part of it but to balance vital interests of the university and communities,” Spector said.

Regent Tom Loftus said he didn’t think the revisions were ready to be forwarded for full Board approval, and made a motion to keep it in committee. The motion was voted down.

“This could go on and on and on because of the discomfort of finding exactly the right place to be for everybody – which is impossible,” said Regent Judy Crain.

The last major revision of both chapters occurred in 1996.

Over the last two years, UW System has sought feedback from the public, university and student representatives on proposed changes, and those revisions were incorporated in the version the Education Committee reviewed.

See UW System’s previous news release on modified conduct rules

UW-River Falls presents Campus Academic Plan

With new Chancellor Dean Van Galen looking on, Interim Provost Connie Foster provided the Board with an overview of UW-River Fall’s Campus Academic Plan.

UW-River Falls, which was recently granted a 10-year unconditional reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, is “living the promise,” Foster said.

With record enrollment of 6,555, over half of UW-River Fall’s students are first-generation college students, she said. While its students have the second-lowest average household income in the System, they also graduate with debt loads that are among the system’s lowest.

“Our challenge is to capitalize on our proximity to the Twin Cities while serving the people of Wisconsin,” Foster said.

The university’s areas of distinction include teacher education, agriculture, and the STEM fields.

See UW-River Falls’ PowerPoint presentation pdf .

In other business, the Education Committee:

  • Heard a report from Senior Vice President Rebecca Martin;
  • Approved a UW-Milwaukee Charter School Contract Extension for Tenor High School, operated by Seeds of Health, Inc.;
  • Heard a presentation by UW-Stout on its revised mission statement;
  • Heard a presentation by UW-La Crosse on its revised mission statement;
  • Approved the B.A./B.S. in Women’s Studies at UW-La Crosse;
  • Approved the B.S. in Game Design and Development at UW-Stout;
  • Approved the B.S. in Property Management at UW-Stout;
  • Approved two additional UW System appointments to the Natural Areas Preservation Council; and
  • Accepted the 2009 proffer from the Trustees of the William F. Vilas Estate.

Business, Finance, and Audit Committee hears update on the consolidations of UW Colleges and UW-Extension

Chancellor David Wilson reported to committee members on ongoing efforts to integrate UW Colleges and UW-Extension under a single chancellor. A 2004 study, commissioned by UW System, recommended the integration when the UW System faced a budget cut of $250 million, the largest in its history at the time.

Wilson reported that five administrative areas are fully integrated at this time: the Chancellor’s Office, University Relations, Equity and Diversity, Government Relations, and IT functions.

Marsha Henfer, CIO for both UW Colleges and UW-Extension, highlighted several notable successes in the IT area, which now has a new facility housing a common data center that can be managed remotely, protects institutional data, and has built-in capacity for growth. Two older data centers are being retired. In addition, mail and calendaring services have been centralized, freeing up staff throughout the two institutions to concentrate on program areas rather than on duplicative IT services.

“We decided early we would not seek to integrate just for the sake of integration,” said Chancellor Wilson. “We would do so only if the people of the state of Wisconsin would be better served if we integrated this function.”

Chancellor Wilson concluded that integration efforts are well on track to meet the goals of the study, which were to create greater efficiencies and expanded access. He said their efforts have strengthened relationships with counties and local communities and are helping counties respond to local and regional needs.

“We are the personification of the Wisconsin Idea  – taking the university to the boundaries of the state,” said Chancellor Wilson, commenting on the presence of the 13 UW Colleges campuses spread throughout the state and UW-Extension offices in all 72 state counties and on each of the 26 UW campuses.

In other business, the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee:

  • Heard an update from Julie Gordon, Director of the UW System Office of Operations Review and Audit, on UW System’s identity theft protection policies, including the recently established Board of Regents policy addressing “red flags,” which may indicate potential identity theft activity relating to UW financial accounts; Gordon told the Regents that all campus plans meet both the Board policy and the federal rules requirement;
  • Heard an update on federal priorities affecting higher education from Kristine Andrews, UW System Assistant Vice President for Federal Relations;
  • Heard an update on the Human Resources System (HRS) project planning from Senior Vice President Tom Anderes;
  • Heard a report from Senior Vice President Anderes;
  • Approved a seven-year contract with Follett Higher Education Group to provide bookstore and textbook rental services at UW-La Crosse;
  • Approved a 10-year contract with the University of Wisconsin Credit Union to provide financial services opportunities, including ATM, campus space lease, and ID-debit card services; and

Delayed approval of a seven-year contract with A’viands LLC to provide dining services at UW-Green Bay, pending more information on the future employment of existing food service workers.

Capital Planning and Budget Committee

In providing an update on the progress of the State’s 2009-11 Capital Budget, UW System Associate Vice President David Miller reported that the Joint Finance Committee had approved a total statewide capital budget of approximately $512 million in new General Fund Supported Borrowing.  This is an increase of about $89 million over last biennium, reversing a three-biennium trend of decreased funding.  Of that amount, UW System institutions will benefit from approximately $380 million in spending for 17 major projects and maintenance of the existing facilities.  The budget also includes $486 million for 19 major projects funded by program revenue borrowing and gifts.

These 36 major projects will generate approximately 8,000 construction-related jobs and another 8,000 jobs related to the economic impact activity of construction.

Miller also said it is good news that the Joint Finance Committee retained the Board of Regents’ and Building Commission’s recommendation of a statewide All Agency fund of $200 million for maintenance.  The UW System will receive approximately $130 million of this funding for backlog maintenance.

Miller reported that the Building Commission approved about $88 million for projects at its May meeting.  The funding breakdown for those projects is $32 million General Fund Supported Borrowing, $55 million Program Revenue, and $1 million Gift/Grant Funds.

In other business, the Capital Planning and Budget Committee:

  • Approved UW-La Crosse’s request for authority to construct a new residence hall that is being enumerated in the 2009-11 Capital Budget;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to seek a waiver to allow the selection of a construction manager-at-risk for two projects: the Athletics Hockey/Swim Facility and the Wisconsin Energy Institute;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to grant easements to the city of Madison for access to West Madison Agricultural Research Station land for the installation of public sanitary sewer facilities and improvements for ongoing residential development around the research station property;
  • Approved UW-Platteville’s request for authority to construct a Forensic Laboratory House and to seek a waiver to allow the project to be constructed by UW-Platteville Building Construction Management students and selected subcontractors;
  • Approved UW-Stevens Point’s request for authority to construct the Waste Management Center Project as enumerated in the 2009-2011 Capital Budget; and

Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct two All Agency Maintenance and Repair Projects, including multiple energy conservation projects at UW-Oshkosh based on a recently completed comprehensive investment grade energy audit, and a UW-Parkside project to replace 132 exterior windows in the residence hall rooms with new energy efficient units.


The Board of Regents will resume its June 2009 meeting on Friday, June 5, at 9 a.m. in Van Hise Hall

Related: Read June 5 (day 2) news summary