MADISON—Prospective students, their families, and other stakeholders will have the chance to learn more about the process of admission to University of Wisconsin System campuses in the coming weeks, following discussion by members of the Board of Regents on Thursday (Dec. 7).

Members of the Board’s Education Committee decided to wait until a future meeting to consider 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 she expects that the full Board will support the policy and would approve it as proposed. However, she said, the delay would allow the Board and university staff to clarify questions about the complex admissions process.

In a letter released Thursday pdf , UW System President Kevin P. Reilly clarified the intent of the proposed policy.

“Academics are the most important consideration for admitting new students to any UW System campus,” Reilly wrote. “That has always been true of our UW System institutions, and will remain so under my leadership as President. The best way for any prospective student to gain admission to a UW campus is to work hard in school and demonstrate academic achievement.

“A comprehensive review process provides additional, relevant, and important information about the applicant’s potential for success at the university,” he added. “Numerical test scores may not tell the whole story. Other indicators include work experience, community service, and personal characteristics.”

Academic factors considered in UW applications can include college preparatory coursework, grade point average, and/or class rank, as well as ACT or SAT scores. Nonacademic factors considered can include student experiences, leadership qualities, motivation, special talents, status as a nontraditional or returning adult, veteran, and whether the applicant is socio-economically disadvantaged or in an historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group.

Admissions policies provide broad guidance to UW institutions as they develop local admissions processes. Campus-based admissions officers rely on a comprehensive review of each applicant to look for evidence that the student will succeed at the institution and will contribute to the academic environment.

The Regent policy discussed Thursday would result in few changes at the campus level. University officials have reviewed the procedures that campuses use to admit students, and have found no substantive differences between those procedures and the collection of Regent policies, said assistant vice president for academic affairs Larry Rubin.

Many aspects of college admissions are now under debate in Wisconsin and across the nation, said UW System Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Cora Marrett. The proposed policy is not intended to answer all questions, she said, but rather, simply to assist campuses as they communicate with prospective students and their families by gathering all Regent policy about admissions in one place.

Interest in admissions policies often focuses on access to UW-Madison, but Regent Judy Crain of Green Bay reminded the Board that students have access to educational opportunities around the state at all of the UW’s 26 campuses.

Across the state, UW campuses do have capacity to serve students interested in attending. For example, officials from UW-Parkside and UW-Platteville said those campuses offer admission to all applicants who are qualified. Regents were also reminded of programs, like the UW-Madison “Connections” program, that allow students to begin their education at one campus, and after successfully completing coursework, transfer to another.

In addition, for 30 years, the UW Higher Education Location Program (HELP), has been assisting students in finding educational opportunities within the UW System.

Crain said she recognizes the comprehensive admissions review as a way to encourage students to learn as much as they can before they attend college.

“[Learning] isn’t always directly related to grade point or the final test score,” Crain said. “It’s more important to challenge yourself, and learn, than it is to graduate No. 1 in the class.”

Marrett spoke to the Board about recent challenges to university goals that seek to achieve racial and ethnic ethnicity.

She said it is disheartening when critics of these goals imply that students of color are admitted to college only if qualifications are overlooked, or that their college attendance only benefits those individuals. She added that former faculty and staff of color across the UW System have told her they have chosen to leave the UW to work in more supportive settings.

Providing students the opportunity to learn with students of different cultures also serves the economic interest of the state, she said. Business and industry leaders say the competitive world in which they operate demands educated workers who can work with people from many different backgrounds, Marrett said.

When the UW System became the first university in the nation in 1988 to adopt a long-range plan to achieve racial and ethnic diversity, it did so to fill the mission that a public university must serve all citizens and increase educational opportunity for students from underrepresented groups, Marrett said. This idea continued into a second long-range plan, Plan 2008, which signaled the university’s continued commitment to providing educational excellence for all, she said.

Davis said she intended for the Committee to again address the policy at its February meeting.

Regent committee recommends pay plan be funded without tuition

A faculty and staff pay plan for the next state budget biennium would be funded without the need for additional tuition dollars, under a proposal approved Thursday by a Regent committee.

“We want to focus on one of the keys of our Growth Agenda for Wisconsin — ensuring broad access to higher education by keeping tuition low,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said. “We’re asking the state to show its commitment to higher education.”

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

If approved, the Board would ask the Governor and the Office of State Employment Relations to set aside $48 million per year in state general purpose revenue (GPR) in the state compensation reserve for the pay plan.

In previous biennia, pay plans have been funded by both state GPR and tuition dollars. The request approved Thursday calls for the pay plan to be fully funded by GPR, and would not require additional tuition increases. Regents said they were committed to keeping tuition to the rate of inflation, as included in the Board’s biennial budget request approved in September.

The resolution also asks the state to amend statute so the university can offer employees domestic partner benefits – another important part to recruiting and retaining employees to replace an aging workforce, Regents learned. UW-Madison is the only university in the Big Ten that is not able to offer these benefits.

“We ask for the support of the Governor and the Legislature to let us to do what other leading universities and businesses do,” Reilly said. “To continue to prevent the UW from doing the same is not smart, and it’s not fair.”

The pay plan increase would help the university close the gap between compensation for UW employees and that of peer universities, but would not close the gap entirely. The Board learned that a 7.35 pay plan increase would be needed in each year of the next biennium to reach the peer median in terms of compensation.

Reilly reminded the Board that UW institutions are experiencing challenges in recruiting and retaining staff, in large part to due non-competitive compensation.

Reilly said the university has not recovered from faculty and staff pay plans of just 0, 1, and 2 percent in recent years. The last ”appreciable progress,” he said, was in the 1999-01 biennium, when the state approved 5 percent pay plan increases.

Regent Brent Smith of La Crosse wondered if the marriage amendment to the constitution would prevent the university from offering domestic partner benefits. UW System General Counsel Pat Brady said she hoped the amendment would not be interpreted in that manner.

Regent President David Walsh of Madison said efforts will continue to be made to emphasize the accuracy and reliability of data about how salaries compare to peer institutions and challenges in recruiting and retaining employees.

“This great institution, and this solution to economic development, and this university that we’re so proud of, needs to be treated a little differently,” Walsh said.

Louise Robbins, president of the UW-Madison Public Representation Organization of the Faculty Senate (PROFS), said the organization strongly endorses both the pay plan request and the call for domestic partner benefits.

“Hiring has been difficult for many departments,” Robbins said. “Retention has also become more problematic.”

She urged the Board to be aggressive in its efforts to secure the 5.23 percent pay plan increase and the ability to offer domestic partner benefits.

“It is far easier to maintain excellence than it is to regain it once it is lost,” Robbins said.

Freda Harris, UW System associate vice president for budget and planning, reminded the Board that it is also seeking $10 million in recruitment and retention funds in its “Growth Agenda for Wisconsin” biennial budget request to the Legislature.

“Our faculty and staff are the bedrock of that Growth Agenda,” Reilly said. “They will all contribute to the success of that plan. Our superb faculty and staff deserve competitive pay for their life-changing work.”

Business, Finance and Audit Committee approves policies on background checks, student organizations

Student groups would have to meet an updated set of criteria in order to be officially recognized as student organizations at UW campuses under a policy approved by the Board’s Business, Finance and Audit Committee on Thursday.

UW System General Counsel Pat Brady told the committee that recognition allows student organizations to communicate with the student body, use university facilities, and have access to segregated fee funds.

The policy approved Thursday seeks to provide a solution to a concern from some groups that they believe their rights to freedom of expression and association are infringed if they have to accept members who disagree with the groups’ goals, Brady said.

“This is a policy that we hope strikes a balance between the First Amendment interests of these organization and our interest as an institution in ensuring there is not discrimination against individual students,” Brady said.

If approved by the full Board on Friday, student organizations could limit membership and leadership positions to those who subscribe to a group’s belief or value statement, but organizations would still be prevented from discriminating against potential members on the basis of several constitutionally protected characteristics.

Brady said the policy approved in committee on Thursday was based on a model used in North Carolina, where legal challenges around similar issues were ruled to be moot when a similar policy was established.

New employees of the UW System would have to undergo a criminal background check as part of the final stages of the application process, under a another new policy approved Thursday by the committee.

The policy was proposed following a recommendation in a letter report from the Legislative Audit Bureau about personnel policies and practices, according to Al Crist, assistant vice president for human resources.

Background checks are one way the university can safeguard the rights of job applicants, while also protecting the safety and security of students, faculty, staff and university’s valuable resources, Crist said.“Such checks have been made for certain positions for years,” Crist said.” What we have not had to date is a systemwide policy.”

The proposed process would allow hiring authorities to make timely and efficient decisions, Crist said. The cost to perform background checks varies, but the total cost could be $250,000 systemwide per year, he said.

Committee chair Charles Pruitt of Shorewood told Regents that some governance groups have raised concerns about the plan. Some faculty and academic staff senates have voted to formally oppose the policy, while others have voted to support it.

The committee also voted Thursday to recommend approval of salary adjustments for three senior academic leaders. The leaders and the adjustments are: UW-Parkside Chancellor Jack Keating ($8,000), UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard ($10,000), and UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells ($15,000).

Among the goals of the “Growth Agenda for Wisconsin” is to achieve competitive compensation for all university employees, including senior academic leaders, Reilly said. The committee considered the increases as part of an ongoing initiative to review the compensation of senior academic leaders, and to adjust levels as appropriate, given competitive and market factors.

Reilly noted that business and community leaders in each of the Chancellors’ respective communities have stated their strong support for competitively compensating the chancellors to ensure their continued leadership at the university.

Keating has successfully improved connections between UW-Parkside and the Racine and Kenosha communities, Reilly said. Likewise, Shepard has actively worked to demonstrate the university’s value to growing economic development in Northeastern Wisconsin, and Wells is highly regarded in Oshkosh for expanding partnerships among the university, and the public and private sectors.

“These are three of the true innovators in the system,” Pruitt said in support of the motion. “They mean so much to their campuses, but also to their regions.”

In other business, the committee approved a resolution that would report how the UW System would implement a 10 percent budget reduction, an exercise that followed the governor’s budget instructions. The resolution describes how the university would redistribute funds to invest in the “Growth Agenda for Wisconsin.” The committee also heard an update about projects in the Office of Operations Review and Audit, and heard the report of the vice president.

Regents’ Education Committee endorses Public Health planning report

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) can continue to take the necessary steps to create a distinctive, high-impact school of public health, according to the members of the UW Board of Regents Education Committee.

In accepting a Planning Report on Public Health Needs in Milwaukee, the Education Committee signaled its approval for UWM to “move forward with its public health planning initiatives.”

“This report, and our endorsement of it, can instill a sense of hope in Milwaukee residents,” said Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee, chair of the Education Committee.

In introducing the presentation of the report by representatives of UW-Milwaukee and the City of Milwaukee, Davis indicated that she was “passionate about this issue” and was “very pleased” with the collaboration among all the principals, as well as the report itself.

“We are not failing in our commitment to addressing the urgent public health challenges in the state’s largest urban center,” Davis noted.

UWM Provost Rita Cheng introduced the members of the planning team and explained the background for the planning process and the report. She reminded Regents that they had asked UW System President Kevin Reilly, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago to conduct a feasibility study to examine public health initiatives at UWM, including the possible development of a school of public health.

Cheng then introduced planning team co-chairs Bevan Baker, Commissioner of Health for the City of Milwaukee, and Randy Lambrecht, Dean of the College of Health Sciences at UWM. Commissioner Baker described the public health needs of Milwaukee while Dean Lambrecht explained both the academic resources needed, and the accreditation process to be followed, in order for UWM to establish a School of Public Health. Specifically, he pointed out that creating such a school could cost between $10 and $25 million and would take almost eight years.

UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago ended the presentation by commending the project team, the report, and the constructive collaboration among the principals.

“I fully support the report’s recommendations, and I believe that this is the right thing to do for Milwaukee, and for Wisconsin,” Santiago said. “I think we can do this.”

Regent Thomas Loftus of Sun Prairie asked what a Regent endorsement of the planning team’s report means.

“Does this become a new biennial budget request?” Loftus asked. “Is it part of UWM’s growth agenda?

Chancellor Santiago replied that he was not asking for any additional state support in the upcoming biennium and that he would use some of the funding for UWM’s five-year research agenda to support a School of Public Health.

Loftus was also concerned about meeting the current health care needs in the city.

“It’s risky for us to think a proposed School of Public Health will improve the health disparities in Milwaukee today,” warned Loftus. He also wondered where the demand for the degrees would come from among future UW students.

Regent Judy Crain of Green Bay sounded a more optimistic tone.

“This is an exciting venture, and I commend the passion and commitment of everyone involved,” she said. “I truly believe the old adage ‘if you build it, they will come,’ and I look forward to following your progress.”

A copy of the report is available online at

In other business, the Committee postponed an action related to criteria for technical college degree programming. Regents voted to schedule a special meeting of the committee in January 2007 before it is asked to act on the criteria, including principles and guidelines, to be used in approving any additional collegiate transfer programs in WTCS districts. According to Regent Michael Spector of Milwaukee, such a meeting will include discussion of the Chippewa Valley Technical District proposal for such a transfer program.

“We’re making good progress,” Spector said,” but we need to work even more closely with representatives of WTCS before we give final approval of the criteria.”

Regent Mary Cuene of Green Bay, who is president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, added her support for the postponement.

“It’s important to taka a little extra time now to get this right,” Cuene said. “Our two systems have a strong tradition of working well together, and we both want to expand higher education opportunities in Wisconsin. This is an important step for the state, and for the economy.”

In other action, the Committee:

  • Approved the renewal of the contract for UW-Parkside’s charter school, the 21st Century Preparatory School, for five years;
  • Authorized UW-Stout to implement a master of science degree program in Information and Communication Technologies;
  • Authorized UW-Milwaukee to implement a Ph.D. program in Communication.
  • Learned that a report about the UW System Waukesha Study will be presented to the Board at a later date. Chancellors Wilson and Santiago expect to deliver a report on a related assessment to President Reilly in January, Marrett said;
  • The committee also heard remarks from Marrett, who will leave UW System this month to assume a leadership role at the National Science Foundation.

View the presentation on the "Planning Report On Public Health Needs In Milwaukee" pdf
View a presentation on the UW-Stout M.S. in Information and Communication Technologies pdf
View a presentation on the UW-Milwaukee Ph.D. in Communication pdf
Read a news release about the departure of Cora Marrett
Read remarks from Cora Marrett pdf

Physical Planning and Funding Committee recommends new student facilities

The Physical Planning and Funding Committee on Thursday approved a motion to add three capital projects to the Board’s 2007-09 Capital Budget request.

These additions were considered this month because these projects were still in planning and two were awaiting student votes when the Regents adopted the budget in August. The projects would all be funded with program revenue supported borrowing and gifts, and would not increase the amount of state support requested by the Board for capital projects in the next biennium. The projects are:

  • 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.

The committee also voted to forward to the full Board resolutions that would:

  • 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.

Assistant Vice President David Miller told the Committee that Building Commission approved about $50 million for projects at its April meeting. General fund supported borrowing would pay for $25 million of those projects, while $13 million would come from program revenue, and another $12 million from gifts and grants.


The Board of Regents will resume its November meeting on Friday, Dec. 8, at 9 a.m. in room 1820 Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus

Related: Read Dec. 8 (day 2) news summary