MADISON, Wis. – In a time of growing need, the University of Wisconsin System continues to focus on enhancing its services to support student behavioral health.

“The topic continues to make headlines and take on new meaning in light of the pandemic and social unrest in recent months,” said Dr. Artanya Wesley, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UW-Whitewater. She joined other UW System and university officials in providing an update on the Student Behavioral Health Initiative at Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting.

“We are increasingly aware of how these issues and concerns affect learning in the classroom and overall student success,” said Regent President Andrew S. Petersen. “It is vital we continue to pay attention.”

Anxiety, depression, and stress are the leading reasons students seek counseling. Overall, the number of students who used UW counseling services – more than 14,000 in 2019-20 – increased by 15 percent over the last five years despite flat enrollment trends. This follows a 41 percent increase over the previous six years.

“This has created a true staffing crisis and impacted the way our centers provide services,” said Dr. John Achter, UW System’s Student Behavioral Health Coordinator.

Usage was down slightly last academic year compared to the previous year as universities moved to online-only instruction in March and counseling centers scrambled to secure the training and infrastructure to add telecounseling to their service offerings. Telecounseling is now standard for the Fall 2020 semester as part of safety practices implemented on campuses due to COVID-19.

Regents also heard from two students who had used campus counseling services – Teija Champion, a senior at UW Oshkosh, and Danny Madonia, a senior at UW-La Crosse. Through difficult times, each credited the campus services with helping keep them healthy and enrolled.

Since April 2019, when Regents heard a comprehensive report on the breadth of behavioral health needs of students, three strategic workgroups of professionals from across the UW System have developed recommendations to enhance services and have begun implementing them. The recommendations include:

  • Creating a comprehensive UW System behavioral health website and hiring a UW System Student Behavioral Health Coordinator
  • Adopting SilverCloud, an online behavioral health assessment and treatment tool for depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep
  • Adding the Suicide Prevention Lifeline on the back of student ID cards
  • Using the UW System Counseling Impact Assessment Project to assess counseling use and impact on campuses.

President Thompson presents COVID-19 update

UW System President Tommy G. Thompson told Regents that UW System’s testing results for COVID-19 over the past six weeks have been “greatly encouraging.” He noted that after the early increase in positive tests when students first returned to campus, the number of cases has now reduced by 80%, to less than 2% on any given day this week. (See the UW System COVID-19 dashboard.)

“Overall, we are encouraged by the culture of responsibility that most students seem to be embracing,” Thompson said. “We’re seeing real results in our campus communities – but it remains vital that everyone stays vigilant in the months ahead.”

Thompson said planning for Spring 2021 is already underway. “We are working closely with chancellors and others at our universities to examine all of our options, including reviewing the staffing and PPE utilization needs.”

UW System to make broad administrative reforms

The Regents approved planning and implementation of the Administrative Transformation Program (ATP). ATP is a multi-year program that will work across the UW System to address the complexity in the current administrative support model and build an administrative infrastructure for the future. This will be accomplished by streamlining policies, standardizing processes, organizing roles, and modernizing the technology with cloud-based enterprise resource planning software.

“UW System faces many challenges that are now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. But one thing is clear. Now is the time to act if we are to remain competitive and scale for the future,” said President Thompson. “Delaying this inevitable transformation will only increase complexity, risks, and costs when attempting a transformation in the future.”

Thompson also called for additional administrative improvements, including the Procure-to-Pay automation project (P2P), Information Technology as a Service, and moving all employees to a biweekly payroll process.

P2P would implement a cloud-based platform to improve purchasing and accounts payable. The project will ultimately generate savings for university departments through lower costs for products and services.

IT as a Service will coordinate disparate technology services and improve information security.

UW-Shared Services will launch the Single Payroll project, eliminating monthly payroll and moving all employees to a biweekly payroll system. Overall, this simplification move provides 800 hours of efficiency to the payroll process, drastically reduces pay groups and pay calendars, and positions the payroll system to align with ATP.

“I am asking a lot in calling for these changes. I recognize that,” Thompson said. “But if we truly want to make the UW the best it can be, we must be bold and we must do what’s necessary today.”

Regent President’s Report

Regent President Andrew S. Petersen updated the Board on the current UW-Stevens Point chancellor search process. He noted that four finalists interacted with the campus community last week in a series of on-site and virtual public forums. Members of the Special Regent Committee and President Thompson will meet to interview finalists next week.

Petersen also noted that the UW System will be hosting this year’s annual conference for the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education put on by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. The summit, scheduled for Oct. 19-20, was originally to be held at UW-Milwaukee but will be taking place virtually due to COVID-19.

“This opportunity underscores the UW System’s commitment to being a national leader in efforts to prevent sexual harassment on our campuses and creating an environment where all feel safe to learn, work, and thrive,” Petersen said.

Petersen also updated Regents on changes in the reporting structure and scope of the UW System’s Office of Compliance and Integrity. One area of expanded focus will be civil rights investigations and youth protection efforts.

Annual Program Revenue Balances Reported

Regents approved the UW System Program Revenue Balances Report for FY20. The report notes that total unrestricted program revenue balances decreased by $93.4 million in 2019-20. In fiscal year 2019-20, tuition program revenue balances decreased by $17.7 million. Over 72 percent of the tuition balances are classified as obligated or planned. Auxiliary operations balances decreased by $42.6 million in fiscal year 2019-20. UW System institutions identified $158.3 million of the auxiliary balances as being committed for various purposes.

Farewell to Colleagues

The Board of Regents recognized former UW System President Ray Cross, who officially retired Sept. 30, after more than six years of leading the UW System and 43 years in higher education.

“President Cross led the UW System with integrity, grit, and compassion to make all of our universities better, more accountable, and to highlight the exceptional impacts our campuses and our people have on the future success of the State of Wisconsin,” Regent President Petersen said. “We, along with the UW System and the State of Wisconsin, owe President Cross a deep debt of gratitude for his service, commitment to excellence, and the numerous contributions he has brought forward as our seventh president.”

President Thompson added: “A leader is someone you respect, someone you emulate, and someone you want to follow. That’s Ray Cross… He always wants this institution, the University of Wisconsin, to be the best for students, for faculty, for the state of Wisconsin… Thank you for who you are, what you’ve done, and what you still do. You’re a helluva guy.”

In his farewell remarks to the Board, President Cross noted that in a world that is “so polarized, so tribal, so hostile, and so fragmented, where there are few things around which we can be unified, the University offers hope. This is where the relentless pursuit of truth is job one.”

Cross went on to suggest four main purposes to higher education: to gain an understanding of self, an understanding of one’s role in a community, understanding one’s role in sustaining and improving democracy, and developing the ability to participate in the economy.

But the UW System also believes its mission goes beyond individual purpose, Cross said, and is closely tied to the welfare of the state. “We call this the Wisconsin Idea,” Cross said, “and that’s what inspires our mission, our calling, and our purpose.” He encouraged the Board to “make our mission and purpose front and center always.”


Regents also offered resolutions of appreciation to two Regents whose terms on the Board ended earlier this year: Regent Emeritus Gerald (Jerry) Whitburn and Regent Emeritus Jason Plante.

“I miss learning from Jerry,” said Regent Vice President Michael Grebe, in presenting a resolution acknowledging Whitburn’s eight years on the Board “He was an unofficial mentor to many of us, and we learned by watching how Jerry filled the role of Regent. He was always prepared and always informed. He had an obvious devotion to the wellbeing of the university.”

Plante took over for former Regent Emeritus Margaret Farrow, who stepped down two years ago. “Jason made a big impact in a short period of time,” said Petersen, presenting his resolution. “He was a consistent advocate for providing high quality and affordable education to the people of Wisconsin.”

In other business, the Regents:

  • Heard a report from Legislative Audit Bureau Financial Audit Director Erin Scharlau on the final audit of UW System’s financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2020;
  • Heard a progress report from Chief Audit Executive Lori Stortz on the annual internal audit plan. She also summarized the results of recently issued audits: Internal Audit Responses to Independent Validation; Laboratory Safety Best Practices Report; Laboratory Safety Executive Summary; Pcard Continuous Audit; Payroll Continuous Audit; and Post Tenure Review;
  • Heard an update from Chief Compliance Officer Katie Ignatowski on the restructuring and expansion of responsibilities for the Office of Compliance and Integrity;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval to complete the design and construct the Biochemistry Cryo-Electron Microscopy Renovation, Phase I project to support a National Institutes of Health grant awarded to Principal Investigator Elizabeth Wright and the UW-Madison Biochemistry Department;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval to complete the design and construct the Chamberlin Hall 6th Floor Weaver Instrumentation Lab Renovation project that will renovate space to create an instrumentation laboratory for Dr. Susanna Widicus Weaver, known for her research in the emerging field of pre-biotic astrochemistry;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval to increase the scope and budget of the Weeks Hall 4th floor Dutton Laboratory Renovation project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval to complete the design and construction of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR) Dock and National Institute of Health (NIH) Research Lab Renovation construct project to renovate space in the WIMR II Tower into an NIH grant medical research vivarium lab for infectious disease research for the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval to construct a 2019-21 Classroom Renovation/Instructional Technology Improvement Program Project at UW-Green Bay to provide a permanent home for the Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) and Physics programs;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval to construct four All Agency maintenance and repair projects: UW-Stout (the Price Commons Kitchen Hood Replacement project), UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay, and UW-Platteville (installation of new electronic meters), UW-Eau Claire (demolition and reconstruction of parking lots for Hibbard Hall and Karlgaard Towers Hall), and UW-Stevens Point (replacing six deteriorating steam pit structures);
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval to construct two Minor Facilities Renewal projects: Repairs to the exterior envelope of six UW-Milwaukee facilities and renovation of the deteriorated HVAC system and the building’s original skylights that have failed in the Karrmann Library facility at UW-Platteville;
  • Heard a report from Senor Associate Vice President Alex Roe on the progress of UW System’s 2021-23 Capital Budget;
  • Heard an overview by John Katers, Dean of the College of Science and Technology, of current and planned initiatives in UW-Green Bay’s Water Science Program to address critical water issues;
  • Heard a presentation from Jon Eckhardt, the Pyle Bascom Professor in Business Leadership at UW-Madison, on research regarding building technologies to identify and facilitate innovators and entrepreneurs. His project includes recent findings regarding the impact of COVID-19 on entrepreneurial risk-taking;
  • Heard a report from Director Kelliann Blazek on the new Office of Rural Prosperity at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for approval of a contractual master clinical trial agreement between UW-Madison and Exact Sciences Corporation for a period of three years. The agreement with the School of Medicine and Public Health and Carbone Cancer Center will focus on oncology diagnoses but will vary study-to-study on the specific types. Exact Sciences is a Madison, WI-based company specializing in early cancer detection, and more recently, a new COVID-19 test;
  • Approved Regent Policy Document 21-10, “Institutional Relationships with Associated Affiliated Organizations.” The policy would allow university employees to serve as voting members of the board of directors of an associated affiliated organization, such as alumni organizations and athletic booster clubs, but may not comprise a majority of the board. It further requires that a written agreement be in place with an associated affiliated organization if that organization receives administrative support from a UW System institution, and addresses situations when university employees may work for such an affiliated organization;
  • Approved RPD 21-11, “Cost-Benefit Reporting for Foundations and Associated Affiliated Organizations.” The policy would require an annual cost-benefit report for every primary fundraising foundation, regardless of the value of administrative support provided, and a cost-benefit report from associated affiliated organizations if the administrative support is valued at $100,000 or greater. It would also require all associated affiliated organizations to provide a cost-benefit report at least once every five years;
  • Heard a report from Charles Saunders, Executive Director for the UW System Administration Office of Trust Funds, on highlights of the Investment Reports for the period ending June 30, 2020. As of that date, UW System Trust Funds assets totaled $605.4 million, comprised of $462.60 million in the Long Term (endowment) Fund and $142.84 million in the Income Cash Fund. The Fund’s public equity investments increased +18.48% during the quarter, while the bond investments returned +3.81% and the inflation sensitive investments gained +5.26%. The private markets portfolio returned +0.09%. For the quarter, the Long Term Fund increased in value +10.36% (before fees), while the UW Fund Custom Benchmark increased +10.22%. The Income Cash Fund gained +0.07% for the period;
  • Heard a report from Sean Nelson, Vice President for Finance, on the FY2019-20 Budget-to-Actuals Report which indicates the status of the UW System budget by major areas of activity in comparison to actuals for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020;
  • Heard a report from Sean Nelson on a cost-benefit analysis of foundations and other affiliated organizations for FY2020. In FY 2018-19, UW System institutions received $327.2 million from their primary foundations, while providing $8.9 million in administrative support;
  • Heard a report on UW System’s Online Learning Initiative, addressing the challenge of delivering high-quality online learning at scale while ensuring broad access and equity during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Heard a discussion on the lessons learned from re-opening UW System campuses at the beginning of the fall semester as well as future planning for the spring semester of the 2020-2021 academic year;
  • Approved revisions to RPD 4-18, “Making Textbooks Affordable.” The revised RPD reformats the policy to meet the standards for a Regent Policy Document and includes new sections defining the scope, purpose, and oversight responsibilities for adopting practices to control textbook costs within the UW System.
  • Approved revisions to RPD 9-1, “Principles for Developing Alcohol Policies.” The revised policy does not substantively change the list of principles but updates the principles to include current terminology and approaches and adapts other components of the document to meet the format for an RPD. The policy also provides guidance for institutional efforts to develop alcohol-related policies and programs and support alcohol policy development activities required under federal law;
  • Approved the rescission of three RPDs (RPD 15-1, “Distance Education Pricing Principles,” RPD 15-2, “Distance Education Standards,” and RPD 15-3, “Vision, Mission Statement, Principles, and Action Plan for the University of Wisconsin Online”) and the creation of a new RPD, “Distance Education,” which establishes system-wide guidelines for distance education programs. In addition, the policy defines distance education and incorporates the current academic program approval process for distance education programs. The policy adopts distance education guidelines developed by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commission to assist institutions in planning new distance education programs and provide a framework for assessing existing programs. Finally, the policy identifies oversight roles and responsibilities for distance education;
  • Approved revisions to RPD 23-1, “Basic Health Module,” which delineates minimum levels of physical and mental health care that institutions must make available to students at each UW institution. This proposal retains the provisions but reformats the policy to meet current RPD standards. The revised policy continues to recognize institutional autonomy with respect to the levels of health care that each institution should provide. The revised policy includes new language on accessing affordable and comprehensive health insurance to reflect the availability of insurance under the Affordable Care Act; and
  • Approved revisions to RPD 30-6, “Policy on Recognition of Student Organizations,” which was amended to meet current RPD standards and renamed, “Recognition of Student Organizations;” the proposal retains the policy without revision.

The next meeting of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will be November 5, 2020, in Madison.