MILWAUKEE – While budget debates may sometimes test civility and threaten to divide people, UW System President Ray Cross called for looking at the big picture.
“At the end of the day, we are all yearning for a future Wisconsin that’s not repeatedly and always focusing on how to defend our budget, but how to craft together a budget that will improve the lives of the people of Wisconsin,” said Cross, addressing Regents at a board meeting hosted by UW-Milwaukee.
“The future of this university and this state are inextricably connected,” Cross said. “We must rededicate ourselves to our mission. That’s the only way we can move toward a successful budget in the future. People in this state must see us as a partner, a valued partner in their lives.”
As part of a broad discussion, Regents heard a detailed analysis of the omnibus motion forwarded on May 29 by the Joint Finance Committee. The 70-point motion, among its many provisions, reduces the Governor’s proposed budget reduction for the UW System by $50 million to $250 million, keeps shared governance language in state statutes, and enables the movement of faculty tenure practices to Board of Regents policy.
Education Committee recommends moving state’s tenure provisions into Regent policy
Following significant debate, the Education Committee voted 4-3 to approve an amended resolution to move language concerning tenure as it currently exists in state statute immediately into Regent policy.
The move was prompted by action taken by the Joint Finance Committee on May 29, 2015, to remove statute 36.13, Wis Stats. – the provision regarding tenure – from Chapter 36.
“We want to make sure and guarantee that tenure remains as a tenet, as a pillar of higher education,” Cross said.
While Regent Tony Evers, the state superintendent of K-12 schools, recommended an amendment that called for legislators to remove non-fiscal issues like tenure from the budget, the Regents opted to approve a subsequent amendment forwarded by Regent Gerald Whitburn. That amendment called for the System’s recently-formed tenure policy task force to specifically review provisions related to layoffs.
Several faculty representatives addressed the committee.
David Vanness, an associate professor at UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health, told Regents that an online petition — currently with 2,500 signatures from around Wisconsin and beyond — expresses grave concerns about tenure protection and academic freedom. “The whole world is watching what we do in Wisconsin,” he said.
Richard Leson, an associate professor of art history at UW-Milwaukee, questioned the rationale for tenure to be up for debate. Statutory protection of tenure is “an extraordinary tradition and therefore ought to be respected,” he said.
Cross reiterated that the layoff issue has to be addressed. “If a tenured faculty member can be arbitrarily dismissed, then that’s not tenure,” Cross said. “There has to be a process, as there is now, that is thoughtful, rational, and reasonable and it has to be developed collaboratively.”
Cross pointed out that tenured faculty members form the majority on the tenure policy task force, chaired by Regent John Behling.
The task force, scheduled to begin meeting in late August 2015, will be asked to review tenure policy and recommend any needed changes. The policy developed by that group, once approved by the Board, would supersede the policy adopted at the June 2015 meeting. In accordance with the approved resolution, the new tenure policy should come before the board no later than April 11, 2016.
UW-Milwaukee is ‘vital to the future’
Host Chancellor Mark Mone urged Regents to work with chancellors and the Legislature to “help preserve the value of our degrees.”
Calling it “one of the most important addresses I’ve ever given,” Mone asked the Regents to protect faculty tenure, indefinite status for academic staff, and shared governance. He also warned of the profound effects that significant budget cuts could have on higher education at UWM and in Wisconsin.
“It will be difficult to motivate and retain our exceptional faculty and attract new faculty if there is uncertainty regarding their status and roles,” Mone said. “Without our faculty and staff, we cannot teach, we cannot conduct research and we cannot engage with the community.
He emphasized the importance of the university’s role in students’ success, meaningful national and international research and more than 2,100 partnerships with community organizations and businesses.
UWM benefits the entire state by graduating successful students and alumni, bolstering partnerships in education, business, healthcare and nonprofits, and contributing to Wisconsin’s long-term economic health, Mone said.
The Regents welcomed two new colleagues who have been appointed to the Board by Gov. Walker: Michael M. Grebe and Drew Petersen.
Grebe is currently executive vice president and general counsel for HUSCO International, a global leader in hydraulic components. He previously was a partner at Quarles & Brady LLP. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and University of Wisconsin Law School.
Petersen, currently vice president of external affairs and corporate communications for TDS Telecommunications Corp., served on the UW System Board for the past two years as the statutory delegate for the Wisconsin Technical College System, where he also serves as president of the board.
Gov. Walker has now appointed Petersen to a seven-year term on the UW System Board.
Departing colleagues recognized
Regents saluted the service and accomplishments of two departing colleagues: Regent President Michael J. Falbo and UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer.
Chancellor Telfer, who is stepping down at the end of June, said he is honored to have served the UW System for 30 years.
“The business of education is inherently optimistic. We are in the business of education because we believe in the future. We put our hearts and souls into helping students achieve that future,” Telfer said.
Regent President Emeritus Falbo, whose term on the board recently concluded, noted that the System has “worked diligently to improve relationships with the state and the legislature, to improve communication and enhance understanding of different perspectives.”
“As I prepare to leave this Board, I know we are in good hands, with President Cross, the people around this table, the people in this room,” Falbo said.
UW-Milwaukee Athletics: UW-Milwaukee officials presented the Board with their NCAA Division I Athletics 2014 Annual Report, noting that FY2015 marked the first balanced athletics budget in 15 years.
Business and Finance Committee
The Business and Finance Committee approved a revised Regent Policy Document 6-4 regarding search and screen procedures for chancellors, senior vice presidents and vice presidents. The revisions are intended to provide a stronger role for the Board in the selection of chancellors by having Regents chair the search and screen committees, and also removing the requirement that institution faculty make up the majority of the members on those committees.
The revisions also clarify the roles of the UW System president and Board of Regents with respect to the selection of senior UW System Administration leadership positions.
Regent Tim Higgins said that he believes the policy changes will help promote the University’s mission into their home communities and regions while strengthening the search for a new leader. The increased involvement of stakeholders will help searches get “into the greater community,” inviting more local leaders to the table.
Regent Vice President Regina Millner added that additional regent input will “enrich the questions asked of candidates,” particular on university finance and budget challenges that are very much of Regent concern.
The policy will be forwarded to the full Board for action on Friday.
In other action, the Business and Finance Committee:
- Approved an agreement with Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC, to provide bookstore and textbook rental services at UW-Eau Claire. The contract would be effective July 1, 2015, for a one-year period, with the option for five one-year extensions. Estimated annual revenue to the vendor is about $2 million, totaling approximately $12.5 million over the potential life of the agreement;
- Approved a UW-Madison service agreement and amendment with BioMedical Research Models, Inc. The agreement involves work related to the production, quality control testing, and optional packaging of plasmid DNA and protein products. The estimated total to be generated for the institution is $1.25 million;
- Approved a UW-Madison agreement and amendment with Aduro BioTech, Inc. The agreement involves work to produce Listeria Monocytogenes whole-cell vaccines and related products. Aduro will pay the institution about $1.97 million for this work;
- Approved a UW-Madison clinical trial agreement with Madison Vaccines, Inc. The institution will be paid about $1.57 million for this work;
- Heard a report from Darrell Bazzell, UW-Madison’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, and Robert Lavigna, assistant vice chancellor for human resources, on six program policies intended to complete the initial implementation guidance for the UW-Madison Human Resource Design program. The new system, including its related program and operational policies, will be effective for UW-Madison employees on July 1, 2015;
- Heard a presentation from Robin Van Harpen, UW-Milwaukee vice chancellor for finance and administration, and Jerry Tarrer, associate vice chancellor for business and financial services, on UWM’s plans for a new contribution-based budget model;
- Heard a 3rd quarter report of gifts, grants and contracts awards for the period July 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015. Total awards for the period were approximately $1.063 billion, a decrease of $64.2 million compared to the prior year. Federal awards decreased by $67.4 million, while non-federal awards increased by $3.2 million; and
- Heard a financial management report comparing budgeted to actual revenues and expenditures through the third quarter of the fiscal year. This mid-year interim management report shows that actual expenditures were approximately 75.1% of the Regent-approved budget, while revenues were at 90.7% of the budgeted level, as of March 31, 2015.
The Audit Committee:
- Reviewed and approved the Fiscal 2016 Audit Plan;
- Heard a status report on the final plans for the UW System’s audit team integration, which is effective July 1; and
- Heard an update on the waste, fraud and abuse hotline, which went live May 15.
Research, Economic Development & Innovation Committee
David J. Ward, UW System interim senior vice president and principal of Angels on the Water, told Regents that while small businesses generate an outsized proportion of new jobs and market expansion in Wisconsin, these firms also regularly experience challenges in attracting sufficient capital to fund growth and infrastructure development.
Leading a panel discussion, Ward noted that the pool of capital for angel and venture investment in Wisconsin is small, but growing. Understanding the risk/reward profile that attracts capital from these investors can help ensure that innovative products and new ideas achieve market success more quickly and efficiently, he said.
In other business, the REDI Committee:
- Heard an update on initiatives by the UWM Research Foundation to building partnerships and develop patents; and
- Heard an update from Katy Sinnott, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s vice president of International Business Development, with a focus on WEDC’s efforts to collaborate with the university and state businesses to foster exports for Wisconsin business, and to increase awareness of foreign direct investment opportunities across the state.
Capital Planning and Budget Committee
Associate Vice President Alex Roe reported on Building Commission actions and provided an update regarding 2015-17 Capital Budget developments.
In other business, the Capital Planning and Budget Committee:
- Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request to amend the Priory lease to allow for construction of three improvements projects, including development of areas in Building B for various assembly uses; renovation of space to create a commercial-style kitchen; and expansion of the existing parking lot;
- Approved UW-Extension’s request for authority to construct the Lowell Hall South Wing HVAC System Renovation project that will provide new HVAC units, digital controlled thermostats, and minor architectural upgrades for most guestrooms and office areas in the south wing, as well as remodeled elevator lobbies;
- Approved UW-La Crosse’s request for authority to construct a Storage Facility project, which will provide a single-story addition onto the existing Maintenance and Stores building on the north campus;
- Approved UW-Oshkosh’s request for authority to construct the Reeve Union Entrance and Remodeling Project, which will construct a 7,952-square-foot expansion and renovate 22,718 square feet on the basement, first, and second floors of the Union’s west end;
- Approved UW-Oshkosh’s request for authority to construct the Fletcher Hall Renovation and Addition Project, which will remodel and renovate 98,700 square feet of existing space by replacing the plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and telecommunications infrastructure;
- Approved UW System’s request for five All-Agency Maintenance and Repair projects totaling $4.7 million, two at UW-La Crosse and one each at UW-Madison, UW-Parkside, and UW-Whitewater; and
- Heard a presentation from the host campus: “UWM Capital Facilities: Recent Investments, Growing Challenges.”
The Education Committee:
- Approved three new academic degree programs: a B.S. in Data Science at UW-River Falls; a B.S. in Digital Marketing Technology at UW-Stout; and a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering at UW-Eau Claire;
- Approved an adjusted UW-Madison annual request to the Trustees of the William F. Vilas Trust Estate for support of scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and special programs in arts and humanities, social sciences, biological sciences, physical sciences. The Regents previously approved requests by UW-Madison in April, but the Trust has since made more money available;
- Approved UW institutions’ promotions and tenure designations;
- Approved UW-Green Bay’s Ed.D. in First Nations Education;
- Approved UW-La Crosse’s online Ed.D. in Student Affairs Administration and Leadership;
- Approved UW-Oshkosh’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy with an emphasis in Superintendent Licensure;
- Approved UW-Stevens Point’s Ed.D. in Educational Sustainability; and
- Heard a presentation from UW-Milwaukee’s Provost Johannes Britz on key strategic planning initiatives: “Achieving Student Success in Milwaukee – K through College: The M3 Initiative.”
The UW System Board of Regents meeting will resume on Friday, June 5, 2015, at UW-Milwaukee.