The underlying theme of today’s UW System Board of Regents meeting called attention to the growing competition for resources the UW System, UW-Madison in particular, is currently facing. Patrick Farrell, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at UW-Madison, presented the board with what he believed to be various factors that will form the future of “one of the most successful public research universities in the world.”

“There are things that we’re quite proud of about this campus,” said Farrell. “But there are challenges that are beginning to appear for us.”

Illustrating the positive direction of the campus, Farrell pointed to UW-Madison’s ranking in the top ten institutions for 2005-06 total research and development expenditures, falling second only to Johns Hopkins. Farrell looked to the university’s past ability to be “at the right place to take advantage of opportunities” as the basis for the positive ranking.

But intense competition from well-known schools, such as UCLA, for faculty, students and research funding has shed light on the financial shortfalls UW-Madison is confronting.

“We don’t have the flexibility that would help meet the demands,” said Farrell, a situation which he believes will significantly dull the competitive advantage the university has been fighting to achieve. “We need the resources to be competitive in the fields in which we play.”

Provost & Vice Chancellor Patrick Farrell

Provost & Vice Chancellor Patrick Farrell

Tuition, Farrell explained, is one illustration of UW-Madison’s inability to “play the game” up to par. UW-Madison’s tuition is currently $2,400 per student below the mean when compared to other Big Ten Universities.

“We made the rules that handicap ourselves,” said Farrell. “We have to find them and fix them.”

Regent David Walsh was uncertain whether it would ever be possible for UW-Madison to compete with “the Harvards and Stanfords” because of external constraints, particularly those at a state level.

“We must find a creative way to monetize,” said Walsh.

Farrell emphasized Madison’s need to increase fundraising as one way the school can gain a portion of the funds necessary.

“Part of it is getting the broader message out like the privates [institutions] do. Giving is not necessarily about finding something extra,” said Farrell. He also alleged that “opportunities to collectively work on projects,” like partnerships with General Motors, is a step in the right direction to cover research expenditures.

Recruiting graduate students was a further challenge Regent Vice President Charles Pruitt inquired about.

“We compete for almost everything and one of those things is grad students,” responded Farrell. “They build the reputation of the institutions and help to recruit the next round of outstanding students.”  But the challenge, he explained, is largely financial, with significantly lower stipends for students.

“The best will not come if they are not supported,” said Farrell.

Farrell closed by stressing the important role the Regents, as well as the UW System, play in UW-Madison’s unsure future.

“There is no guarantee that the success of UW-Madison will continue.”

View Provost Farrell's presentation on Challenges and Opportunities for UW-Madison pdf

UW-La Crosse Growth, Quality, and Access Initiative unanimously approved by Regents

The Board approved the differential tuition initiative proposed yesterday to the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee by UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow and regional legislators that included Assembly Speaker Michael Huebsch, Rep. Jennifer Shilling, and a staff member from Senator Dan Kapanke’s office.

Regent President Mark Bradley commended the bipartisan support provided by the legislators, who not only attended but also testified in favor of the initiative.

Conversation on segregated fees continues

The Board continued its discussion on segregated fees, with positive updates from Regents who privately discussed concerns with Farrell about the two student organizations at UW-Madison that will be most effected by the policy change.

Regent President Mark Bradley urged the importance of UW institutions being proactive in the framework, which Farrell charged would happen immediately.

After speaking with Farrell, Regent Colleene Thomas sees the fee issue as a positive start to campus dialogues.

Regent Thomas Shields agreed with Thomas, hoping that students will begin to delve into the issue and “keep a dialogue going, even within themselves.”

President’s Report

Don Mash, Executive Senior Vice President, continued to drive home the UW System’s competitive disadvantage concerning compensation levels for the faculty and academic staff.

This comes as the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations approved an increase for this year at 2% and future increases of 2% in July 2008 and 1% in April 2009. This is a total pay increase of approximately 5% over a two-year period.

“As the Board of Regents has discussed at great length, compensation levels for UW faculty and academic staff put our state at a serious competitive disadvantage,” said Mash. “The Board last year called for fully funded pay increases of 5.23% in each of the next four years to close that compensation gap.”

Mash added that despite support by Gov. Doyle in the form of new investments in the UW System, there are still investments needed in “our human talent.”

“We risk losing valuable instructors, researchers, and campus leaders,” said Mash.

Mash also discussed updates with the Advantage Wisconsin strategic framework, which included the statewide public listening session on Nov. 27 where participants from 54 county sites broke up into small groups for dialogue.

“One theme that emerged from some of those statewide discussions was the need for more emphasis on the pre-college age population,” said Mash using the UW System’s involvement with both Wisconsin Covenant and the newly launched KnowHow2GoWisconsin as examples of UW System’s dedication to increase work with that population.

Bradley echoed the importance of the System’s participation in the newly launched initiatives.

“We have taken an important leadership role with our Advantage Wisconsin,’ said Bradley. “There is momentum building; we are leaders in that momentum.”

Mash continued his address to the board with an update of the national Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) project that was announced in November. He expects the project will allow students to compare learning outcomes and experiences across institutions and thus encourage accountability.

“I am proud to say that the University of Wisconsin System is again a national leader in embracing this effort,” said Mash.

Finally, Mash extended congratulations to UW-Milwaukee and Chancellor Carlos Santiago for their success with their capital campaign, which has raised $122 million of private money. With a special pledge from Michael J. Cudahy, UW-Milwaukee will purchase new land in Wauwatosa for “Innovation Park,” a new engineering and research facilities.


The Board of Regents also unanimously approved the following:

  • Establishment of the Board of Regents Diversity Awards which are slated to begin in spring 2008;
  • Future recruiting of a provost/vice chancellor for UW-Extension;
  • An appointment to the Oversight and Advisory Committee of the Wisconsin Partnership Fund for a Healthy Future;
  • UW-Parkside’s food service contract extension; the one-year extension will allow completion of a $25 million renovation project of the campus student union facilities;
  • Resolution adopting a new investment policy statement presented by Trust Funds Director Doug Hoerr;
  • Educational broadband services excess capacity use and royalty agreement with Clearwire Spectrum Holdings II, LLC; the agreement is expected to generate royalties that will support academic studies at UW-Milwaukee and will help the school to cover its share of the $25 million lapse in the 2007-09 biennium;
  • The revised pay plan for UW System faculty and academic staff; the plan provides a 2% general wage adjustment effective the pay period following the approval and also sets guidelines for distribution among UW institutions;
  • Enumeration of a gift-funded facility that will house a Tomotherapy Treatment System at the UW-Madison veterinary school;
  • Construction of a new residence hall for UW-Parkside as enumerated in the 2007-08 state budget;
  • Enumeration of a new UW-La Crosse residence hall; and
  • Renovation of the Jarvis Hall Science Wing at UW-Stout.

The Regents then went into closed session.


The UW System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 7-8, in Madison.

Related: Read Dec 6 (day 1) news summary