MADISON-The University of Wisconsin System and its Board of Regents have taken steps in recent months to address several recommendations included in an audit about university employees convicted of felonies.
A letter audit, issued Tuesday by the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau, recommended that the university clarify policies about the termination of employees convicted of crimes, and that it define the kinds of jobs for which background checks should be required. The audit also suggested that the university review the convictions of employees to determine if they are substantially job-related, and if so, take appropriate action.
“We embrace these recommendations, and are already doing a great deal of work on all three of them,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “We’ll keep looking for new ways to ensure controls in our campus day-care centers and health-care facilities, residence halls, classrooms, financial management areas, and for students and staff throughout the UW System. As the audit recommends, we will determine the types of jobs for which background checks should be conducted, and promulgate system-wide policies for conducting these checks of candidates for employment.
“We’ll be working with our institutions, and our colleagues in the Office of State Employment Relations and the Legislature, to put together a sound and consistent policy on the use of background checks across the system,” Reilly added. “We are also reviewing the cases of the 40 employees cited in the audit to determine if any actions are necessary. Safety and security for our students and employees are always priority number one.”
Earlier this month, a special committee of the Board of Regents proposed a policy change that would allow the university to take immediate action if employees are accused of serious criminal misconduct. The proposal would allow UW institutions to launch immediate investigations of any alleged felony crimes, and suspend individuals under investigation. The UW System is in the process of receiving feedback on these proposals from faculty and academic staff governance groups. The Board will then act on the proposed policy, and will forward it to the Wisconsin Legislature for review.
The audit found felony convictions for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the UW System’s more than 41,000 employees, including full-time, part-time, student hourly, and limited-term employees. These include 32 classified employees, four members of the academic staff, three faculty members, and one graduate assistant. Twelve of the 40 individuals identified in the audit are no longer employed by the university.
The letter audit was part of a broader, ongoing audit of the university’s employment policies and practices, called for by President Reilly as a complement to continuing personnel reforms begun by the UW this past fall.