This legislative update will be shared with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Faculty Senate today. The senate meets the first Monday of every month at 3:30 pm during the academic year, October through May, except in January. Guests are welcome to observe the livestreamed meetings and can find the link here.
Regents meet in committee Thursday morning:
The Audit Committee will hear a progress report on the FY21 audit plan and discuss restructuring of the office of Compliance and Integrity and its youth protection program.
The Capital Planning and Budget Committee will consider approval of several UW-managed construction and renovation projects, including four at UW-Madison. The committee will also receive an update on the 2021-23 Capital Budget.
The Research, Economic Development & Innovation Committee will hear reports on UW-Green Bay’s Water Science program, the effect of COVID-19 on entrepreneurship, and Governor Evers’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity.
The Business & Finance Committee will review and consider approval of the Program Revenue Balances Report and discuss two Regent Policy Documents related to foundations and affiliated organizations.
The Education Committee will consider changes to several Regent Policy Documents and and hear two reports on the current semester and online learning.
The full board meets Thursday afternoon. The board will first hear reports from Regent President Drew Petersen and UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson. Petersen is expected to provide an update on the chancellor search at UW-Stevens Point and Thompson will discuss the response to COVID-19 this fall. The board will also hear a report on student behavioral health during the pandemic and recognize the service of Regents Emeritus Gerald Whitburn and Jason Plante and former UW System President Ray Cross.
This legislative update was shared with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Faculty Senate yesterday. The senate meets the first Monday of every month at 3:30 pm during the academic year, October through May, except in January. Guests are welcome to observe the livestreamed meetings and can find the link here.
University of Wisconsin System Interim President Tommy Thompson was interviewed yesterday by Steve Walters of WisconsinEye. Thompson spoke about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases at many UW System campuses, including UW-Madison.
Thompson told Walters he expects in-person instruction to resume at campuses that have implemented two-week pauses in an effort to drive down cases of the virus. UW-Madison is in the second week of its pause of on-campus classes.
Regents begin at 8:45 am with committee meetings:
- The Business and Finance Committee will consider approval of several contracts and agreements and hear reports on shared services, information security, and state and federal COVID-19 assistance.
- The Education Committee will consider several new programs, including three at UW-Madison — a Master of Science in Financial Economics, a Master of Science in Information and an Educational Specialist in School Psychology. The committee will also vote on the temporary suspension of the SAT/ACT requirement at UW-Madison
- The Audit Committee will hear the FY21 Audit Plan Progress Report along with summarized recent audits.
- The Capital Planning and Budget Committee will consider a renovation project at UW-Stout and hear reports on capital projects and action by the State Building Commission.
- The Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Committee will hear a report on supporting Wisconsin businesses during the pandemic from Interim President Tommy Thompson and receive updates on the economic impact of COVID-19 in northern Wisconsin and the UW-Green Bay water sciences program.
The full board meets at 12:45 pm. After hearing reports from Regent President Andrew Petersen and Interim President Tommy Thompson, the board will consider the 2021-23 operating budget and capital budget requests. Interim President Thompson announced details about the request Tuesday.
The operating budget proposal — a 3.5 percent increase over the biennium — features ten key initiatives. The cornerstone of the plan is a systemwide free tuition program, the Wisconsin Tuition Promise, for Wisconsin families earning less than $60,000 annually. The proposal extends Bucky’s Tuition Promise, a UW-Madison program created in 2018, to all UW System universities.
Other funding priorities include student loan forgiveness programs for state teachers, 20 new UW-Madison Division of Extension county-based agriculture positions, and support for the Freshwater Collaborative.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told members of Downtown Madison Rotary today that the university faces unprecedented financial losses due to COVID-19. Blank said that current projections show a loss of $150 million, but the loss will grow if fewer students enroll when classes resume in September.
Blank noted that UW System already took almost two-thirds of the $70 million cut ordered by Governor Evers earlier this spring and cautioned that against a similar cut this fiscal year:
You cannot cut the budget on the back of higher education in this state. That will be a disaster for the state in the long run…We are arguing strongly that we’ve already given at the office and we should have a lower percentage in this next round, but we’ll see what happens.
PROFS and the University Committee, which also serves as the PROFS Board of Directors, shared the following statement with UW-Madison Provost Karl Scholz at a University Committee meeting this afternoon:
With just over three weeks until the faculty contract period begins for the 2020-21 academic year, and with the prevalence of COVID-19 cases rising, there is great uncertainty and concern among faculty about the reopening of the university for classes for the upcoming academic year.
We are well aware that the health landscape that will determine how we move forward is evolving; we recognize that this makes planning difficult. However, with three weeks to go before the contract period begins, faculty still do not have clear information on the in-person and remote course array, the process to ask for flexibility in their return to campus, or how to get answers to questions or concerns they have.
The “Smart Restart” website contains a great deal of information, but like much in the “self-service” university, the assumption seems to be that faculty can find all the information they need to make intelligent choices about their return to work, and its effects on their health, on the site if only they read carefully. Much of the information they are receiving from their departments, and their schools and colleges, is inconsistent, unspecific, and changes frequently. A lot of information is simply not making its way from the working groups down to the units and rank-and-file faculty.
The university’s faculty is comprised of smart, curious, and caring people; they want up-to-date, clear, accurate, detailed, and consistent information. Faculty also want answers to their genuine concerns, many of which have been further compounded because they don’t feel as though they have been consulted or given a chance to voice those concerns as equal partners to those making policy. Our colleagues at other major public research universities have attended town-hall meetings where information has been provided and concerns have been solicited and addressed; where working groups have reached out to faculty and staff; and where information is disseminated in clear and consistent ways from trusted sources in a timely and regular way. We are concerned that with three weeks to go before the beginning of the semester and five weeks before classes start, faculty have many unanswered questions, and that we are far behind the curve when it comes to addressing significant issues having to do with the health, well-being and safety of the faculty.
We urge leadership to take the following steps immediately:
• Hold frequent virtual town-hall meetings for faculty and staff that solicit and address concerns about restarting the university;
• Make available to all faculty the contact information for all re-start working groups so that they can address their questions directly to those working on policy;
• Ensure that school/college leadership disseminates information to their departments in a clear and consistent manner, and designates a person to answer questions from chairs and from faculty;
• Offer a clear statement on how faculty can arrange alternative teaching assignments and/or other non-teaching assignments in cases where they fear for their health and safety or who have home situations that preclude their ability to teach or fulfill their other duties as faculty, and ensure that the flexibilities offered are non-punitive, and do not force them to reveal sensitive and/or health-related information;
• Make clear how decisions about a return to teaching and research are determined, and the extent to which those decisions are made with reference to (a) available space, (b) teaching best practices, (c) health and safety. Faculty want to be assured that decisions made at the local level, decisions made with care and with health and educational outcomes in mind, are not overridden at the last minute.
Earlier this year, State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison, the longest serving state legislator in the country, announced he would not run for re-election. Seven Democratic candidates are on the August 11 primary ballot and the winner is almost certain to take office in January since no Republican will be on the November ballot.
These candidates will be on the ballot next month:
- Brian Benford
- William Henry Davis III
- Nada Elmikashfi
- John Imes
- Amani Latimer-Burris
- Aisha Moe
- Kelda Roys
PROFS recently reached out to the candidates with a questionnaire and request for video statement. Elmikashfi, Imes and Roys responded and their responses follow in individual posts.