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.
What are your goals for your first term in office should you be elected?
Before taking office, my first goal is to build a stronger Democratic caucus in the state legislature by campaigning and fundraising for Democrats across the state, so that we can successfully pass legislation. While detailed policy goals can be found on my website, www.keldaroys.com, the my key priorities will be to help our state recover from the COVID health and economic crisis, expand healthcare access, adequately fund Wisconsinâ€™s public schools and public higher education system, address the climate crisis, and pass meaningful criminal justice reform.
Please describe your qualifications and what sets you apart from your fellow candidates.
My experience sets me apart. I don’t just have progressive values — I have spent my career turning those values into meaningful policy changes. I served in the State Assembly from 2009-2013, and was the Democratic Caucus Chair in my second term. During that time, I helped expand BadgerCare to 80,000 Wisconsinites, and authored legislation on many issues, from banning BPA to equal pay to protecting the right to vote.
Even before being elected to the legislature, I successfully advocated for progressive policies, like landmark criminal justice reforms — policies that passed despite Republican control. As Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, I helped build a coalition that successfully passed Wisconsin’s first pro-choice legislation in three decades, through an anti-choice Assembly. I took on shameful racial disparities in infant mortality rates in Wisconsin, and worked with community leaders and advocates to come up with solutions that worked for those most affected. Being an effective lawmaker and advocate is a learned skill.
I’m also an attorney and a small business owner – in a legislature where fewer and fewer members are lawyers. Finally, I am the mother of young children, which means issues like paid leave, affordable childcare, and gun violence are personal to me. In a 33 member Senate, only 7 seats are held by women — and not a single one has young or school aged children at home. If elected, I’d be the youngest woman in the Senate.
UW-Madison is situated in the 26th Senate District, but its role as an economic engine benefits the entire state. Please tell us how you would represent the university in the legislature and make sure your colleagues from outside Dane County understand the statewide benefit of a strong UW-Madison?
UW-Madison, and the UW system as a whole, is the crown jewel of Wisconsin. As an alumna of the law school, I also have a personal stake in the UW’s success. The university needs adequate funding from the legislature, and less political and administrated interference. Funding cuts and changes like undermining academic freedom and rolling back tenure protections are taking a toll on the UW — that must be reversed. UW lags behind peer institutions in pay and benefits for faculty and staff — a disastrous trend that will threaten not only UW’s preeminence as a shining example of public higher education, but the entire state’s economic future. We know that strong UW-Madison benefits the state’s economy, culture, quality of life, and industries from agriculture to tourism.
As the senator representing campus, I will have a special responsibility to bring the voice of the University to the capitol — and to help demonstrate its value to my colleagues there. I will do this by inviting faculty to the capitol for hearings and panels, promoting partnerships like the Evidence Based Policy presentations, traveling around the state to meet with legislators in their districts and talking about what UW means to their constituents, and always advocating for UW in the budget and in legislation related to higher ed.
State funding for higher education has fallen dramatically over the past generation, resulting in a dependence on tuition and fundraising to replace decreased state support. The ongoing tuition freeze coupled with several state budget cuts has forced UW-Madison to make serious cuts, while other UW System campuses face devastating budget shortfalls. How would you address these concerns if elected?
To restore the millions of dollars in cuts UW-Madison and UW System campuses have endured, we need to do several things. First, we need to maximize the federal money the state receives, such as by accepting federal Medicaid expansion dollars, broadband connectivity dollars, and transit/transportation funding. Second, we need to close tax loopholes and corporate giveaways and institute fair taxation — for too long, the biggest corporations and wealthiest have gotten a free ride, while working families and small business paid taxes in their place. Third, we need to reduce spending on mass incarceration; it’s unconscionable that we spend more on prisons than on UW, especially given that doing so has not made us any safer (if anything, it has made our communities less safe and stable). Fourth, we need to restore more autonomy to UW campuses and strengthen shared governance — including letting them manage their own budgets, set tuition, recruit faculty, and keep their own “rainy day” funds.
UW-Madison as an institution understands diversity to be a value that is inextricable from its other values, including educational and research excellence. Tell us about your legislative priorities on diversity, racial justice, and their relation to the values you hold related to higher education.
I agree that diversity and inclusion are necessary components of excellence and success, but unfortunately by many metrics Wisconsin is the worst state in the nation in which to be a Black child. On many indices from health care to education to housing to college completion to wages to criminal justice, Wisconsin has shameful racial disparities. I have prioritized eliminating racial disparities throughout my adult life, and have detailed plans on my website, discussing racial disparities on their own but also in specific policy areas like housing, cannabis legalization, and reproductive justice.
Again, I have “walked the walk” on racial justice, from my work at the Innocence Project to pass legislation to prevent wrongful convictions, to founding an ACLU chapter as a law student in the wake of 9/11 to combat Islamophobia, to making ending racial disparities in infant mortality a central priority of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin when I became executive director. In the Assembly, I took on issues inextricably linked to racial justice that were seen as fringe or unpopular, even among Democrats, such as ending prison gerrymandering, stopping privatization at the DOT, cooperative housing purchasing, and enacting a National Popular Vote.
As state senator, I will look at all policy decisions through a racial justice and equity lens, and prioritize reducing racial disparities so that every child, every family, and every community in our state can thrive. That’s why I have detailed plans to end police brutality, stop mass incarceration, legalize cannabis, ensure cultural competence in healthcare, and ensure that every student is able to receive the free, quality public education that she is promised by our state constitution. That means, for example, ending the failed voucher program that is taking millions from our public schools every year, expanding pathways to higher ed for students from marginalized communities, and guaranteeing in-state tuition for DREAMers. Cost and accessibility should never be a barrier for students — but for too many students of color, finances (from student debt to lack of parental financial support to the need to work) make it difficult to pursue or complete a degree. The state has an obligation to prioritize helping close the opportunity gap in educational attainment for students of color.
A budget repair bill and the 2021-23 biennial budget loom large and the financial impact of COVID-19 is enormous. What are your funding priorities in the upcoming biennium?
Funding public education is always fundamental, and especially so during a global pandemic. Schools need immediate additional resources to operate successfully and safely, whether to move learning online, accommodate smaller class sizes, rent additional space, hire extra staff, or pay for increased sanitation and PPE. As someone who has always been a champion of increased public education funding, I will not let a budget pass without demanding additional resources for public K12 schools and public higher educational institutions.
Likewise, we need significant investments in technology and closing the technology gap – especially broadband connectivity and internet access, which ought to be regulated and accessible like the necessary public utilities they are. When social distancing is necessary, the only way to continue working, learning, and living, is to increase our capacity to connect virtually.
As I wrote earlier, recovering from COVID, maximizing federal dollars, expanding healthcare, addressing tax unfairness, and redirecting resources from mass incarceration to public investment, are key budget priorities. We also need to take major action towards sustainability, both in reducing emissions and pollution and in conservation and green energy production.