PROFS Supports “Mark Cook Bill”

Mark Cook

PROFS strongly supports Assembly Bill 758/Senate Bill 671, dubbed the Mark Cook Bill, recently-introduced bipartisan legislation (below) that would change state statutes that regulate how the university contracts with companies in which faculty or other university employees have a financial interest. PROFS convened a group of entrepreneurial faculty to develop the legislation.

UW-Madison Animal Sciences Professor Mark Cook, who passed away in September, served as chair of the PROFS Entrepreneurial Work Group, comprised of UW-Madison faculty who started successful companies. A self-described “chickenologist,” Mark created four companies from his research and his work led to 50 patents. He attracted and mentored other researchers who had a similar entrepreneurial spirit.

Mark’s spinoff Ab E Discovery, is “set to smash business as usual,” according to an article by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Ab E Discovery, which will soon be breaking ground on Wisconsin operations, is advancing a natural, drug-free method to protect poultry, pigs, dairy and beef cattle against common infections.

Mark Cook died of cancer on September 9, 2017, at age 61. A native of Houma, Louisiana, Mark joined the faculty at UW-Madison in 1982. Upon his death, an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Mark “embodied the Wisconsin Idea” – the belief that “education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom.” Mark had a positive impact on everyone he met, including the students who learned from him and worked alongside him in his lab.

Mark felt very strongly about the statutory changes contained in AB 758/SB 671. Mark recognized that Wisconsin law is out of step with the modern research and business worlds because it includes an overly cumbersome and lengthy process for allowing research companies to contract with the university when a faculty or staff member has a financial interest in the company.

Even relatively small contracts (any contract exceeding $250,000 over a two-year period) must receive a 45-day review by the UW System Board of Regents despite previous review by university officials.

The law hinders the UW’s ability to move quickly to bring in R&D expenditures from businesses and

other funding entities. These funds are significant revenue sources at other universities. It is not a coincidence that the two universities that recently overtook UW-Madison in the overall research ranking do a much better job of attracting outside private funding for research projects.

Research companies connected to UW-Madison researchers have been forced to take initiatives such as clinical trials to other states. And top UW-Madison faculty have been recruited to universities where they can work more collaboratively with businesses and other funding entities.

PROFS thanks Representatives Dave Murphy and Terese Berceau and Senators Dan Feyen and Fred Risser, along with other co-sponsors, for introducing this important legislation to streamline the process. The legislation will eliminate the 45-day delay and instead create a much more reasonable process that will continue to address conflicts and protect the university’s interests.

AB 758/SB 671 will require that the individual or body responsible for managing potential conflicts of interest at the UW institution (e.g. UW-Madison) that employs the faculty or staff member has an interest in the company issue a management plan evaluating and addressing the interest. Additional contacts will be allowed to proceed as long as such a plan is in place.

AB 758/SB 671 will also amend the definition of research company in the statutes to include non-profits as well as commercial businesses. Many non-profit entities fund a significant amount of research.

The Assembly Committee on Constitution and Ethics will hold a public hearing on AB 758 at 1 p.m., Thursday, January 11, in Room 300 Northeast of the State Capitol.

PROFS looks forward to working with other supporters of this legislation to ensure it becomes law.

 

December Board of Regents Meeting

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will meet at Gordon Dining and Event Center at UW-Madison Thursday, December 7. Livestream coverage of the full board portion of the meeting is available here.

Regents meet in committee Thursday morning:

The Business and Finance Subcommittee on Investments will review investments and hear a report from the Trust Funds Director.

The Business and Finance Committee will hear annual reports on faculty turnover (below) and faculty and staff salary adjustments and additional compensation payments. UW-Madison experienced 6 percent faculty turnover in FY17, third lowest in UW System. Four UW System institutions had turnover greater than 9 percent.

The Capital Planning and Budget Committee will discuss five building projects, including three at UW-Madison, and hear several reports.

The Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Committee will hear a report on the School of Medicine and Public Health Partnership Program and presentations from UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Bernie Patterson and UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford.

The Audit Committee will discuss many reports, including the FY18 Audit Plan Progress Report and recent audit reports on tuition, NCAA sports, international education, the federal TRIO program, and cash handling.

The full board portion of the meeting begins at 11:45 am with updates from Board of Regents President John Behling and UW System President Ray Cross. After lunch, the board will consider a resolution honoring former State Senator Sheila Harsdorf and hear an update on the proposed restructuring of UW Colleges and UW-Extension.

The board will also meet in closed session to discuss the naming of a facility at UW-La Crosse, UW-Milwaukee honorary degree nominations, various personnel issues, and items related to the UW-Oskhosh Foundation.

Legislative Update

The Legislature is in session and PROFS is closely monitoring several bills that could severely affect UW-Madison:

Proposed Bill to Assist Faculty Entrepreneurship, LRB-4627

Led by faculty experts, PROFS worked with a bipartisan group of legislators who plan to introduce legislation related to University of Wisconsin research contracts. The faculty group, led by the late Mark Cook (Animal Science), identified the need to change state statutes that regulate how the university contracts with companies in which faculty or other university employees have a financial interest, noting current law is slow and cumbersome and ultimately leads to lost contracts.

Bills Limiting Scientific Research, Senate Bills 422 & 423

PROFS is carefully monitoring two bills that would limit the use of fetal tissue in scientific research and is registered against Senate Bill 423. Our statement is on the PROFS website and Facebook page.

Bill Limiting University of Wisconsin OB/GYN Training, Assembly Bill 206

PROFS is also registered against AB 206, a bill that would restrict abortion-related activities of UW System and UW Hospitals and Clinics employees. UW School of Medicine and Public Health Dean Robert Golden testified in July this bill would seriously hamper student training in obstetrics and gynecology and could possibly jeopardize the medical school’s accreditation.

Campus Carry

Supporters of campus carry have said they intend to introduce legislation allowing concealed weapons on campus, but nothing has been introduced to date. PROFS is opposed to campus carry and continues to carefully monitor the issue.

Federal Budget

PROFS is closely monitoring Senate and House tax reform efforts and has contacted members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation to express concern that both bills would seriously harm higher education. In particular, PROFS is opposed to a provision in the House version that would tax graduate student tuition waivers, making the cost to attend graduate school out of reach for many students. The federal budget proposals coupled with many years of declining state support, seriously threaten public higher education.

UW System Restructuring

Last month, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved the implementation of a plan to reorganize UW Colleges and Extension. Under the proposal, UW Colleges would be integrated with four-year institutions, Cooperative Extension would become part of UW-Madison, and Wisconsin Public Television would shift to UW System.

PROFS Annual Report

PROFS president Dorothy Farrar Edwards will present the PROFS Annual Report for 2016-17 (below) to the Faculty Senate Monday, December 4. The senate meets in Room 272 Bascom Hall at 3:30 pm. A full agenda of the meeting is here.

Faculty senators and visitors are invited to join PROFS for refreshments in the rotunda area outside Room 272 Bascom Hall beginning at 3 pm.

Bipartisan Legislation on Faculty Entrepreneurial Efforts

PROFS is pleased that a bipartisan group of legislators is working to introduce legislation (below) related to University of Wisconsin research contracts. Last year, PROFS assembled a small group of faculty who have created businesses to examine ways to encourage UW-Madison faculty to become more entrepreneurial.

The group, led by the late Mark Cook (Animal Science), also included Chemistry professor Robert Hamers and emeritus professor Rock Mackie (Medical Physics). The group identified the need to change state statutes that regulate how the university contracts with companies in which faculty or other university employees have a financial interest, noting current law is slow and cumbersome and ultimately leads to lost contracts.

PROFS wrote a statement calling for new legislation and worked with UW-Madison attorneys on statutory language. Former Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), chair of the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges and a member of the Joint Finance Committee, agreed have the bill drafted. PROFS also secured the support of UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and UW System President Ray Cross.

Senators Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) and Fred Risser (D-Madison) and Representatives David Murphy (R-Greenville) and Terese Berceau (D-Madison) have taken the lead on the bill and are encouraging their colleagues to support the legislation (below).

 

November Board of Regents Meeting

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents meet today at Gordon Dining Event Center at UW-Madison, 770 West Dayton Street. The public full board portions of the meeting will be streamed live here.

The Business and Finance Committee meet in committee at 8:30 am, where they will discuss the transfer the management of trust fund assets to the State of Wisconsin Investment Board. They will also consider approval of changes to policy language related to student segregated fees. These changes are required as a result of the 2017-19 state budget which called for consistent classification of allocable and non-allocable funds among UW institutions.

The full board meeting begins at 10 am. Before lunch, they will hear an update from UW System President Ray Cross and recognize one-hundred years of Wisconsin Public Broadcasting.

In the afternoon, the board will consider the proposal to restructure UW System. PROFS has serious concerns about the process surrounding this proposal. In particular, we are troubled that key stakeholders — faculty, staff, students and community leaders — were not consulted prior to the announcement of the plan, contrary to the university’s long tradition of shared governance. Our statement is here.

 

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