Photo: Becky Blank for blog page

Blank’s Slate

A Blog by UW-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank


UW System budget request looks to future

On Thursday, the Board of Regents approved the UW System’s 2017-19 biennial budget request, which will now be submitted to Governor Walker for his review.

The System request is designed to address issues identified in the development of 2020FWD, the new strategic framework for the UW System.  In developing this framework, President Cross and other System leaders reached out to stakeholders across the state, including holding meetings here in Madison where members of the campus community as well as the broader community spoke about key challenges to the state and the role the university could play in addressing them. The 2017-19 biennial budget request identifies the needed investments from the state along with System resources that would be reallocated to begin these efforts.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s institutional goals align well with the goals set out in 2020FWD and the biennial budget request. I’m happy to support this request, and I hope you will join our efforts over the next nine months as part of the state budget process.

The budget proposal seeks a total of $42.5 million in new state funding over the next two years. In addition, the budget assumes that $50 million will be restored to UW System that we were required to lapse back to the state in the current biennium. Governor Walker has already said that he will also recommend restoring this $50 million. This would result in $92.5 million more state dollars for UW System in the next budget than in the current one.  The Regents budget request does not deal with compensation or tuition, both of which will be taken up later in the budget process.

2020FWD and the budget request focus on strengthening the educational pipeline, enhancing the educational experience of our students, expanding the Wisconsin Idea to further address the needs of Wisconsin’s communities and businesses, and pursuing greater operational efficiencies. Within these initiatives are a number of programs that are of interest to our campus.

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Creating community after a difficult summer

Across the country and around the world, this summer has, sadly, been filled with news of tragedy and violence, starting with killings in Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas. I suspect all of us have been horrified at one time or another as we’ve turned on the television.

This past weekend, there was significant unrest in Milwaukee, the largest and most diverse city in our state, as well as home to many of our students. And those who have stayed in Madison over the summer know that we’ve had our own series of controversial incidents and protests.

All of these events are likely to be on people’s minds as they return to campus to prepare for the semester ahead. Appropriately, one of this year’s themes– and the subject of our Go Big Read book, Evicted, is “what is community?”

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Thoughts from summer

Summer started on Memorial Day weekend for me. My husband and I ducked out of work a little early that Friday and drove along Highway 14 all the way to La Crosse. We detoured through some Amish countryside near Cashton and walked around the downtown of Viroqua.

We stayed overnight in La Crosse in an old candy factory, converted into a very modern hotel. On Saturday, we spent the day following the Mississippi. We ambled south along the river, reading all the historical signs. (Did you know that Gov. Patrick Lucey grew up in Ferryville, on the river?)

At Prairie du Chien, we toured Villa Louis, walked around the Fort Crawford Museum and then headed out to Wyalusing State Park for great views and hiking. We headed back to town, driving Highway 18 across the state to Madison, with a mandatory stop at the Rural Route 1 Popcorn store in Montfort. The trip let us see a bit of the state we haven’t visited before, and the Mississippi views were breathtaking.

Our trip also reminded me that Badgers are everywhere. At lunch in Prairie du Chien, the couple sitting by their bikes and looking at a map introduced themselves because she works at UW in our SOAR program.

And along the trail at Wyalusing, we turned a corner to see two young men heading toward us from the other direction. One of them looked up and shouted, “Hi, Chancellor Blank!” Turns out he works for the UW Police Department.

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Welcoming Laurent Heller to the UW-Madison community

I am happy to announce that we have hired Laurent Heller as our new vice chancellor for finance and administration. Laurent is currently the assistant vice chancellor, financial planning and analysis at the University of California, Berkeley, and has previously served in key administrative roles at Cal, including as director of the campus budget office and director of strategy and analysis for the Law School. He is expected to join us in mid-August. You can read more about him here. I want to thank Mike Lehman for the great work he has done as interim vice chancellor, and also the search and screen committee for their fine work.

On the end of the academic year and a way forward

At the last Faculty Senate meeting of the year, someone made a comment that suggested this past year has been all about “bad news.”

Following a number of no confidence votes by faculty at many of the UW System schools, along with recent debates about tenure and the proposed changes to the Wisconsin Idea, I know there has been a drumbeat of media coverage about the frustration and anger of many faculty and staff.

I recognize and understand that frustration.  We are facing some challenges and I’ll say a bit about how we plan to move forward into the coming budget debate this year.  But I also want to remind everyone of all the good things that are happening every day across campus.  This university remains strong and resilient.

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Chancellor Blank’s remarks to Spring 2016 graduates

As prepared for delivery Saturday, May 14, 2016:

Good afternoon. It’s wonderful to see you all here as we celebrate today’s honorees – the Class of 2016!

Friends and family have the best seats in the house – the seats where fans have been cheering on the Badgers for 99 years. Just for the record, that first game was a shutout: we trounced Minnesota.

Today these seats are again filled with loyal Badger fans – people who have supported this morning’s graduates throughout their time at UW. Students: give a round of applause to the family and friends who are here to celebrate with you.

Today we mark your graduation from one of the top 25 universities in the world. You have worked hard both in, and out, of the classroom. The Class of 2016 has helped to drive our record-setting participation in community service and study abroad. UW-Madison is now the #1 public university in the nation for students studying overseas!

You helped us consume 400,000 gallons of Babcock ice cream … battled for Bascom in an epic snowball fight … and, yes, helped Vikings Fan find his Mystery Girl!

You’ve been here at a particularly great time to be a Badger … back-to-back trips to the Final Four (watching the Badgers take down the unbeaten Wildcats was pretty unforgettable) … not to mention a trip to the Rose Bowl when you were freshmen and three consecutive trips to the Women’s Frozen Four.

This class has also followed our campus’ proud tradition of social activism.

A number of you have been deeply involved in a lively debate about campus climate … a debate that’s happening here and around the country. With your help, we’re engaging in the most difficult discussions of ethnicity, race and inclusion in a generation. These discussions are creating opportunities for real change.

All of you have worked hard – perhaps harder than you knew you could. And this class has stood out for its commitment to sharing knowledge and discoveries with the community – that’s what we call the Wisconsin Idea.

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Reactions to the May 2 Faculty Senate debate

Today, the Faculty Senate engaged in a spirited debate. While there was argument over many amendments and the resolution contained language that I do not personally embrace, we can all agree on the need for support for the university’s mission, continuing to make this a place worthy of our energy and passion.

I look forward to continuing to work with our students, faculty and staff leadership on campus, at the UW System and the Board of Regents, with state and legislative officials and the public to strengthen and expand our service to the state in the coming months and years.

Opposing a vote of ‘no confidence’

As chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I acknowledge the anger and frustration from our faculty and staff in reaction to budget cuts, changes to governance and tenure.

However, I feel that it is important to share my view on a planned resolution of “no confidence” in the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and President Ray Cross.

I do not see any positive outcome from such an expression and believe there is a risk of substantial negative effects. Continue reading

Thoughts on today’s campus anti-racism protest

Students, faculty, staff and other supporters gather in front of Bascom Hall for a protest against racism on April 21, 2016. (Photo by Bryce Richter)

Students, faculty, staff and other supporters gather in front of Bascom Hall for a protest against racism on April 21, 2016. (Photo by Bryce Richter)

On April 19, the university received a set of student demands related to last week’s arrest by UWPD of a student suspected in a series of graffiti incidents around campus.

As part of the request, students have asked for criminal charges against the student to be dropped; for the resignation of university officials involved in this incident; and for the Dean of Students to forgo its student conduct process. In addition, the list requests that the university return any of the student’s personal property being held as evidence and seeks community control or oversight over the UWPD. (See the full document)

This has been a difficult and exhausting semester for our communities of color and allies as our entire campus copes with a series of hate and bias incidents and conversations about our racial climate.

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Working at UW to address employee communications

UW-Madison is constantly communicating. Whether through the use of news releases, videos, tweets, or even my speeches and blog posts, we are telling our story to a multitude of audiences every day.

Over the decades, we often have been more effective connecting with media or alumni outside the campus than with our own employees here on campus.

Supporting an effective outlet for employee communication is both difficult and vital to our success. Continue reading