Photo: Becky Blank for blog page

Blank’s Slate

A Blog by UW-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank


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

UW-Madison, the Board of Regents and tenure

On Friday, April 8, the UW Board of Regents voted unanimously to approve a UW-Madison policy on tenure. The vote brings to conclusion a process around layoff and termination rules that stretches back to the end of the budget process last summer.

Like many of the faculty, I wish our existing tenure policies would have remained unchanged in state statute. Wisconsin’s tenure policy had for decades been a national model for higher education. Any change was bound to create controversy because tenure has such importance to faculty as an assurance that they can pursue open inquiry and innovative research.

Tenure provides freedom to pursue a research agenda that might be bolder, take longer to come to fruition, or that might generate controversy.  I can personally testify that I did my best work after receiving tenure. Tenure allowed me to take on a few bigger and riskier research projects, which took longer to complete but resulted in papers whose findings contributed something more fundamental to the field.

Let me talk about why I believe the new tenure policy is workable, consistent with our peers, and provides tenure protections that should reassure our faculty. Continue reading

An Open Letter to the UW-Madison Community

We’ve seen a troubling string of incidents reported through our hate & bias reporting system that have directly affected and hurt members of our diverse community.

In a larger sense, these incidents affect each and every one of us and reveal that we have not made as much progress as needed on building an inclusive and welcoming community.

Let me take a moment upfront to say unequivocally that the behaviors displayed in these cases are completely unacceptable. They hurt fellow Badgers, make our campus a less welcoming place and do not reflect our shared community values. Continue reading

Chancellor Blank statement regarding Regents’ vote on tenure policies

“Maintaining a tenure policy as strong as our peer institutions across the country is essential to continuing to attract and retain top faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  The broad System-wide policy adopted by the Regents today is similar to policies at a number of other institutions.

“However, every UW System campus is different and has different needs. I look forward to advancing the policy and procedures specific to UW–Madison for consideration by the Regents in April.

“Lastly, I am concerned that some of the conversations around these issues suggest that the interests of chancellors and faculty are not aligned. I believe that we can only maintain the quality of this university if we continue our long tradition of collaboration.”

Sharing thoughts about progress on racial diversity

An important national discussion is occurring around race and higher education. We are in conversation with students of color on our campus and across the country, who are raising valid points about climate, diversity and fair representation. I look forward to engaging in that discussion, and I also want to make sure that we clearly understand where the University of Wisconsin–Madison has been and where we are headed regarding diversity efforts. Continue reading