Blank’s Slate – Office of the Chancellor – UW–Madison https://chancellor.wisc.edu Thu, 07 Jan 2021 23:55:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Teaching and Learning at UW-Madison:  Building connections with our students https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/teaching-and-learning-at-uw-madison-building-connections-with-our-students/ Thu, 07 Jan 2021 23:55:03 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2648 Read More]]> The following post was jointly written by Chancellor Blank and Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Karl Scholz. 

Welcome to 2021. Both of us are happy to see the end of 2020. The holiday break gave us time to reflect on the unusual year that has just passed. We are extraordinarily grateful for the outstanding work of our staff and faculty instructors during this unusual time, keeping the educational mission of UW strong. We are both impressed by the work required to make an instant pivot to online instruction in March, as well as the instruction done in the Summer and the Fall.

Through one channel or another, we have heard of many outstanding examples of teaching and learning this past fall. Of course, as is true every semester we’ve also received reports of not-so-good experiences by students.  With the pressures of the pandemic, these perhaps were a bit more common this fall. We owe it to our students to continue to find ways to be even better educators in the semester and year ahead.

Spring and Summer 2021

Starting in mid-January Safer Badgers, our extensive new testing program, will further enhance our ability to monitor and control the presence of COVID-19 on campus. While there are many reasons to expand testing, one reason is to further minimize risk for students and instructors in our many in-person classes. We would like to give a special thank you to the instructors teaching those in-person, on-campus classes this spring. Students have consistently mentioned their desire for in-person engagement. As is appropriate, faculty and staff teaching or otherwise working in group settings on campus will be prioritized for campus delivery of COVID vaccinations this spring.

Of course, a substantial number of classes will continue to be delivered remotely during the spring and summer.  Through our recent student survey, feedback from student groups and fall term course evaluations, we have learned a great deal about what went well in fall (a great deal did!) and about where we can continue to improve.

Relationships with instructors and classroom peers motivate and make learning more engaging and meaningful.  Students have consistently reminded us of this, which has two implications as we launch the spring term:

  • We need to ensure that student-instructor interaction is strong in all modalities, with particular attention to this in remote instruction classes. In too many remote classes student-to-instructor connections have been minimal or non-existent. Students indicate they miss meeting with instructors, particularly in remote courses, and are struggling with the material.  We encourage all instructors to find ways to meet with or communicate with their students regularly outside class lectures, and to encourage students to take advantage of office hours even when virtual.
  • Students are looking for more opportunities to learn together in courses. The informal gatherings, such as before class, at the library or other campus places to study or work together on homework, have been disrupted with physical distancing. We need to build new opportunities for students to learn together. We encourage all instructors, but particularly remote instructors, to facilitate study groups and course discussion outside class, perhaps helping seed this activity more than what is needed for non-remote classes.

We have learned that remote instruction should not simply involve teaching the same course in the same way via a digital tool.   Remote instruction often requires restructuring a course and making changes in teaching style.  Put differently, a remote presentation with “voice-over PowerPoint” can be deadly boring and rarely leads to great teaching and learning.  We have also learned that remote instruction is more fragile than in-person instruction. It takes more planning, structure and course design to work well. Given that most of our courses this spring will still be remote, it is imperative that remote courses are designed in a way that works best for student learning.

If you have not previously engaged in professional development around remote or online instruction, now is the time to do so before the spring semester begins. Please take advantage of one or more of these campus professional development opportunities for remote instruction.

Looking Forward to Fall 2021

With a couple of vaccines now in use and others on the near horizon, we are planning for a resumption of primarily in-person classes for fall semester 2021.  While forecasting is always inexact, we expect that everyone who wishes to get a COVID-19 vaccine will have been able to do so by the beginning of the fall semester. Moreover, while any changes to course modality are clearly disruptive, it is easier to pivot from in-person to remote than it is from remote to in-person. Consequently, in planning for fall, remote instruction – in person classes delivered remotely —  will not be offered as a modality option for course scheduling as we seek to re-establish in-person instruction across campus. We will of course adapt, as we have done in the past, if things do not go as planned.

We recognize that returning to campus after a long time away will be an adjustment for many. But being back together allows us to utilize the strength and richness of our world-class residential university – it allows students and faculty to interact more frequently, it makes it easier to get to know colleagues and students, it allows students to benefit from the rich set of activities and people across campus, and it allows researchers to come in contact with others who they might not otherwise meet and who become new collaborators.

Furthermore, all instructors on campus have had to reimagine their teaching over this past year. Many of you have tried new techniques and learned some new technologies.  That means that in-person classes will be different after the pandemic, with faculty and instructors employing a wider range of teaching methods, hopefully keeping those new approaches that allow them to encourage more active learning and student engagement. We will be initiating conversations this spring with instructors about what we can learn from the forced move to remote classes that will improve in-person classes when they resume.

Change in 2021 will come more slowly than many of us hope. The pandemic is far from over and vaccinations will take time.  But if we are proactive in identifying lessons from this experience, we can emerge stronger as a university as we exit the pandemic and find new ways to serve our students and further strengthen the outstanding teaching and learning at UW-Madison.

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Coming to the end of 2020 (I won’t miss this year!) https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/coming-to-the-end-of-2020-i-wont-miss-this-year/ Wed, 09 Dec 2020 21:30:17 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2638 Read More]]> When we launched our current alumni fundraising campaign, we chose the theme of “All Ways Forward”—both catchy and emblematic of our state’s motto, Forward.

For the past nine months, figuring out how to move forward has been particularly challenging. At times, we’ve had real disagreement on campus about which direction would even lead us forward.

It’s been hard work redesigning campus activities, setting up testing and public health protocols that none of us even dreamed about a year ago, and figuring out how to move forward when none of our favorite and most celebratory events … Convocation, Commencement, concerts and plays, conferences and student gatherings, tailgates and games …could even take place.

Like many of you, I won’t be sad to see the end of 2020.

Many in our community have faced great personal challenges since March, homeschooling children, dealing with isolated elderly parents, or coping with too many months of staying home and communicating only by Zoom. It has been a particularly difficult year for our communities of color, given the energy required to cope with the events of this past year and the resulting protests for greater racial and social justice across American institutions. And all of us have been caught in the midst of a very divisive national political climate. We especially think about those who have been directly affected by COVID-19, dealing with illness or loss among family members.

Despite these difficulties, there is good news as well over this fall. Our university does continue to move forward on a number of fronts. For instance:

• This last spring we posted the highest graduation rates ever (88.5% 6-year graduation rate), and the shortest time to graduation (3.92 years, or 29 days short of four calendar years). This means our curriculum, our advising and our financial aid is allowing students to complete their studies sooner and with less debt.
• This fall we welcomed the most diverse freshmen class in our history and increased our faculty of color. We know there is ongoing work to do in this area.
• Right now, our applications, compared to this same time last year, are up. This may simply be because more high school seniors are applying sooner, given the absence of other senior year activities. But we clearly continue to be a much-sought-after school among students around the state, the country and the world.
• With increased scholarship dollars, our ability to help defray costs for low-income students continues to grow. This fall, we had 2,534 students in either Bucky’s Tuition Promise or Badger Promise. Both of these programs guarantee scholarships to cover the full cost of tuition and fees through four years of college.
• Despite the pandemic, almost all of our research facilities are open and an astounding amount of research, including a significant amount on COVID-19 itself (we currently have 67 new COVID-19 related grants totaling $45.8 million), is under way across campus.
• And we launched our first online undergraduate degree program (in personal finance, out of the School of Human Ecology), as a pilot for additional programs in the future.

I am grateful for the resilience and innovation of our faculty, graduate student employees and staff in delivering education under very difficult circumstances this fall. And I thank the students who adjusted to those changes in the learning and social environment. I am also grateful to our Badger families who helped their students get through this fall. Our recent undergraduate student survey indicates how much our students appreciated the in-person classes that were possible this fall, and I thank the instructors who were willing to teach in-person.

Above all, thanks to all of our essential staff who came to campus to maintain our residence halls, prepare food, keep our spaces clean and care for research animals.

I recognize that the challenges have not gone away. Illness remains a concern until a vaccine is more broadly available. Many of you will spend holidays without the usual family members in attendance. All of our employees will have additional furlough days this winter and spring. Mental health concerns are real. People are tired – we all feel it and want this to be over.

I can only offer my unending gratitude for all that our campus community is doing and tell all of you that this will come to an end. In the months ahead we will learn more about vaccine availability and do everything we can to provide vaccination to as many people as possible on campus. I am cautiously hopeful that much of campus will be able to engage in a more normal semester next fall.

We will soon be announcing details of the expanded testing plans we have for the campus in spring semester. We have learned much over the last several months, and we want to ensure that campus is even safer in Spring 2021.

I hope everyone is able to take time off during the holidays. Relax. Escape online meetings. Enjoy time with your immediate family. Find joy in little things.

I’ll see you all (virtually) back at work in 2021. May it be a better year. All ways forward!

Note: Hear more from Chancellor Blank in her interview with Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Morning Show.

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In gratitude this Veterans Day https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/in-gratitude-this-veterans-day/ Tue, 10 Nov 2020 02:00:42 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2629 Read More]]> A guest post from Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor in honor of Veterans Day

When we speak about veterans or military-connected students in higher education, I’ve found the focus is often on their challenges rather than the attributes they bring to the community. When I think about these students – nearly 900 at UW–Madison – I see amazing examples of resilience and I am struck with gratitude at the depth of life experience they infuse into our classrooms and UW community.

Veterans bring a unique perspective to college and university campuses. They comprise only 3-4 percent of the student population at higher education institutions in the U.S. but are a diverse population in terms of race, ethnic background, culture, values, occupations, and aspirations. Many are older and have experienced international conflict and the front lines of humanitarian aid in ways most of us never have.

Our students represent the U.S. armed forces: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as well as the Wisconsin Army National Guard and Air National Guard. A majority of veteran and military-connected students in the U.S. are the first in their families to attend college, yet they are unmatched in their perseverance and commitment to succeed.

Many of our National Guard students have been on active duty since spring – training, researching, and testing for COVID-19 to support our health care workers and to help control the spread of the pandemic in Wisconsin, helping to ensure integrity at the polls, and much more. They take on this service while juggling the rigors of school and, in some cases managing family responsibilities or medical issues.

So beyond saying, “Thank you for your service,” this year, I want to be specific in gratitude for what you bring to our UW community. Thank you for enhancing our campus diversity and learning. Thank you for your contributions and lasting impact at UW-Madison and beyond. Thank you for showing up each day – in the classroom and on the ground – giving us all the opportunity to learn by your example and your experience.

You enrich our UW community; we are here to support you; and we are proud you chose to be Badgers.

On, Wisconsin!

Find Veterans Day events at today.wisc.edu.

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Thank you for voting https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/thank-you-for-voting/ Tue, 03 Nov 2020 23:00:51 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2612 Read More]]>
  • Español
  • Hmoob
  • བོད་སྐད Tibetan
  • 中文 Chinese
  • नेपाली Nepali
  • Photo of two students at voting booths casting their ballots.
    Wearing face masks and maintaining physical distance from others, UW students cast their ballots at the Nicholas Recreation Center polling station. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

    I admit that I’m a political nerd.  I still watch as much coverage as I can of the summer political conventions. I stay up as late as I can on election night watching the results come in.  My parents served as poll workers for many years after they were retired – and were still doing this up until they turned 90.

    I still feel excitement on election days – even when I’ve voted early — especially when I see our students posting selfies with their ‘I Voted’ stickers.  But on this election day, my excitement is mixed with concern about the spread of COVID-19 and about the political divisions in our country.

    All of those feelings are compounded by nervousness about how people in our community and across the country may react to the election results and the very real possibility – with many millions of mail-in ballots to count and the potential for legal challenges – that we might not know the result for days or even weeks.

    I want to encourage every member of our campus community to be patient as we let this process unfold. I know, after a long and difficult campaign, that is a tall order.

    • We have seen long lines at polling places in some areas.
    • We have seen in past elections (and may see tonight) polling places that run out of ballots or have to manage technology glitches.
    • We know that there is a risk that this election could fuel an additional surge of COVID infections around the country.
    • And we have watched as strong opinions about candidates and policies have led to heated disputes among individuals, friends and even family members.

    I am proud of the passion and energy that members of the campus community, particularly our students, bring to this election.  Our Badgers Vote Coalition of faculty, staff and students, co-chaired by Kathy Cramer and the Morgridge Center for Public Service’s Zachery Holder, worked in partnership with Associated Students of Madison and the Madison City Clerk’s Office to encourage as many students as possible to exercise their constitutional right to have a voice in this election.  We are again participating in the Big 10 Challenge, seeing which Big 10 school will have the highest rate of voting among its students.  (We came in second in 2018 during the midterms … I don’t want Minnesota to beat us again this time!)

    As always, we encourage people to engage in vigorous discussion and debate.  At no time is this more important than when the country is choosing its leaders. But I also encourage you to express your views, and your reactions to election results, constructively and respectfully. As Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. put it, “Broad generalizations, character assassination, questioning another person’s values or patriotism or harming another person or property have no place in our community.”

    Many people have strong views about the issues and candidates in this election and I know that these next days may not be easy for some, no matter the outcome. Our inability to be together in person makes everything feel that much harder.

    We are setting up opportunities for online discussions on Nov. 5 and 6 for members of our campus community to reflect and share their thoughts about the election, and each discussion room will have staff present to listen and provide support. I hope you will consider joining.

    I want to thank all of those who have been part of our efforts to encourage voting and civic participation during this and past election cycles.  We are committed to teaching our students how to participate in civic conversations, forcefully but respectfully.  We want our students to learn how to build and maintain our democracy.

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    Campus budget and furlough update https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/campus-budget-and-furlough-update/ Mon, 26 Oct 2020 18:42:48 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2592 Read More]]> This message was sent from Chancellor Rebecca Blank to all employees on Oct. 26. It is being translated into multiple languages. Check back here for updates.

    To our employees,

    This has been a year unlike any other in the history of our institution. I’m tremendously proud of the way everyone in our campus community has pulled together amid great adversity.

    Through the summer and fall we’ve targeted October as a month where we would be able to make a clearer assessment of our finances, looking ahead to 2021. I want to recap the steps we have taken to date and explain why we will be launching an additional set of furloughs and expense reductions.

    Read the full message: https://news.wisc.edu/chancellor-blank-campus-budget-and-furlough-update/.

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    ‘State of the University’ remarks to the Faculty Senate https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/state-of-the-university-remarks-to-the-faculty-senate/ Tue, 06 Oct 2020 14:46:55 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2556 Read More]]> As prepared for delivery, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020.

    Welcome. Thank you for your leadership and partnership in this extraordinarily difficult semester. I know that you’re balancing these responsibilities with your teaching and research – not to mention added duties at home – while also having to worry about health and safety for yourselves and your families. Thank you.

    I. News from Campus

    Before I talk about COVID, the budget, what we’re doing about racial inequities, I want to start by sharing some of the good things happening on campus:

    • We have an excellent new freshman class. We met our goal of 7,300 freshmen and 1,000 transfer students.

    • A little over half of the class is from Wisconsin (71/72 counties – missing Pepin).

    • International students from 42 countries outside the U.S. They make up 7.4% of the new class, compared to 8.4% of last year’s freshman class.

    • And we have 1,000 new freshmen from underrepresented target groups – this is the largest number in a freshman class ever – 13.5% of the class.

    • About 17% of freshmen are first- generation and 27% of transfers are first-generation.

    • In August, we officially welcomed 171 new faculty hired over the past year – a record-breaking number that includes 85 faculty of color.

    • Our research and clinical work on COVID continues to expand. We now have 390 COVID-related grants or grant proposals, and we’re among national leaders on a number of projects funded.

    • Two new facilities opening – Meat Science and The Nick

    • Meat Science grand opening (virtual) on Nov. 6 – already in use

    • The Nick is open by reservation

    • We’re engaged in the most expansive effort in our history to help students register and vote.

    • And finally – former Badger (and star of the women’s World Cup) Rose Lavelle will be our winter commencement speaker.

    I could go on – there are many successes and it’s important to mark them.

    II. COVID

    Opening for fall:
    As you know, we worked hard over the summer to prepare for fall reopening. We developed testing capacity, surveillance and data collection systems to inform us of virus spread … worked on contingency planning … and re-designed thousands of courses.

    And just one week into the semester, we had a spike in cases. We responded aggressively with a number of interventions including asking students to restrict their movements, pausing face-to-face instruction for two weeks, and quarantining two residence halls.

    None of these decisions was taken lightly – and we had plenty of critics. But this worked:

    Our two-week pause allowed us to bring the case count down to about 20 per day. Our campus positivity rate has been below 1% on many recent days, below Dane County’s rate and far below the state’s rate.

    Phased return:
    We have reopened gradually, with some important changes.
    • Further expanded testing capacity
    • Testing dorms once a week, rather than every other week
    • Ability to do emergency testing in any dorm
    • Quicker testing results turnaround because we’ve brought the lab work in-house
    • De-densifying residence halls

    Education:
    We also resumed in-person classes. Some classes must meet in-person in order for students to complete the work. For others, we asked the faculty and department chairs to decide what portions could be taught online, and what should be taught face-to-face.

    We’ve also prioritized re-opening as many study spaces and computer labs as we safely can – we’ve heard from many students who want and need these spaces in libraries, unions, and other university buildings.

    The provost and I believe strongly in the value of in-person learning, especially for our freshmen. I know there are faculty, staff and students who do not want to engage in face-to-face learning. And there are faculty, staff and students – and parents – who really want those in-person classes. In short, there are firm opinions on all sides. We are doing our best to stay flexible and allow people to learn and teach in the ways best suited to them, while recognizing that no solution will make everyone happy.

    The good news in all of this is that our campus protocols are working. There has been no evidence of transmission in instructional or lab spaces.

    Research:

    We are also committed to continuing our research without interruption.

    The Office of the VCRGE has announced several new funds, including one to help research projects that lost money resume operations; the Dissertation Completion Emergency Fellowships Program for students whose degree progress has been threatened by the pandemic; and one for research scholarships for students who lost access to jobs over the summer because of COVID.

    We know a lot more about COVID now than we did last March when we shut down most of our labs – we know how to keep people safe, and we have no plans to close our research spaces even if we have to transition back to fully remote learning.

    Messaging:

    A messaging campaign is an important part of what we’re doing. Our central message to students: “Campus life depends on you!” to emphasize the importance of individual behavior to stop the spread of the disease.

    From what I know, the great majority of our students are doing exactly what we want them to do, following all health protocols. A small number have not complied. For these students, we’ve been very clear that there will be consequences for their actions.

    The university is currently investigating (or has investigated) 650 students and 20 student organizations for public health violations, and 21 students were referred for emergency suspension.

    We’ve tried to be transparent about our testing data, with a daily dashboard showing our testing and its outcomes. This dashboard has been well-received and the traffic has been substantial – at the start of the two-week quarantine we got up to 50,000 hits per day … now down to 15,000-20,000.

    Going forward:

    This is a time of great uncertainty, and we will continue to be guided by the best information we have as we move through the fall.

    You all know classes go entirely online after Thanksgiving. We know many students will go home and we are asking students who go home to stay home. If students in the residence halls return, they will need to be tested upon return. Other students will be encouraged to do this as well.

    Football:

    I know many of you have questions and concerns about the resumption of the Big Ten football season. Chancellors and Presidents in the Big Ten voted to postpone the season in mid-August because we had many questions about how best to protect our student athletes. Since then:

    • A medical advisory committee of doctors from multiple Big Ten schools has put together a set of protocols that respond to our questions.

    • The Big Ten is contracting with an outside testing firm to do daily tests for all Big Ten athletes. This allows us to practice and compete with a clean field every day.

    I voted to allow football to play a delayed season because these new measures answered my questions and concerns.

    There will be no tickets sold or fans in the stadium. The only ones will be players, staff and officials on the field. Families of the student athletes and the coaches, and a small number of personnel and sponsors will be allowed in, as will the press.

    We are working with athletics to message to students that they should stay safe and not violate public health guidelines while watching the game. We will prohibit tailgating and all other game day activities on UW property. The alumni association is making it clear that there will be nothing happening in Madison and no tailgating in parking lots or anywhere else. We’re working with the city and county to make sure bars follow public health guidelines.

    The community:

    We are working hard to build a more constructive dialogue with the County Executive.

    This is a time when we need to be working together with the county and the city and I don’t agree with and really don’t understand the effort to tell our students to go home. This is particularly true given our infection rates are below those of the rest of the county.

    You may have seen the open letter I sent to County Executive Parisi encouraging him to work with us, and explaining that – regardless of whether the campus is open or closed – we do not have the power to send home all of our students, as the majority live off-campus. They are Madison residents, many have jobs here, and they help support the local economy.

    III. Budget

    The budget crisis is real – many revenue sources are down while
    COVID-related costs are climbing

    • Auxilaries have lost most than anyone: Athletics, conferences, unions, parking, housing, etc.

    • There are big dollar losses in state dollars.
    • Two state lapses: Between last fiscal year and this current fiscal year, UW-Madison will lose between $40-$50 million in dollars taken away from the planned budget by the Governor’s order.

    Response to budget issues:
    In a nutshell, we face two problems:
    • Short-term cashflow problem
    • Long-term base budget cuts, due to state budget cuts

    To handle the first problem, we took immediate action:
    • Hiring and salary freeze
    • Pulled back distributions for next year
    • Implemented progressive furloughs; work-sharing
    • Using reserves to cover some of the losses.

    But we will need to make further budget adjustments in this year. We’re just now trying to predict our entire year’s revenue and expenditures. I don’t yet know where that will end up.

    One discussion is about whether to extend our progressive furlough program. These provide one-time savings to offset one-time cash flow problems. The advantage is that they spread the pain across all of our employees – with smaller reductions for our lowest paid employees and larger reductions for those with higher incomes. Given that some of our problems will disappear when a vaccine becomes available and life returns to normal, this lets us achieve some short term savings.

    Unfortunately, the impacts of the pandemic are spread quite unevenly, with some of our auxiliary units being particularly hard hit. Given the serious impacts some of these units face, there may be layoffs or additional workshare programs in a few units.

    Of course, we’re also looking into whether we have to think about base budget cuts, what we can absorb centrally and what we need to ask of our different units. By a month from now, we’ll know a lot more and I will keep you up to date as our analysis solidifies in the days ahead.

    IV. Racial Equity
    We are also seeing a social revolution in this country created by millions of people who have taken to the streets in cities including Madison to demand justice and an end to violence against people of color.

    As one of our faculty members put it:

    “George Floyd’s death was a reminder of how far we haven’t come.”

    As I said in my blog last week, we’re responding as a campus community in many different ways, building upon years of effort by many people on this campus.

    Recruitment and retention:

    The record number of students from underrepresented groups in our freshman class is a great example. This is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people to expand our scholarship dollars and improve recruitment.

    • Over the last 10 years, our need-based grants to students have grown from $36 million to more than $100 million. We have used this money to implement programs like Bucky’s Tuition Promise and Badger Promise, which provides four years of tuition-free school to low-income Wisconsin residents.

    • In the three years since we launched these programs, they have made it possible for nearly 2,800 Wisconsin resident students to pursue their degree here without tuition expenses.

    • But we need to continue to deepen our scholarship pool to attract more low-income students and students of color. That’s why we’ve launched a $10 million fundraising campaign with the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association to create more scholarships – specifically to help recruit diverse students.

    • For the first time ever, we have admissions/recruitment staff “on the ground” in cities outside of Madison, including Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis.

    • And to recruit diverse faculty, I have committed to continuing our Targets of Opportunity Program (TOP) started in 2018. TOP provides dollars from the central campus to help departments go after people from groups that are not well represented in their fields.

    • In the past two years, we have hired 32 new faculty though TOP – ¾ of them are people of color from underrepresented groups. Others add diversity in other ways – most of them are women in science fields that have few women.

    Building community:

    Recruiting is just the start – we have to create a community where diverse people feel at home.

    Part of that is bringing students together through programs like Our Wisconsin to get to know one another and recognize the (often unconscious) biases they may have.

    But we also need to carve out spaces that allow our underrepresented students to be separate from the larger student body. As the new director of our Multicultural Student Center Claudia Guzman put it:

    “I want the center to be a space where you can look around and see people who may have a similar lived experience as your own, and you don’t have to explain that.”

    In addition to the MSC, we now have four cultural centers – for Black, LatinX, Native American, and students of South Asian heritage.

    UWPD:

    Exploring what we need to do is going to involve some difficult and uncomfortable conversations – including talking about campus policing.

    As you might have seen, the calls to defund the police have reached our campus – ASM passed a vote of “no confidence” in the UWPD last week. I don’t find this a particularly constructive action. We need a security force on a campus of more than 65,000 people, and UWPD has been on the forefront of a number of progressive policing changes.

    But all organizations can be better and I was pleased to see the Racial Equity Initiative UWPD launched last spring. It includes – among other things:

    • A full review of departmental policies and practices by a workgroup that includes community members.

    • And an accountability tool for long-term use that will be transparent and easily accessible to the public.

    Research:

    We also have some important new initiatives in our research enterprise:

    • The VCRGE is launching a funding competition to support faculty research that improves our understanding of racial inequities in the U.S.

    • And the provost’s office has created an Exceptional Service Support Program to acknowledge the extra work by faculty members – often from underrepresented groups – who spend time mentoring students beyond what is usually expected. As many as 10 faculty members will recieve a course release each year under this program.

    There are many ways to build trust and create a stronger community here – but there’s only so much we can do centrally. Each department and unit needs to talk about what they need to work on and how to do that. All of us need to be involved in this important work.

    V. Focusing on our core mission

    Through this summer and fall – through COVID, budget problems and racial justice protests – we have stayed focused on our mission. And, in particular, our commitment to undergraduate education.

    The results of the latest National Survey of Student Engagement conducted between February and April, at the beginning of the pandemic,
    show the impact of that commitment:

    • 91 percent of our seniors rated the academic quality of UW–Madison as good or excellent, significantly higher than our peer average of 82 percent.

    • And our students reported higher-quality interactions with faculty, staff, and other students than their peers at other schools.

    In a very difficult year, this is a wonderful reminder that UW really does stand apart – thanks to our excellent faculty and staff.

    VI. Conclusion: Using what we have learned

    We’re in a world that none of us ever thought about or wanted to be in. But this crisis has given us opportunities to try out new ways of doing things and there are some silver linings.

    I hope you will all be thinking about what we can learn from this pandemic. For instance, I hope that our teaching might be different and better, using a broader range of technological tools. Similarly, I hope our operations may be better, with more telework where that is effective, and with more use of virtual meetings rather than travel. I challenge all of you to think about what we will do differently and better as a result of this period of time.

    Let me close as I began – with “thank you.” I know that none of this is easy and I appreciate all that you do for this university. I’ll be happy to take a few questions.

    ]]>
    Working on racial justice, equity and inclusion on campus https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/working-on-racial-justice-equity-and-inclusion-on-campus/ Thu, 01 Oct 2020 12:00:52 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2541 Read More]]> I last wrote to you in July outlining what our university is doing to confront and disrupt racism and other forms of systemic prejudice. This was in the wake of George Floyd’s death which horrified our nation.

    Then, in August, we witnessed the shooting of Jacob Blake of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and again saw the outpouring of millions of voices demanding justice for those who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). Last week, we experienced this once again following the charging decision in the killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

    I have heard from people who are feeling many things  – anger, sadness, frustration, determination or numbness. But it is what we do with our feelings, as we move forward together as a campus community, that will shape and define us. And so today, I want to update you on our work to change our campus community, making it more diverse and more welcoming for everyone.

    Our work in this area is wide ranging and addresses many facets of equity, diversity and social justice. It includes both new initiatives and deeper investment in ongoing efforts. I want to be clear that the programs and initiatives I mention here, while significant, do not represent all the important work being done. It’s been heartening to see the many ways students, faculty and staff across our campus, at all levels, are using this historic moment to recommit to meaningful action.

    Recruitment and Retention

    Recruitment is a key part of our effort to improve the experiences of underrepresented students. This fall we welcomed 989 underrepresented domestic students of color, who identify as African-American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian, or Southeast Asian-American. That means historically underrepresented students make up 13.5% of our incoming class compared to 10.9% last year. This is a welcome step forward that we must continue to build on in future years.

    Our $10 million fundraising initiative, in partnership with the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association is pursuing private funds that will provide us with resources to recruit and retain even more diverse students, faculty and staff, all in an effort to develop a more inclusive campus culture. We’re involved in a number of conversations with individuals who have expressed interest in supporting this initiative and I hope to be able to share good news about our progress later this fall.

    The Target of Opportunity Program (TOP) continues to be a successful effort to hire faculty who will enhance a department’s quality and diversity. To date, the Office of the Provost has approved 70 recruitment proposals from colleges and school around campus, 32 faculty have been hired, and 30 have already started working on campus.  In the upcoming cycle, Target of Opportunity Program funding will also be available to support recruitment of post-doctoral fellowship candidates.   Through TOP and through regular hiring channels, we welcomed 11 new faculty this fall who identify as African American, 11 who identify as Latinx, 36 who identify as Asian/Asian American, 5 who identify as Native American and 2 who identify as multiracial.

    The Exceptional Service Support Program acknowledges the service of faculty members from underrepresented groups who make time above and beyond what is usually expected to advise and support students. We expect as many as 10 faculty members will be awarded a course release each year under this program.

    Identity and Inclusion

    We created the new Office of Inclusion Education in the Division of Student Affairs to centralize and expand student-oriented diversity, inclusion and social justice education and training.

    Our Wisconsin, our flagship inclusion education program, is now required for all first-year and transfer students and is being made available to schools, colleges and other campus units for broader use.

    The Black Cultural Center ran a successful fund raising campaign on social media that led 269 donors to contribute $18,411 to student programming and initiatives.

    The UW–Madison Athletic Department has unveiled its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan. The plan will establish a framework to build a diverse, inclusive culture among student athletes, staff, coaches, administration and campus and community partners. It also will provide programming and support for efforts related to diversity.

    Professional Development and Research

    Registration opened this week for the UW-Madison 2020 Diversity Forum,The Pandemic Effect: Exposing Racism and Inequities,” a virtual event on Oct. 27-28. It will explore contemporary issues in racial equity and social justice, including disparities in health care during COVID-19. The opening day keynote speaker will be Robin DiAngelo, author of the nationally acclaimed “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.” On Day two, the keynote will be presented by Austin Channing Brown, author of “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness.”

    New research funding from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE) will provide $1 million this academic year to support faculty research that helps us understand race in America, including public health impacts of racial, social economic and political inequalities. Lonnie Berger, associate vice chancellor for social sciences, will lead this initiative. More details will be announced this fall and the awards will be made in the spring.

    In September, OVCRGE filled a multicultural initiatives manager position to strengthen graduate student recruitment and retention for all graduate programs. In this reimagined role, the manager will build on the work of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Funding in the Graduate School to expand existing programs and create new initiatives focused on graduate student recruitment and retention.

    Commitment to Campus Community

    We continue to address the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on our students and employees. The Office of Student Financial Aid is asking students experiencing financial difficulty to to contact the office or meet with a financial aid advisor to discuss what emergency options may be available.  Since last March, we have awarded more than $10 million in additional financial aid.

    Among employees, we have put robust health and safety protocols in place in all of our workplaces and have maintained an employee positive test rate of 1% or less for most of September. We have seen no evidence of infections spread inside classrooms or labs, which suggests our health protocols are working effectively.  We continue to offer accommodations, workplace flexibilities and leave options to employees.  

    The UW South Madison Partnership has moved into expanded space at The Village on Park, more than quadrupling the size of this important community resource. Renovation of the office, event and instructional spaces was recently completed and will allow more community members, researchers and students to collaborate on projects, providing new opportunities for community partnerships in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea.

    In June, the UW–Madison Police Department announced a Racial Equity Initiative. A core goal is to ensure that the department demonstrates its commitment to racial justice in policing in ways that are meaningful to members of the community, particularly those from marginalized groups. The plan will: solicit and collect feedback; review departmental policies and practices through a workgroup of external and internal stakeholders; share results of this review with the public; and install a long-term accountability mechanism that is transparent and easily accessible to the public.

    The UW–Madison Public History Project continues its works to uncover and give voice to the histories of discrimination and resistance on campus. History Corps, comprised of graduate and undergraduate student researchers, spent more than 450 hours doing archival research completing 91 oral history interviews with students, faculty, alumni, and administrators. Throughout the next academic year, the project will virtually engage the campus community by participating in class visits, public presentations, and listening sessions.

    The UW–Madison Diversity Inventory, a centralized online database of diversity programs, events, and services on campus, launched a new website to track our campus’s progress toward creating a more inclusive community.  Created following recommendations from the campus-wide Diversity Framework. the Diversity Inventory strives to increase awareness of existing resources, enhance coordination of activities among campus partners, and efficiently collect and report diversity-related data.

    In addition to this work, much of which reaches across campus, every school and college is implementing their own diversity and inclusion initiatives within departments and other units.  I have said many times that changes in the UW culture will only occur when units throughout campus engage with these issues and think about the changes they can initiate.

    I want to thank the many individuals who are championing these efforts. I know there is much more work to do; this past summer has created a willingness and commitment by many on our campus to engage more fully with these issues and we need to take advantage of this opportunity.  The goal is not just to talk about where we are and where we have been (although that is important) but to help imagine and implement changes that make this campus more diverse and welcoming for all.  I look forward to working with you.  Together, we have the power to make meaningful change.

     

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    Update on COVID-19 response https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/update-on-covid-19-response/ Tue, 15 Sep 2020 10:27:32 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2524 Read More]]> To our students, faculty and staff, I want to start by recognizing how frustrating the beginning of this semester has been. This was not how we envisioned the start of the academic year.

    In particular, I want to acknowledge that the numbers of positive COVID-19 tests that we’re seeing on campus have been higher and increased more quickly than we had anticipated at this point in the semester– and gone up faster than among most of our peer schools.

    I understand that people on and off campus are worried and upset about these cases– I am as well. As I said when we recently announced our two-week switch to online instruction, we must bring our daily case totals down and we are taking aggressive action to do that.

    The health of our community remains our largest concern. We said from the start that we would follow the data and take action if COVID-19 posed a threat to our community.

    With the rise in infections, we have taken the following significant additional actions over the last week including:
    • Working with Public Health Madison & Dane County, which quarantined two dozen fraternity and sorority chapters
    • Directing all undergraduate students to limit in-person interactions and curtailed access to spaces where close congregation is most frequent
    • Ordering a two-week shift to virtual learning
    • Imposing strong restrictions on the students in Witte and Sellery, where cases have gone up much faster than in other dorms, in addition to improving food service and support for students
    • Amassing resources to quickly test specific populations at highest risk

    We are almost certainly going to see significant case numbers continue over the coming week. We are testing everybody who is a live-in student at the fraternities and sororities, and everybody in Witte and Sellery. That means we’re identifying people who test positive and moving them into isolation.

    I know not everyone agrees but I believe the decision to open campus this fall remains the right one, for several reasons. In-person instruction is a better way for most students to learn. Our safety protocols for classrooms have worked; to date we have no evidence of any transmission from classroom settings.

    Further, regardless of how we delivered instruction, most of our students had plans to be in Madison this fall. Our reasoning is that it is better for students to have some structure in their schedule with some in-person classes, lots of visible messaging about health protocols, and access to in-person testing.

    Our choice to start with a hybrid semester of in-person and on-line learning is the same choice made by almost all our peer schools. And the health protocols we have put in place on campus seem to be effective, suggesting that we can conduct teaching and research safely. We have no evidence of transmission that has occurred in an on-campus classroom or work setting, and very few employees have been ill.

    From early on, we emphasized the need for extensive testing that would allow us to monitor the virus and act quickly. All along, we have been guided by advice from medical experts and public health professionals here on the UW campus and by extensive data

    We instituted a robust testing plan and by September 14 will have performed nearly 30,000 since mid-August. We’ve been transparent with the data, providing daily updates to the public. We’ve consulted leading experts, including Nasia Safdar, medical director for infection control at UW Health, and Jon Temte, associate dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health, and our staff is in daily communication with local public health officials.

    In the next week, we expect to further expand our testing capacity, by processing our first samples at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab on campus, as well as launching a rapid, LAMP-based surveillance testing partnership with UW researchers Dave O’Connor and Tom Friedrich. These LAMP based tests deliver results in around 30 minutes and can be deployed to areas of concern to quickly identify and isolate those individuals who may be infectious.

    We’re also planning to add more contact tracers to the significant staff we have already. We want to do contact tracing for any students or staff who go to the Alliant Center for their tests, to reduce the burden on county public health staff.

    We’ll continue to watch the data and be guided by advice from medical and public health professionals and make decisions in consultation with UW System and Board of Regents leadership.

    In addition, we’ve watched closely the experiences of other universities across the country and have done our best to gather information that might inform our approach. Specifically, we were aware that off campus conduct would be an issue and deployed staff into student neighborhoods to look for parties and encourage compliance. By our count, this includes multiple staff from Student Affairs and UWPD logging many hours in recent weeks.

    Remember that many UW students live off campus and even those who live in residence halls spend a good portion of their time off campus, where our university protocols and rules are harder to enforce. It’s tremendously difficult to change behaviors, and a small percentage of the population can have a big impact because infection transmission multiplies quickly. That makes a strong partnership with our city and county all the more important.

    There have been and will continue to be serious consequences for those who have violated our standards. The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards is investigating over 300 students for conduct violations related to COVID and reviewing 12 students for emergency suspension. We are taking these violations very seriously and holding students accountable, including removing them from housing and the institution. It is the responsibility of all of our students and employees to act in the best public health interest of our campus and local community.

    This week and next will be critical. We will be looking at the data each day and sharing it with you through our dashboard. I very much hope that by the end of next week, we’ll see a downturn in positive cases.

    I want to close with a statement to our students. Thank you to everyone who has been following our health protocols. I know that this is the majority of you. For those students who have not, I hope that you are learning something from the explosion in infections that we’ve seen. Even if you yourself are largely unaffected by this virus, you can infect others who are at greater risk.

    Badgers care about their community. All of us want to finish this semester with more face-to-face instruction, and a trajectory toward more “normal” operations on campus. That requires attention to health protocols not just on campus but off campus as well. Let’s bend the curve and keep it low.

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    UW in a Semester of COVID https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/uw-in-a-semester-of-covid/ Wed, 26 Aug 2020 16:45:00 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2499 Read More]]>
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  • We’re on the cusp of what is sure to be one of the most unusual fall semesters in our university’s history.

    If you’re a student, I want to take a moment to welcome you back. If you’re an employee, I’d like to thank you for your hard work this summer to help us reach this point. It’s taken extraordinary efforts from all employees – faculty, instructors, staff, and graduate students – to help prepare for our fall semester.

    I recognize that, to some degree, we’re all anxious about the ongoing pandemic and exhausted by the change and uncertainty we’re experiencing. For our university, COVID-19 disrupted our spring semester, our research, teaching and outreach work, and our chance for graduates to celebrate together. It has led to furloughs and a hiring freeze. Despite efforts to shield our lower earning employees from the worst outcomes, this has had an economic ripple effect through families and the wider community. We know that it has deeply and disproportionately impacted our communities of color.

    Amid all these effects, I have been repeatedly asked over the past weeks why we would choose to move ahead this fall with our plans for a hybrid model of instruction using both virtual and in-person modalities. I have heard the feedback from employees and acknowledge the anxiety and uncertainty some are feeling about the start of the semester on September 2. I want to take this opportunity to directly address many of the core questions I’m hearing and provide the latest information we have.

    Q. Why reopen at this point?

    With the support and cooperation of everyone in our community, we continue to believe that we have a plan in place that allows us to safely reopen for partial in-person instruction until the Thanksgiving break. This decision is not a financial one, but a chance to allow for some in-person learning, as well as at least some of the interactions between students (as well as with faculty and staff) that make a UW education so valuable. Having students on campus and providing in-person instruction, where feasible, provides a better set of educational opportunities for students lacking suitable technology or spaces to effectively study at home.

    Our plan was crafted with the participation and input from senior leaders in Schools and Colleges, shared governance leaders and many faculty and staff who participated in different task forces. We continue to hold live events to answer questions and respond to feedback.

    At this stage, roughly 45 percent of classes will have some in-person component to them. If students want a course schedule with classes designed to be entirely remote, almost all have had the opportunity to select these courses.

    In understanding our decision, it is important to recognize that a substantial percentage of students have been living in Madison and/or will be here in the fall whether or not we offer any in-person instruction. Given this, we believe that both they and the community are better off when they have some structure to their days (beyond sitting at home in front of a computer), when testing is broadly available, and when they receive daily reminders of health protocols.

    As noted, we have emphasized to all students that they can stay away from Madison and take remote classes if they have health issues or if this is their preference. The fact that our students are returning to Madison in large numbers indicates their desire to be on and near campus.

    We’ve heard from faculty and staff who have concerns about working on campus because of health or related issues. We’ve made it very clear to supervisors and department chairs that they should make accommodations whenever possible and appropriate so these employees can protect themselves and their families.

    Q. Why do we believe this will be successful when others are changing their plans?

    No plan is risk free in the current environment. There have been and will continue to be COVID-19 cases in Dane County among students, as well as among our broader campus community.

    Many students have been in Madison over the summer, and these students are reflected among the Dane County COVID case and test positivity numbers. Today we’ve launched a campus dashboard reporting COVID-19 test results. Students who we have tested on campus have had a positivity rate of approximately 1.6% in recent weeks, the same as the current seven day average for Dane County overall.

    As students move in this week, we expect to perform about 8,000 tests; going forward we expect to run at least 6,000 tests per week. Let me be blunt about the inevitable effect: This increased testing will identify more positive cases in Dane County, especially initially when students return to campus. This will be particularly noticeable when we do mandatory testing of the approximately 6,500 students arriving at residence halls this week.  But this also means that we are identifying and isolating positive cases before they have a chance to spread.

    We are prepared for up and down movements in positivity rates from week to week as our semester progresses, as we’ve seen in local and statewide tracking of other test positivity rates.

    One component of our testing program is particularly important – surveillance testing of cohorts of both students and staff, and through campus wastewater sampling. This will give us an early indication if underlying infection rates start to increase and will allow us to make targeted interventions to control spread.

    We’re encouraged by our experiences this summer when, as part of our Research Reboot initiative, we have had a number of people already working on campus in labs. The positivity rate among those employees who’ve been tested has been very low (less than 1 percent).

    We have followed all medical and public health guidelines with the protocols we’ve put in place across campus, including mandatory face coverings and physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and changes to physical spaces.

    Finally, I would note that testing options are evolving rapidly. By the middle to late fall, I expect we will be able to scale up our testing substantially, with more and lower-cost tests. The more that we can test our community, the better control we have over infections.

    Q. How will we avoid outbreaks?

    We have a process to promptly move students who test positive from residence halls into isolation. We will also move any fellow residents that were in close contact with them into quarantine.

    Campus has worked throughout the summer to repurpose its own spaces and contract with additional facilities to ensure we have sufficient space to safely accommodate positive cases and close contacts. We can accommodate approximately 1,000 people – about 15 percent of our expected residence hall population – in our isolation and quarantine rooms. Students may also return home if they wish.

    We will also notify and do contact tracing for students testing positive who live off campus; we have so far added 35 new contact tracers at University Health Services and will be hiring more. We’ve been educating off-campus students and their families about the need to have a plan for how they will isolate or quarantine, if needed. We are also working with fraternities and sororities to help those living in chapter houses arrange for their own quarantine and isolation spaces.

    It is important to emphasize that the university is doing the testing and contact tracing required for campus to operate this fall. We will not be putting an added burden on Dane County public health staff and facilities. As our testing and contact tracing come online, we will be substantially expanding Dane County’s overall capacity to trace infections.

    Q. What about off-campus parties?

    It’s natural for students to want to congregate on campus and off here in Madison. We are aware of the role of off-campus parties and large gatherings in spreading the virus at other universities.

    These events are prohibited by public health order in Dane County and should students violate this order, they will be held accountable through university disciplinary action (including suspension for repeat violations) and/or municipal sanctions such as substantial fines. We are providing steady messaging to all of our students about the importance of following the health and safety guidelines and have university staff visiting off-campus students on the weekends to emphasize the importance of face coverings and physical distancing.

    But we believe students want to be in Madison to learn in person and that they will rise to this opportunity. They will be required to participate in campus COVID-19 training and agree to the Badger Pledge, which indicates a commitment to following public health guidelines.

    UW fraternities and sororities have prohibited any social gatherings and events that include alcohol and have pledged that all events will follow county public health guidelines. Again, violations of these guidelines will be sanctioned by both UW-Madison and the City of Madison. At present, Dane County has ordered all bars closed to indoor patrons, including the bars around UW.

    Should you observe a public health concern about an individual student or student groups, you may report these to us centrally through a Public Health COVID-19 Concern Form. We are taking all violations seriously and will be holding students accountable.

    Q. How does Smart Restart pay attention to equity issues?

    Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve attempted to shield our lower wage employees from the financial effects of the pandemic. We have provided paid COVID leave; the furloughs we imposed fell more heavily on higher wage employees; senior leadership has taken even greater salary reductions; and in those areas where almost all work disappeared we arranged a work-share program that allowed employees to work part-time and collect unemployment benefits to cover the lost hours.

    When we turned to virtual learning last March, we made strong efforts to identify and meet the needs of our students for whom this was most problematic. We provided laptops for those who needed them and will do so again this fall. We have made it clear that we will provide financial assistance to those who need this as well – in the past five months we have distributed over $9.8 million in response to student aid requests.

    This fall, I am particularly concerned about our students with food or housing insecurities. These are students who may benefit the most from being on campus, with dedicated space and time to focus on their course work. We know some of these students have felt unable to be at UW-Madison in person because of family obligations.  And we also know that when students drop out for a semester, they are at increased risk of dropping out permanently.

    In response to these concerns, Student Affairs, DDEEA, and the Office of Financial Aid have been reaching out to lower-income students. They are trying to help students assess their needs and are making every effort to contact students who have yet to enroll for courses in the fall. For those who can’t come to campus, we have increased online and virtual advising. For those coming to campus, we have increased onboarding programs for incoming and continuing students.

    I also want to particularly thank the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, which provided a grant to the Center for Educational Opportunity this spring to provide financial support to students with increased financial problems due to the pandemic and the shifts in academic instruction and campus operations.

    Q. What happens if it doesn’t work?

    If our testing and monitoring data indicate a rising level of infection that creates a public health threat, we will take steps to close all or parts of campus, returning to virtual work and instruction as needed. This will need to be done in consultation with UW System Administration, which is monitoring the situation at all campuses in the UW System.

    There is no single criterion that will push us to make a decision about reversing or scaling down our plans. We are monitoring several quantitative and qualitative factors – these include the percentage of people testing positive and capacity in our on-campus isolation and quarantine spaces, as well as broader community measures such as the county’s percentage of people testing positive and the capacity of our health care system. We will also continue to receive advice from infectious disease experts here on campus as they help us monitor what is happening. We have developed a number of contingency plans that allow us to adjust our operations to a fast-moving situation.

    Different universities have made different choices. Most other Big Ten universities are opening this fall. We have been guided throughout our planning process by data, scientific research, and advice from experts. The health protocols we have in place should mitigate the chances of infection transmission on campus. But it is incumbent on our entire community – students and employees – to behave responsibly off campus as well as on campus.

    Nothing is certain about this fall. All of us acknowledge that we may have to move to fully virtual instruction before Thanksgiving. But this disease is not going to quickly go away, and we need to figure out how to live with it until there are more robust medical interventions such as a vaccine.

    It’s been a strange and long six months. I appreciate all the ways in which our campus community has supported each other and kept the important work of the university moving forward. I ask for your continued support and cooperation as we navigate this situation together.

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    Blank, Alvarez statement on Big Ten decision https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/blank-alvarez-statement-on-big-ten-decision/ Tue, 11 Aug 2020 19:18:33 +0000 https://chancellor.wisc.edu/?p=2486 Read More]]> The following statement was jointly released by Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Athletic Director Barry Alvarez following the Big Ten’s decision to postpone its fall season.

    As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. For many students and staff, it has brought anxiety and stress and we are all looking forward to a time when things begin to look and feel more “normal.”

    For many months, we had hoped that the return of fall collegiate sports might be an opportunity to restore some sense of normalcy and provide brighter moments for our university, our city and our state. Even so, today’s decision by the Big Ten to postpone the fall 2020 sports season is the correct one.

    It was made with the input of medical professionals and with the best interests of student-athletes, fans and staff at its core. Athletic Department staff have worked incredibly hard to create as safe an environment as possible for our teams to practice and prepare for the season, but there is simply too much unknown risk for us to proceed with the confidence we need to launch our sports seasons. At the end of the day, the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority. Nothing is more important.

    Sports are simply different from other campus activities. There is no way to preserve physical distancing during competition, and masking can make competition very difficult. There are also a variety of unknowns about the interaction of COVID-19 with extreme physical exertion. As a result, playing the fall season would pose risks that we think are not acceptable for our student-athletes and our athletic staff.

    This is a difficult moment for all of us — student-athletes, coaches, staff, students, fans and local communities — whose lives are intertwined with Badger Athletics in a variety of ways.

    We are all going to miss the excitement of Saturdays at Camp Randall, cheering the volleyball team in the Field House as it was headed toward another run for a National Championship, the excellence of our cross country runners and the memorable experiences that come with men’s and women’s soccer.

    We are particularly heartbroken for the student-athletes and coaches who put so much time and effort into preparing for competition.

    We also recognize that this decision will have a major financial impact on not only our Athletic Department, but the many businesses and members of our community who rely on Badger events to support their livelihoods. These financial issues within Athletics are compounded by the deep financial challenges facing all of campus at this moment.

    Today’s decision affects fall sports only, and we are still hopeful that we can find a path forward so that their seasons can be played in spring 2021. There are many obstacles to overcome for this to happen, but we will begin planning in case that is possible. At this point, no decisions have been made regarding winter sports.

    Despite this postponement, we will continue to provide support and care for our student-athletes. That is central to our Athletic Department mission, and includes continuing their scholarships, academic advising and support, health insurance, and meals. This also includes the safe and successful opening of the fall semester on our campus, so that all students have an opportunity to move forward in their education.

    We recognize how disappointing this news is to our Badger community. We appreciate the continued support and understanding of all those associated with Badger Athletics and the fans who cheer them on and look forward to the day we can safely resume competition in college athletics.

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