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Day four: Idea roll call

As in the three previous sessions, participants fanned out in small groups across the Plenary Room at Grainger Hall to focus on ideas of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness at UW-Madison.

Here are some of their ideas:

  • Do a better job of monitoring heating and cooling in university buildings, so that they aren’t too hot or too cool – saving energy and money.
  • Textbooks should be rented to students, helping to save them money on the cost of education.
  • Set up a resource center on campus to answer research-related questions that can’t be addressed in schools or departments, to help connect researchers and others on campus.
  • Continue with efforts like Administrative Process Redesign (APR) to help make our work more efficient and fix broken administrative processes.
  • Rent any excess space in university buildings to community groups.
  • Make strides to recruit and retain the best graduate students, and value their role on a research campus.
  • Use more technology to teach courses, especially large lecture classes, by offering more courses online or with an online component.
  • Study and work to eliminate redundancies among UW System schools.
  • Find ways to control segregated fees, to help make a university education more affordable.
  • Send tuition bills via email, to cut postage and printing costs.
  • As the campus grows and adds new buildings, make sure there is more common space developed to encourage interaction.
  • Find new opportunities in the new GI Bill and make this a welcoming campus for veterans.
  • Explore areas in which courses could be consolidated.
  • Employ new energy-saving technologies to save on utility costs and reduce the university’s environmental footprint.
  • Especially for students, use more organic and locally grown produce and set up portion sizes and prices that enable students to choose small, medium or large portions.
  • Create incentives for collaborations to take place on campus.
  • Reduce students’ time to degree, and resist an upward creep in credits needed to graduate in certain majors.
  • Establish an entrepreneurial resource center on campus to harness the entrepreneurial energy here.

15 responses to “Day four: Idea roll call”

  1. Encourage early retirement. The Five-plus retirement plan of the University of California in 1991 offered 5 years of service plus 3 months salary.It was accepted by 636 Professors. It saved money, rejuvenated and diversified faculty, and re-organized Departments. More information at:

    Joseph Buongiorno
  2. Saturday January 24th, 2009

    Did you all hear about the march and rally that went on today in library mall? There was a group of students that marched to the capital and then back to humanities to have the rally section of their event. They had speakers and performers from both the campus and the community and it was truly beautiful to see the diversity of the people that came out to support. These students were demanding four things. The name of the event was HOLDING CHANGE ACCOUNTABLE. They were looking to voice their concerns to Chancellor Biddy Martin and President Barack Obama. This was a peaceful demonstration and their coalition was formed on the uniting factor that we as the people, the students, the faculty, the democracy need to hold our elected officials accountable. They promise hope, change, and inspire us to believe…but if they do not hold their word they are more harmful than helpful. The four demands were:
    1. Lower tuition and increase grant aid.
    2. More green jobs and pass the employee free choice act.
    3. More successful recruitment and retention of students and faculty of color.
    4. Pass the DREAM Act.
    The march and rally was broadcast on two t.v networks this evening at 6 pm. ABC and CBS. They are promising to continue this alliance and coalition…they have named themselves the Progressive Student Alliance. PSA.

  3. I didn’t make it to the most recent forum, but I am wondering why, with the need to control costs, etc., the University in the last five years or so, built a brand new facility at 21 S. Park Street that was billed as the replacement for the A.W. Petersen building, and was meant to house all of the necessary student business offices (Registrar, Bursar, Payroll/HR, and so on), and then turns around and leases space in the U Square towers for those same offices that 21 S. Park had been purpose-built for, thereby leaving the better part of three floors of that building empty. First off, what is the reasoning behind this move? Secondly, how does this save money and energy? Thirdly, what will the now-empty space be used for, or will it become a “revolving-door” set of office spaces, for different departments to bounce in and out of at will, along with the attendant renovation costs for each new tenant in the space? It simply doesn’t make any sense, nor does it save cents.

  4. University Communications asked staff from Facilities Planning and Management to respond to the points made in this post. The response was prepared by Doug Rose, UW-Madison’s director of space management.

    “The building at 21 N. Park Street was created to consolidate the university business and administrative units and to allow the A.W. Peterson building to be removed for the site of the Chazen Museum expansion. The Registrar and Bursar Offices were only temporarily relocated to 21 N. Park Street so the Chazen project could proceed. The part of the seventh floor at 21 N. Park Street recently vacated will soon be occupied by, and provide a consolidated location for, the Division of Continuing Studies from the Middleton Building and the Lowell Center.

    The plan for the university portion of University Square (i.e. 333 East Campus Mall) was to consolidate student service units (University Health Services, Registrar, Bursar, and Student Financial Aids). This university tower was funded as a major capital project approved in the state’s 2005-07 capital budget. The space is owned by the state.”

    University Communications
  5. Don’t mail out current employee W2′s unless someone specifically asks for it. It is out on My UW, let employees print them as needed. Many people file taxes on line now and require a PDF not paper to submit. Save paper, mailing & processing costs.

    Look for other ways we could reduce bulk mailings and go to e-mail or My UW. (ie. Your choice benefit book is on line, don’t mail the booklet)

  6. - Recognize the value our graduate students provide to the research enterprise and compentsate them accordingly. Many of our best graduate students earn less than $20,000 per year.

    - Look for opportunties to become less department centric and encourage collaboration on shared activities like graduate student recruitment. Consider setting aside funds specifically for shared / collaborative ventures that have documented positive outcomes.

  7. Please work to ensure that enough staff are available to support infrasture, as we see long waits to get work done on campus. This includes both staff needs at FP&M, DoIt, Housing, and other service units.

    Marilyn McDole
  8. I wanted to attend but was teaching an evening MBA class. Two random thoughts:

    1. On increasing donations: People give to specific tangible causes. This is especially the case when they can feel some sense of direct responsibility for a donation outcome. Put differently, people will sponsor a specific child in Africa but will not donate to general African poverty. Despite this general well know finding my three Alma Maters all send me requests for donations that are either completely general or are for a specific cause (such as a new building) that is so large that I will never feel any responsibility for it, or connection to it, should I donate. Yes, they basically ask me to donate to poverty in Academia and I find myself choosing not to do so on an annual basis. Meanwhile, while relentlessly denying these schools any money, my wife and I are actually busy donating to all manner of specific projects. We built a local school a new garden, bought a hive of bees for a Polish town where relatives came from, and bought a local school class cameras for a nature trip. It’s not that I don’t think the schools I attended are unworthy, they just don’t give me reasons I can get excited about.

    It seems to be an effective annual donation request letter would give as examples a handful of specific projects donations of various amounts could fund. Maybe A new computer in the Business school computer lab is $1800, seeds to grow 10 rare plants in the agricultural school might only be $140, while a new cutting edge piece of science equipment is $47,000. Said letter would direct donors to a website where 100′s more specific tangible campus causes would await funding. A little subsequent feedback (pictures of your funded plants growing, equipment installed) and next year repeat donation rates might surprise a few people.

    Bottom Line: Unless UW is already ahead of the curve here, my guess is that that annual letter to alums for financial help could be a lot more persuasive.

    2. (This one is really random!)On Competing State Funds that are lost to education. Clearly we cannot control or directly influence State incarceration policy. That said, lobbyists sometimes have a useful role and lobbyists with a compelling story can occasionally move mountains. I am sure arguments have raged about why a disproportionate amount of money is spent in WI on incarceration, and I am sure people have lobbied to change things to no avail. None of this is to say that change is not possible. Within the walls of academia a lot is known about how to craft highly persuasive massages, and I have to wonder if a lobbyist suitably equipped might not pay for herself many times over. Maybe we already have a team of lobbyists doing this amazingly effectively, but if not, I wonder if we should. Just because its not our job does not mean we cannot influence how it is done…..

    Rob Tanner
  9. Regarding saving on utility costs, I’ve noticed that many older buildings around campus could use some basic energy efficiency enhancements, such as better seals around windows, storm windows that need to be re-set, programmable thermostats, coffee makers with automatic shut-offs… these are just a few items off the top of my head. Some research on which ones would be the most cost-effective and implementing those priority ones would be great. Possibly designating someone to do an energy audit (or does MG&E provide free energy audits?) would be a first step.

    Melissa Whited
  10. My comment is in response to this point on the list: “Reduce students’ time to degree, and resist an upward creep in credits needed to graduate in certain majors.”

    A degree is only as good as the learning that led to it. Reducing college attendance and courses just fosters a “hurry up and get it done” perspective on education. Too many people leave college with a degree and little preparation for professional work (this is both content knowledge and application); reducing academic work would only exacerbate this problem. As the requirements of many occupations increase, so too does the preparation needed to thrive as a college-educated professional.

    Rather than reduce requirements, academic departments could work toward ensuring that all required coursework does indeed contribute to a students’ competence and readiness for professional careers, and that teachers address the actual educational needs of the students.

  11. Standardize on software such as OpenOffice and/or NeoOffice instead of Microsoft Office.

    Turn off computers at night at a set time or after a set time of inactivity unless they are recording research data or are acting as servers.

    Have profit centers, such as the clinical departments in the Medical School or portions of the Athletic Department, share more of their profits with the rest of the University.

  12. To comment on the very last suggestion regarding a student entrepreneurship resource center, the Student Business Incubator has just opened in conjunction with the Student Activity Center inside the new University Square building.

    Students with a business idea can apply for free office workspace for one year, and a variety of entrepreneurial resources and workshops are available to the tenants and other interested students. For more information check out the application criteria at the website,

    This serves as an example of a situation where there is a great resource already in existence that not many people know about. A lot of costs and difficulties students deal with could be reduced by increasing student awareness of the resources that are available.

    While all of the information is out there and searchable on, organizing the information into a one-stop feature such as a comprehensive online database of campus resources might help provide solutions to members of the campus community while expediting innovation and learning by reducing the time spent locating resources. Automatic update emails could prompt students to review any additions to the database, and new students could be made aware of its presence during SOAR.

    Simply knowing about a resource could reduce the costs of attending for students. It is pretty hard to take advantage of free or discounted resources if one does not know that they exist.

    Streamlining information in this way could help alleviate the underlying issue of perceived obstacles. As a student, it can be fairly intimidating to pursue an idea regardless of how good may be because it is difficult to know what has been done and what is possible. A resource or a system that functions to help eliminate that uncertainty would create a culture that more readily enables creative solutions to the University’s challenges, economic or otherwise.

    As an aside, an incentive program could be created that challenges student organizations to find cost-cutting solutions. If a student group manages to find a solution that reduces costs for the University, that student group could be rewarded by receiving a small percentage of the University’s realized savings for its own initiatives. It would be a way to help finance student groups with valuable goals while also addressing the budgetary issues the University faces without spending new money.

    Mike Sakowski
  13. This is a comment in response to the “Reduce students’ time to degree” item suggested.

    Although I understand the need for a well-rounded education, I believe that each department should re-evaluate the necessity of certain required courses. Students’ time and effort should be devoted to gaining marketable skills in their chosen area of study, not taking an irrelevant classes that somehow found its way into their curriculum.

  14. First idea: Giving up pay raises and agreeing to employee furloughs would do a lot to preserve jobs and programs at UW-Madison and throughout the System. Furloughs are democratic, temporary, and they can be implemented quickly and efficiently. Because lower paid employees are often living paycheck-to-paycheck, they should take the smallest hit, while the highest paid should take the most furlough days.

    When you compare the work time lost to furloughs to the amount of time currently being spent on discussing how to cut the budget, you would probably come out ahead with furloughs. And professional staff will continue to do the work that needs to be done, despite having to take mandatory “days off.”

    Second idea: Stop tearing down and putting up buildings. If the hemorraghing of faculty positions is not staunched we will have a lot of empty new buildings, with no one to teach in them. And why replicate the same mistakes of the 1970s: putting up badly designed, poorly built buildings that we now have to tear down because they were built by the lowest bidder? Just ask maintenance staff which buildings need the most work; it is generally the new ones. It’s time to turn John Wiley’s building-binge supertanker around. The argument that “the money for buildings comes from a different source” just doesn’t hold up in this economic climate.

  15. Encourage more telecommuting for staff, when possible. It saves gas, cuts down on traffic, and alleviates parking pressures. I commute 40 miles every day, and can accomplish virtually anything at home that I can at work. And it means an hour less time spent driving. Of course, not everyone can do this, but when possible, encouraging telecommuting, say, once a week, would seem to make a lot of sense.