I had the opportunity to speak to a number of state officials in the last week to emphasize the importance of some items in Gov. Evers’ 2019-21 state budget.
Speaking to the Joint Finance Committee
On Monday, April 15, Provost Patrick Guilfoile and I testified before the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee during its hearing at UW-River Falls. We split up the issues to ensure that our major points would be addressed.
I spoke to the committee about the importance of the capacity building initiative developed by the UW System Board of Regents and supported by Gov. Evers. The initiative would add faculty in computer science, computer networking and applied mathematics; expand our engineering programs; and allow our Career Services Office to create more internship and co-op experiences.
I also asked them to support the $35 million proposal to renovate our South Hall residence hall, which was the first residence hall I called home at UW-Stout in 1975! The project is in Gov. Evers’ 2019-21 capital budget, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that it receives Joint Finance Committee and full Legislature support.
Provost Guilfoile then spoke eloquently about the need to pass Gov. Evers’ proposed pay package, which would give our employees 2 percent increases on Jan. 1, 2020, and on Jan. 1, 2021. Patrick pointed out that because we are so close to the Minnesota border, it is easy for institutions there to try to recruit our faculty and staff because of the disparity in salary levels.
Also, Patrick said, our faculty and staff often work in fields that are in high demand both in academia and in business and industry, which makes attracting and retaining quality employees that much harder.
Besides approving the pay package, Patrick said, it is important for the Legislature to provide full funding for it. In the past we have paid for 30 percent of that package, essentially through tuition increases. But the freeze on tuition means that source of funding is not available, so it is important that any pay package is fully funded by the state.
Hosting Gov. Evers on campus
Then on Tuesday, Gov. Evers made his first visit to campus as governor to promote the South Hall project. Patrick and I spoke at a news conference, as well as Vice Chancellor Lyons and, of course, the governor.
But I think the star of the show was Hannah Bragelman, outgoing president of the Stout Student Association and one of the finest student leaders I have ever worked with. Hannah emphasized that the South Hall project is in keeping with the devotion that UW-Stout students have to sustainability because renovating a facility is much easier on the environment than razing the building and constructing a new residence hall.
Plus, Hannah said, a renovation of South Hall would help keep students’ housing fees as low as possible. Hannah also did a great job in advocating for the governor’s 2-plus-2 pay package, saying salary levels in the UW System are not competitive with our peers.
I was happy to help give Gov. Evers and his staff a tour of South Hall, where he got to see firsthand just how badly the hall needs to be updated. It was clear that little had been done to the building since I lived there in the 1970s. Gov. Evers said he really enjoyed his visit and promised to make a return trip soon.
Joining student researchers in the Capitol Rotunda
Finally, I was happy to join Provost Guilfoile in Madison to visit various legislative offices as part of the annual UW System Research in the Rotunda Day. We brought a remarkable group of students to the Capitol to display their research, and we enjoyed hearing about their projects. A news release on those project is available here.
We also had a chance to sit with a number of legislators to discuss our 2019-21 state budget priorities and fill them in on recent developments at UW-Stout, including our recent announcement of the 98.7 percent employment rate for 2017-18 graduates.
We will continue to do whatever we can to ensure our budget priorities are included in the 2019-21 state budget that passes the Legislature and is signed by the governor.
Chancellor search process officially starts Wednesday
Wednesday is the official start of the search process to select the eighth chancellor of UW-Stout. The search and screen committee established to recruit the next chancellor will meet on campus Wednesday. A list of committee members is available here.
As most people know, I have announced that I am retiring as of Aug. 18. Provost Guilfoile will serve as interim chancellor until the next chancellor takes office next year.
A number of listening sessions will be held Wednesday to help the committee write the chancellor prospectus, which is a job announcement that contains additional information about the university and community. It is important that the committee and the search firm helping the committee hear from a diverse group of campus members in putting that prospectus together.
Details on the listening sessions are available here. Please try to make at least one of these sessions to ensure your voice is heard.