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Friday, April 8, 2005

"Good News" Remarks to the Board of Regents Meeting

Kevin P. Reilly, President

University of Wisconsin System

Thank you, President Marcovich. Good morning, everyone.

Yesterday we began by meeting some of the most talented students in the UW System during "Posters in the Rotunda: A Celebration of Undergraduate Research." Today, I'm pleased that we are able to recognize some of our colleagues whose work enhances learning and life on our campuses for all students.

This Board presents its Academic Staff Awards for Excellence each year, and in doing so, we all learn inspiring stories of commitment that we might not otherwise have the chance to hear. It's quite clear from the tributes in the nominations for this award that academic staff are truly indispensable to the successful operation and continuous improvement of this university.

The UW System's academic staff members are at the heart of so much of what makes this a truly world-class university system. These employees provide student services, like admissions, libraries, and financial aid. They are scientists, advisors and technology professionals. And importantly, as you'll hear today, we depend on academic staff to communicate the importance and value of this university, and to ensure all members of our university communities have the support they need to develop their human potential to the fullest.

With that, I'd like to turn this over to Regent Smith. Brent.

Thank you. Congratulations again, Carole and Beth.

Despite our best efforts to keep madness around here to a minimum, I was certainly glad to have experienced so much March Madness last month. All of Wisconsin showed its pride in cheering on the UW-Madison Badgers and the UW-Milwaukee Panthers to outstanding performances in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. For the Panthers, their tournament appearance was only the second in the 107-year history of the basketball program, and a great one it was; and the Badgers, of course, moved on to earn a spot in the Elite Eight.

But to the victors go the spoils! Please join me in welcoming some very special guests - our very own National Champions - the UW-Stevens Point Men's Basketball team.  Can I have the team members, Coach Bennett, and related sidekicks stand for a round of applause!

The Pointers sailed through the NCAA Division III tournament to win the national title - for the second year in a row! Their win made Stevens Point the third school ever to win back-to-back titles, and the first since UW-Platteville in 1998 and 1999.

The team members with us today helped the Pointers rank second in the nation in defense, and win the WIAC regular season championship for the fifth time in six years. The team was ranked number one in the nation nearly the entire season.

Joining us today are:

  • Eric Maus, one of the best defensive players in NCAA Division III basketball over the past four years, and a nominee for the WIAC scholar-athlete award;
  • Tamaris Relerford, an outstanding defensive player with a knack for big three-pointers in key situations;
  • Nick Bennett, a first-team All-American guard who finished third in school history in career points, and set school records for career and single-season three-pointers;
  • Jason Kalsow, this season's NCAA Division III national Player of the Year, Final Four MVP, and a two-time All-American;
  • Kyle Grusczynski, a key defensive player and one of the squad's top outside shooters;
  • Jim Strick, who supports all 20 of Stevens Point's sports as Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations; and
  • Jack Bennett, the all-time winningest coach in UW-Stevens Point history. Coach Bennett won his 200th career game in this year's national championship game. He has led the Pointers to two national titles, five conference championships, and five NCAA tournament appearances.

We've invited Jack to say a few words on behalf of the team. Coach Bennett.

Thanks, Jack. We're honored that you were all able to make the trip to celebrate your win with us today.

Kudos are also due to the UW-Green Bay women's basketball team which won its 4th consecutive Horizon League women's basketball championship, and played in the women's NCAA Field of 64 national championship.

Congratulations to these outstanding student-athletes and their coaches.

As you learned yesterday during your visits with Legislators at the Capitol, the state's negotiations on the university's budget continue. We appreciate your making these visits, and hope that you will continue to send these positive messages about the university and its enormous benefit to Wisconsin. While you're at it, I do hope you'll keep reminding our legislators about the cuts we have made and the efficiencies we're generating. We have made progress, and we will continue to make it. Now is the time for reinvestment in that progress.

Let me turn briefly to Executive Vice President Mash and Regent Pruitt for an update on their presentation to the Joint Committee on Finance two weeks ago during the UW System agency briefing. . Chuck.

Thank you. We'll continue to advocate for reinvestment as the budget deliberations continue. I certainly hope that when the Governor signs the "final" version of the budget, we will have gained some ground.

We're learning more about how the university might be affected by the federal budget as well. U.S. Representative Ron Kind, whose district includes six of our campuses, held listening sessions with students, faculty' and staff at UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse' and UW-Stout last week. Thanks to Chancellors Sorensen, Hastad, and Lord-Larson, and their staffs, for hosting these informative events.

The listening sessions were a chance for these campuses to share with Representative Kind some background about the importance of federal financial aid to UW campuses. Federal aid affects each campus to a different extent, but, for example, nearly a quarter of UW-Stout students received Pell Grants last year.

This Board has discussed current federal proposals that would reduce, and in some cases, eliminate, aid to students in the form of Pell Grants and Federal Perkins Loans. Representative Kind said he was concerned about the impacts possible reductions in these programs would have on potential students from low-income families. He also talked about the dwindling "buying power" for a college education, and mentioned that as a student, he had to rely on grants and loans.

Many thanks to Representative Kind for visiting our campuses to hear directly from faculty, administrators and students. He also plans to be at UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls during the next two weeks. We appreciate his leadership and attention to our needs and concerns.  We again urge all of our Congressional delegation to pay attention to the dire effects of the proposed cuts in the UW's ability to attract and retain many students of color, and economically disadvantaged students generally. 

Last month you asked us to report back to you on your biennial budget request to "hold harmless" from tuition increases those students whose family incomes were in the lowest two quintiles compared to the Governor's proposal to increase financial aid (via WHEG) by $47 million over the biennium.

While the analysis is going to take us a little longer, there is some 2003-2004 data that I'd like to share: 

  • There are approximately 29,000 resident undergraduates in the two lowest-income quintiles.
  • There are approximately 22,800 WHEG recipients (all resident undergraduates).
  • Approximately 20,250 (89 percent) of WHEG recipients are from the two lowest-income quintiles.
  • Approximately 2,550 students with incomes higher than the two lowest-income quintiles received WHEG support because their family's total financial situation such as multiple children in college resulted in a low expected family contribution and therefore little, if any, ability to pay for college as determined by the federal needs analysis.
  • Approximately 8,750 students with family incomes in the two lowest income quintiles did not receive WHEG support because their family's total financial assets resulted in an EFC that was too high to qualify for the grant.

As I said, we will be analyzing these data and more and will report back to the Board soon. At this time, it appears that if undergraduate resident tuition increases by at least 7 percent, there will be about a $6 million gap between the Governor's proposal and our "hold harmless" recommendation.

To close today, let's recognize that just as there is life beyond the next big game, there is also life beyond the budget.

  • Very good news from both of our public broadcasting outlets. Wisconsin Public Television, has, for the second consecutive year, won a national Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism in honor of its compelling and informative election coverage. And, it was announced just yesterday that Wisconsin Public Radio has won a Peabody Award for "To the Best of Our Knowledge," a weekly broadcast magazine about politics and social trends that airs on 130 stations nationwide. These awards are both very prestigious, and speak to the top quality programming of both Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. Congratulations to our colleagues at the Educational Communications Board, and Interim Chancellor Van Kekerix and his colleagues at UW-Extension, for these honors.
  • Now I'm very pleased to announce the addition of a new member of the UW System team, whose extraordinary experience and proven leadership will help us strengthen our commitment to diversity across the system. Vicki Washington, director of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Programs at UW-Extension, will be joining the UW System this summer as interim Assistant Vice President for the Office of Academic Diversity and Development. Vicki has been with Extension since 1990, and she has led thriving programs related to affirmative action, Plan 2008, recruitment advising, Title IX general outreach, and civil rights.

    In her system role working with Senior Vice President Marrett, Vicki will oversee all of our diversity programming, including development of a diversity scorecard and a climate study under Plan 2008, as well as Women's Issues and the Inclusivity Initiative. We'll be relying heavily on Vicki to help us determine the best ways for the UW System to better serve our campuses in their diversity efforts, and exactly what our long-term role should be. That's a tall order, but knowing Vicki as I do, having worked with her for years at UW-Extension, I assure you that she is more than up to the task.

    Ms. Washington is joining us at a critical time for our diversity efforts, and I know her experience and commitment to the cause will serve the system well. Welcome, Vicki.
  • Finally, don't forget - next week is UW Spirit Week! I'll be joining many of our alumni and campus mascots on Wednesday at the State Capitol as Governor Doyle signs a proclamation in honor of the week. Many of our campuses will be holding local events as well. For example, UW-Platteville will celebrate Spirit Day with an Open House and Ribbon Cutting at the renovated and recently opened Ullrich Hall, and UW-Oshkosh will host a reception for the more than 200 UW-O alumni who work at their alma mater. I know many of those in attendance at local events like these will be wearing their campus colors with pride, and I encourage you all to do the same in your communities.

President Marcovich, that concludes my report.