Office of the President

In Print

In Print

An Op-Ed by UW System President Kevin P. Reilly

Aug. 30, 2005

The people of Wisconsin deserve to have absolute confidence in how their public university system teaches students, performs outreach and research, and conducts its day-to-day business.

When I became president of the University of Wisconsin System last September, I pledged that the UW System would be open and transparent in all that it does. This includes sharing information about the policies and practices that allow the UW System to attract the best and brightest teachers, researchers, and other staff to serve our students and communities.

The Board of Regents and I are taking a hard look at the rules and market factors that govern terms of employment for university faculty and staff. This includes information about the UW’s national competitive position, so-called "back-up" appointments, and how our institutions implement these policies.

Our study continues to be thorough and deliberative, and we are preparing to implement constructive changes for the future. I will see to it that our policies match our principles.

Recently, as a complement to our internal review, I asked the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee to authorize an audit of the university’s employment policies and practices. I welcome a review by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau to help answer additional questions raised by legislators, media and citizens, and at the same time, offer a valuable, independent perspective on our reform efforts.

The personnel structure necessary for public colleges and universities is complex, and in some ways, very different from common practice in the private sector. At its core, I have found ours to be a fundamentally sound system. Our internal reforms and the independent audit I have requested will only strengthen how we attract top-quality employees, address personnel problems, and respect the rights of those who work in public university service. I appreciate that the committee co-chairs have agreed to begin an audit, and I am committed to working closely with them to renew the public’s trust in the UW System.

The positive impact this university makes in the lives of students and citizens has been overshadowed in recent months by transgressions and allegations related to a very few UW employees. Now, I hope due attention is also given to the remarkable contributions of our more than 30,000 hard-working university employees. Wisconsin must return its focus to the real work of this university.

The job of the UW System is to provide quality education and broad access to students of all backgrounds. Our institutions work with local business and industry to build Wisconsin’s workforce and to improve the quality of life in local communities. The UW System is responsible for some of the world’s most ground-breaking discoveries, and our researchers are making scientific advances every day.

To Wisconsin’s elected representatives: I thank you for your continued interest in the success of the state’s public university system. During and following these reviews, I look forward to working with you and your constituents to meet the needs of our students and the state.

To all taxpayers of this state: I want you to know that you have my full respect and gratitude. Without you, this public university would not have the basic funding it needs to educate Wisconsin’s children and grandchildren. I thank you for your continued support, and I pledge to do what it takes to rekindle your trust.

Our faculty, staff and academic leaders hold dear the UW System’s core missions to educate students and serve Wisconsin communities. As our campuses come alive at the start of this new academic year, I hope all citizens will join me in wishing our students and campus communities a safe, healthy, and invigorating new beginning.

—Kevin P. Reilly is president of the University of Wisconsin System.