Chancellor Thomas K. Harden shared an update on University-related news and a variety of topics in his remarks at the mid-year convocation of UW-Green Bay faculty and staff on Jan. 23.
Harden opened by expressing his gratitude for the job UW-Green Bay employees have done in serving the University’s students and the larger community. He commented on the recognition earlier in the program for long-serving and distinguished faculty and staff.
“I always appreciate these opportunities to celebrate all that you do for this University,” he said. “I am moved to think of all the lives we have touched.”
Harden then offered updates on:
• The State Budget — The Chancellor said he remains hopeful that the next two-year spending plan, for 2013-15, could be an improvement on previous budgets for the UW System. He cited positive meetings with Green Bay area legislators. He cautioned, however, that it’s too soon to know for certain, and observed that Gov. Scott Walker has so far shared little about specific, agency-by-agency budget proposals in advance of his Feb. 20 budget address.
• Compensation — “I want to reiterate: Compensation is my top priority and the UW System’s top priority,” Harden said. He commented on the recent Gannett salary database project, telling faculty and staff that while he questioned the need to list individual names and salaries in the media, the exercise had the benefit of exposing the truth about low UW System salaries. He described progress on UW-Green Bay’s comprehensive compensation study to better define pay gaps and prioritize processes for addressing them. That study, he said, will not magically produce money for market-based adjustments, but it will guide how the University applies future resources made available by the State or by internal reallocation.
• HRS payments — The Chancellor assured UW-Green Bay faculty and staff that the institution’s Human Resources Office has processed, and will continue to process, all employee accounts in an appropriate fashion. The UW System came under fire recently when a state audit revealed $33 million in overpayments to outside health insurance providers and to the ETF. Harden said preliminary investigation indicates that the failure to reconcile properly came in the aggregate, at the System level, and individuals and individual campuses were not the source of the discrepancy.
• Medical College of Wisconsin campus — The Chancellor described UW-Green Bay’s prominent role in 2012 in helping land an MCW satellite campus for Brown County. That collaboration — with community leaders, elected officials, local hospitals and healthcare providers, along with Bellin College, St. Norbert College and NWTC — led to Green Bay’s selection ahead of other competing communities. MCW later announced it would locate on the SNC campus. Harden said that while UW-Green Bay was considered as a possible host site, the bid was a relative long shot given factors related to being a state-owned institution. Still, the MCW move is a positive. “We didn’t work so hard to get them to Green Bay because we thought they had to physically be on this campus,” Harden said. UW-Green Bay supported the initiative because its students are going to have more opportunities, its graduates will be able to enroll in medical school without leaving the community, and UW-Green Bay faculty with various specialties will have the chance to staff occasional ad-hoc courses for MCW.
• Branding — Early response to UW-Green Bay’s new “360° of Learning” brand and broadcast spots have been very positive, Harden told his audience. After more than 40 years, the University is making what could prove to be its best and most concise case for the value of problem-focused interdisciplinary learning. Branding is key in supporting enrollment as the number of traditional-age prospective freshmen continues to slide, Harden said. UW-Green Bay will continue to pursue relatively stable enrollment with consistent but modest growth. Any loss of enrollment has serious financial implications, Harden said, citing a calculation that a reduction of just 120 students translates to an annual loss of $1 million from various revenue sources.
• Change — UW-Green Bay is not alone in facing sobering choices about its future, Harden said. All of higher education is being buffeted by new demands, new competition, new realities. The Chancellor shared that he has been reading and talking extensively about the state of American higher education — a subject too complex to cover in a short address — but it is clear that our looming tough decisions “are going to be tougher than at any time in our history… going right to the heart of what we value, what we fund.” That said, he expressed confidence that UW-Green Bay is well positioned to emerge successful.
Harden closed by reminding the University’s faculty and staff of their shared accomplishments. He held up a copy of the “Spectacular 2012” newspaper ad placed on the University’s behalf by the UW-Green Bay Foundation, Inc. Copies were also distributed to all who attended. The ad references a sampling of nearly 20 major highlights from the last calendar year.
“You should be proud of the work you do,” Harden told the employees. “I know I am.”