Dean’s Update: April 19, 2016

To: L&S Administration, Chairs, Directors, Associate Chairs and Department Administrators

Dear Colleagues,

Since I last wrote to you in March, two major issues have occupied campus. Earlier this month, the Board of Regents voted to approve UW System’s proposed tenure policy. UW-Madison now has tenure policies that are similar to peer public institutions: the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, and the University of North Carolina. Speaking personally, I am disappointed that tenure provisions were removed from state statutes and made part of Regent policy. But, while my crystal ball is far from unerring, I predict that tenure policies here will not stand out as problematic or unusual, relative to other world-class institutions, in the coming decades. If you have not yet read it, I recommend Chancellor Blank’s blog post on the matter.

We have also been confronted with a steady stream of hate, bias, and intolerance on campus that strikes at the ideals we collectively hold dear: to be an institution where all members can reach their fullest potential. We strive to be, in the broadest sense, a diverse university, where all embrace a culture of respect and tolerance. We have fallen short of these aspirations. At our April 18 plenary meeting, Dean of Students Lori Berquam (along with members of the L&S Equity and Diversity Committee) spoke about the impact of hate and bias crimes on our students’ well-being and academic performance. In this meeting, some asked about resources for encouraging tolerance in the classroom, as well as guidelines for what to do if confronted with an instance of hate or bias. I encourage all of you to review the resources available on the campus website for the Office of Equity and Diversity. As administrators, faculty members, and staff, we can and must do better. While I am deeply disappointed with the events this semester, I welcome the sharper focus that campus is bringing to these issues. There is a new sense of urgency. Let us please join together to reaffirm our commitment to support all, with tolerance and respect.

There is good news to share as well. Please remember that Letters & Science remains a remarkable place. Six of the six new WARF professors are from L&S. Nine of 12 UW-Madison distinguished teaching award winners are from L&S. Two of four Hilldale professors are from L&S, as are two of three Sloan Fellowship recipients. Among our students, we have a Gates Cambridge Scholar (one of 35 nationally) and two Goldwater Scholars (2 of 252 nationally). And award season is not yet over!

A new campus web site, working.wisc.edu, should help us do our work more effectively. The site will share HR tips on a wide range of issues, in an effort to improve employee communication across campus. Many people have worked hard to create this site, and all in L&S administration are grateful for their efforts.

Another website, http://badgerbridge.com/, is now live, and is attracting the attention of L&S alumni. I am very excited about this site, which should make it much easier for alumni to connect with current students to offer mentoring, resume reviews, informational interviews and advice for students who might be interested in learning about specific occupations or industries. Our colleagues in the L&S career initiative and career services have been instrumental in creating BadgerBridge, in partnership with the UW Foundation and Alumni Association. Join us as we try to leverage the power of more than 200,000 passionate, successful L&S alumni to create greater opportunity for our students.

Mary Ellen Gabriel is now the Director of Communications in the L&S Office of Advancement (LSOA). Mary Ellen has done wonderful work as a writer in the LSOA and I am thrilled to work with her in her new role. You will continue to see outstanding content on the L&S web site, annual report, and other publications. But you might also see exciting (and needed!) changes to the L&S website sometime, say… this Fall! Exciting things are happening in LSOA.

I am also pleased to welcome Cal Bergman as the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs in L&S. This is a critical, complex position as SAA serves as the lead for the College’s administrative interactions with our more than 14,000 undergraduates. SAA provides Dean’s services, advising (of course, a great deal of advising also happens in our departments), houses the Center for Academic Excellence, undergraduate research scholars, the student scholarships office, and academic information management. Cal brings fantastic experience as the former Associate Director of Residence Life for University Housing, as well as a deep and knowledgeable commitment to students and their success. Please join me in welcoming Cal.

In closing, please look carefully at the Wisconsin State Journal on Mother’s Day, May 8! There you will find the second annual Letters & Science “Fueling Discovery” special section. Prominent corporate and non-profit sponsors help make the undertaking possible. In this section, you will meet 21 of our colleagues, writing in first-person about their research or issues that animate their professional lives. This year’s section will be wonderful. If you like it at least half as much as I do, please help us spread the word! All the content will be on the web, where you can send it to your friends, pass it along to political leaders, policy makers, and newspapers and radio stations around the state. What happens at UW-Madison should not be a secret. Help us tell our story!

Thank you for all you do. I will write again around graduation. Until then, very best wishes wrapping up the academic year. On, Wisconsin!

John Karl Scholz
Dean and Professor of Economics
College of Letters & Science