Without more complete and more accurate information, how can the Chancellorâ€™s Office make informed decisions about the allocation or reallocation of resources to support the 60 or more campus minority and disadvantaged student programs?
Last weekâ€™s Annual Diversity Forum offered a timely but neglected opportunity for University of Wisconsin Interim Chancellor David Ward and Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Damon Williams to enlighten the campus and the general public about the financial costs of the UWâ€™s M/D programs.
In the interests of transparency, accountability and institutional integrity, they should be pressed to answer the following questions:
1. Why do UWâ€™s reported M/D expenditures continue to omit several important categories of expenditures and costs that, if counted, would increase the resource costs of its M/D programs by 60 percent?
M/D expenditure data for UW exclude several major items, among them employee fringe benefits, several public and privately-funded scholarship and grant programs open only to minority students and compensation costs of senior staff members who spend part of their time supervising M/D programs.
When these omissions are added to UWâ€™s $25 million in reported M/D expenditures during the 2008-09 academic year, the total resource cost of these programs rises to $40 million. Estimating the omitted costs is not that complicated. What is gained by not reporting the full resource costs of M/D programs?
2. What accounts for the large annual gyrations in expenditures for the M/D programs operated by University Housing?
As reported in my May 2, 2012, The Badger Herald Letter to the Editor, â€śInconsistences in diversity housing necessitate audit,â€ť M/D expenditures in University Housing fluctuated wildly between the 2005-06 and 2010-2011 academic years. After holding steady at slightly less than $3.5 million for 2005-06 and 2006-07, its M/D expenditures rose to $8.5 million in 2007-08, only to drop back to $3.5 million in 2008-09. Spending jumped back up to $8.7 million in 2009-10 and then declined to an inconceivably low figure of $6,100 in 2010-11! What accounts for these inexplicable fluctuations in the vice provostâ€™s data? Did somebody miscopy the numbers? Did nobody check the results?
Equally troubling is the reporting of full-time equivalent personnel associated with University Housingâ€™s M/D program. For 2005-06, the FTE count is 2.0, for the next three years it is 1.0 and for the two most recent years, 2009-10 and 2010-2011, it dropped to 0.25. Is there something wrong with the vice provostâ€™s numbers? How could so few staff people effectively manage the large and fluctuating expenditures on University Housing M/D programs?
3. What accounts for the wide differences between the University Housing M/D expenditures reported by Vice Provost Williams and those provided by Paul Evans, director of University Housing?
The data put together by University Housing accountants show annual M/D expenditures of about $300,000 between the 2008-09 and 2010-11 academic years. As I have already pointed out, the vice provost reports expenditures for these same three years of $3.5 million, $8.7 million and then $6,100, respectively. How can there be such wide differences in the reporting of M/D expenditures?
Even if University Housingâ€™s M/D program expenditures are approximately $300,000, can this expenditure level be managed effectively with the assigned 0.25 FTE staff members listed for 2009-10 and 2010-2011?The UW community, Wisconsin taxpayers and private contributors to minority scholarships deserve a more accurate accounting of the resources devoted to M/D student programs. Campus administrators seem unable to discover the omissions and errors detailed here. To preserve institutional integrity, the Board of Regents should immediately order an independent, outside audit of UWâ€™s M/D program expenditures.
W. Lee Hansen ([email protected]) is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Wisconsin.