Chancellor John Wiley spoke about alcohol abuse, construction and tuition Thursday at a meeting of Capital Neighborhoods Inc.
Wiley began the evening with statements on student alcohol abuse, noting that it affects surrounding communities and that all schools have problems with students who abuse alcohol. The problems are often deep-seated psychological issues that are mostly in homesick young men who want to fit in at school, Wiley said. He feels the alcohol abuse issues are so big they dwarf any other drug-abuse issue on campus.
“We know a lot about this problem, but we do not have any solutions at this point,” Wiley said. “Anyone who tells you they have an easy solution has not spent enough time around the problem.”
Wiley also said much of crime around campus and the community is caused by problems with students and alcohol. Wiley said every year there is $150,000 in vandalism damage on campus. He said that right now the university is working with students, taverns, liquor stores, religious groups and the community to try to solve alcohol-related problems.
Wiley then moved on to talk about the much-publicized construction on campus. He said it is a 10- to 15-year plan for the future and that each part of the construction will get extreme attention before anything is finalized.
Wiley said a pedestrian mall between Memorial Union and the Red Gym, extending lengthwise to Regent Street, will kick off the construction. Ogg Residence Hall, University Square and the Peterson Building will most likely to be the first three buildings to be demolished, while the Elvehjem museum will be the first to face expansion and renovation.
“East campus so badly needed so many things,” Wiley said. “One of the most urgent problems is expanding the Elvehjem.”
Once completed, the campus will have a new art building, a new music building, a new history building, new dormitories in the Southeast area, he said, adding that some of the other buildings will be a mix of commercial, residential and university offices all in the same structures.
“Overall, I think it’s a really good idea to initiate these changes on the UW-Madison campus. The campus community is constantly expanding, so doing these renovations will help to keep up with that,” said UW junior Sofia Gaudioso.
Wiley also pointed out that most of the funding is coming from private donations. Such funds, he said, can only be placed within the construction funds and cannot be used for other resources within the university system.
He acknowledged that while it may sometimes seem as though projects are taking over the top spending priorities, this is not the case; the funds are allocated to certain areas. Wiley said people don’t always understand he cannot just move money around within the UW System because the funding is all very specified.
Although she recognizes that donations make up a large portion of these finances, Gaudioso believes that money concerns for students need to stay at the forefront of administrative concerns.
“Tuition has gone up how much? From that, it’s apparent that the UW System is having money problems, something that is really affecting students,” she said. “We need to always keep that notion in mind, no matter how beneficial some initiatives may be.”
Wiley said historic buildings on campus will also face renovations so that they will stay in better shape for longer. The state is going to start working on Bascom Hall, for example, by redoing the pillars after they finish renovating the Capitol, he said.
Wiley said tuition is a very important concern to him. He said the most important issue in society is who should pay for college and how much, noting that the majority of the $100 million spent on campus for financial aid is in the form of loans instead of grants.
“About half of the bachelor’s degrees that graduate have about $18,000 (in) debt,” Wiley said.