University of Wisconsin chancellor candidate Rebecca Blank named private fundraising as the top priority for the next person who replaces outgoing leader John Wiley.
With the decline of state funding, Blank, the former dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Business at the University of Michigan, said at a student forum Thursday afternoon in the Red Gym the chancellor has to spend a “majority” of their time raising funds from private donors.
Blank emphasized the importance of keeping alumni involved with the university.
“One thing alumni are often willing to do is think about scholarships for undergraduate aid,” she said.
Blank also said UW’s tuition rates are “too low” compared to its peer institutions, adding it is at the bottom of the Big Ten conference. She added, however, increased aid has to accompany increased tuition so students from lower income families do not feel the pressure of higher tuition.
According to Blank, her background in economics, having served in the past as a high ranking advisor to President Bill Clinton, would help her when dealing with state politicians regarding university issues, saying a chancellor has to avoid partisanship.
“Political parties shouldn’t measure into it, in terms of the value of this university to the state,” Blank said.
Blank listed professor salaries as another top priority for the school, saying “Wisconsin is not alone in this problem.” According to Blank, UW needs to use multiple sources at the state and private funding levels to provide salaries that will keep the top professors at the university. She added “human capital” is what makes the university great.
When asked about how she would handle licensing agreements with apparel companies accused of using sweatshop labor, Blank echoed a Wiley strategy.
“The first thing you do (to improve the situation) is you try to work with that company,” she said.
Blank added there is a fine line between being a money making institution and playing the role of a socially responsible public institute.
“Universities are not just another business,” Blank said. “We are thought leaders.”
When asked how she would work with shared governance between UW staff and students, she said she believed students should be as empowered as possible so they “feel a part of the institution.” Blank added the administration needs to sit down with student groups and be straight forward with them to make the relationship as smooth as possible.
Blank said she would like to have at least a couple of formal meetings with student government members every year.
According to Blank, the administration’s relationship with the school’s athletic department is important as well because the department has been criticized for operating without proper oversight.
“With so much money inside these programs, it’s easy to spin off,” she added.
Blank said the first thing she would do would be to check on the graduate rates of all the teams. She added UW has to make sure the department plays by the rules set forth by the NCAA and keeps a “squeaky clean” image while maintaining a winning atmosphere that builds school spirit.
According to Blank, the athletic director plays a big role in handling these issues and the chancellor has to work closely with that person, though adding with a laugh, “There will be tensions everyday.”
Blank was the last of the four chancellor candidates to visit the campus and is the only one without any past ties to UW. She told The Badger Herald after the forum her outside perspective could give her an advantage over the other candidates.
“Having worked in three quite different institutions … I come with a variety of different models in my head and that’s sort of the outsider perspective one can bring that sometimes gives you a little more creativity to look at something and say ‘No, let’s look at that entirely differently,'” Blank said.