After University of Wisconsin Chancellor Biddy Martin’s release of a document outlining the university’s goals for the next five years, Faculty Senate members are still debating the ideas and words contained within the plan.
The Strategic Framework document lays out strategies to implement Wisconsin’s goals and describes the university’s vision to become a model for 21st-century learning.
It does this by outlining five goals to narrow the focus of the university, including strengthening research and scholarship, reinvigorating the Wisconsin Idea, providing the best possible education, ensuring a quality community and being a model for stewardship and integrity.
“I feel it’s really important for universities to have a sense of where they’re headed and what strategies they need to pursue in order to get there,” Martin said.
The document has been in production for 18 months in preparation for the visit of a reaccreditation team, which occurs every 10 years.
Being accredited as an institute of higher education is important when it comes to the recognition of the quality of a university’s programs.
“The document is actually based on the work that was done for reaccreditation, but the document itself is for our campus use,” Martin said. “It represents the goals of the campus, which certainly reflect my own vision of the institution as well.”
Members of the Faculty Senate have noted vague language in previous drafts of the document, voicing concerns about how its implementation will be measured.
One such member, English professor Richard Knowles, compared reading the document to “riding through a blizzard in a fog” when it was first introduced to the Faculty Senate.
Similarly, geology professor and Faculty Senate member Mary Anderson took issue with the same draft’s repetition of ambiguous words.
“That version used ‘sustainability’ or ‘sustainable’ multiple times in ways that were inappropriate, vague or both,” Anderson said.
She was pleased to note that the final version includes “sustainability” only once.
Anderson said that, while improved, the new Strategic Framework still has a vagueness problem.
“It consists of lofty, worthy goals, but it is unlikely that the current administrative infrastructure is adequate to achieve these goals within our system of shared governance,” Anderson said. “UW-Madison needs to take immediate steps to ensure that our administrative structure and our system of shared governance are adequate to formulate and carry out specific plans to accomplish the goals of the [strategic plan].”
She cited as an example the Strategic Framework calls for a commitment to be “responsible stewards” of our “environmental resources.”
“Yet, UW has no infrastructure set up to address environmental problems on campus in a system of shared governance,” Anderson said.
Martin acknowledged the Faculty Senate members’ comments, saying staff members had ideas of improving clarity and straightforwardness in mind when working on the final draft.
“There were lots of versions that we’ve all edited, and I certainly played a role,” Martin said. “The final draft is really a collective effort on behalf of the deans, the chancellor and the provost.”
The reaccreditation team will visit UW sometime later this month.