Without more complete and more accurate information, how can the Chancellor’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 week’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 UW’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
UW’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 UW’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, “Inconsistences in diversity housing
necessitate audit
,” 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 provost’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
Housing’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 provost’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 Housing’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 UW’s
M/D program expenditures. 

W. Lee Hansen ([email protected]) is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Wisconsin.