Catching up on a couple higher education-related items ...
** Leaders from across the University of Wisconsin System -- at least those not affiliated with UW-Madison -- continue to push hard for statutory changes which would allow all UW campuses some long-sought freedoms from state oversight.
Chancellors and deans from across the state joined UW System President Kevin Reilly in calling for these modifications in an open letter to all state legislators. UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin did not sign on.
The Joint Finance Committee is expected to take up the UW System's budget for 2011-13 at some point later this month. Under Gov. Scott Walker's proposed biennial budget, the UW System will take a $250 million hit in state funding -- with UW-Madison to absorb half of those cuts.
Of even greater interest is the fact the governor's budget also contains a controversial proposal -- backed by Martin -- to award UW-Madison some freedoms from state red tape by granting it public authority status and breaking it away from the UW System. This issue has divided many across the state, with leaders at the UW System and other state campuses opposed to the breakup. These folks want all system schools to have more flexibilities and are proposing an alternative to Walker's plan called the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, which would keep UW-Madison under the UW System umbrella.
Meanwhile, Martin continues to push hard for Walker's proposed new relationship between UW-Madison and the state, which she is calling the New Badger Partnership.
Although most signs point to the Joint Finance Committee pulling the provision granting UW-Madison public authority status from Walker's budget, Martin still is hopeful it will remain. She continues to ask New Badger Partnership backers to convey their support to state leaders as "individuals, citizens and taxpayers."
The university reported that on Monday night "thousands of Badger alumni from across Wisconsin joined in a town-hall phone conversation" with Martin for a Q&A session regarding the New Badger Partnership.
** UW-Madison's Academic Staff Assembly passed a resolution Monday in support of the university garnering greater flexibility from state and UW System oversight.
The resolution states that the "UW-Madison academic staff are committed to excellence in serving the University of Wisconsin-Madison's mission of research, teaching and service. For UW-Madison to continue this tradition of excellence, it is essential that UW-Madison receive greater flexibilities from the state and the UW System in the following areas, listed in order of importance."
Academic staff leaders are hoping UW-Madison gains more flexibility in human resources, budgeting, tuition, capital projects and procurement.
** UW-Madison is closing in on hiring a new dean of its Law School.
The university announced its 16-member search-and-screen committee has named three finalists for the position. The finalists, with biographical information provided by UW-Madison, include:
Nicholas W. Allard, partner at Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C. Allard is chair of the law firm's lobbying, political and elections law practice. He has been an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law, Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and Georgetown University Law Center.
Gene Nichol, professor and director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina School of Law. He served as president of the College of William & Mary from 2005-08 and earlier served as dean of the University of North Carolina School of Law and dean of the University of Colorado Law School.
Margaret Raymond, William G. Hammond professor of law at the University of Iowa College of Law. Raymond has been a professor at the University of Iowa since 1995, serving in a number of campus leadership roles, including president of the University Faculty Senate.
The new dean should be set to take over by the start of the 2011-12 fall semester.
Ken Davis has served as dean of the Law School since 1997. He announced last fall he was stepping down and returning to the faculty.
** Song Jin, an associate professor in UW-Madison's department of chemistry, was honored as a Scialog Fellow and awarded a $100,000 grant for "enabling solar energy conversion using rational and scalable growth of 1D nanomaterials made of inexpensive semiconductors."
According to a news release, these solar energy grants are designed to fund innovative research that can be quickly applied and developed by business and industry.
** It's hard to believe it's graduation time once again.
Philanthropists John and Tashia Morgridge will deliver the charge to the graduates at UW-Madison's four undergraduate commencement ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday at the Kohl Center.
John Morgridge is a member of the Forbes 400 list of America's wealthiest people. He and Tashia both are UW-Madison graduates who have given huge amounts of money in recent years to support education causes in their home state: $175 million to create the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars; $34 million to renovate and expand Bascom Hill's 110-year-old Education Building; and $50 million for the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
For more information on UW-Madison's ceremonies, click here.
Madison Area Technical College is holding its spring graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Alliant Energy Center's coliseum. Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, will speak. For more information, click here.
And Edgewood College's commencement also is at the coliseum, but is on Sunday at 2 p.m. For more details, click here.
** Have dreams of growing your best garden ever?
Check out UW-Madison's annual Family Horticulture Day on Saturday at the university's West Madison Agricultural Research Station, 8502 Mineral Point Road.
Research station staff, UW-Extension specialists, Master Gardener volunteers and UW-Madison students will be staffing a variety of outdoor and indoor displays and demonstrations.
Don't have much room for a garden? Learn how to grow purple, red and yellow potatoes in a pot or garbage can -- one of several demonstrations focused on maintaining a garden in a small space. Other experts will demonstrate how to create inexpensive and attractive "island gardens" to attract native pollinators that can give a big boost to vegetables, flowers and fruit trees.
Admission and parking are free, with the event running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, click here.
** Ever wonder what takes place when the NCAA investigates an athletic department for violating the association's rules?
The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an interesting article about reporters participating in a mock NCAA investigation designed to illustrate what really happens when an institution is accused of wrongdoing.