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New UW chancellor settles in after first day on the job

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Jul 22 2013 06:41:34 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 23 2013 07:45:43 AM CDT
Rebecca Blank

Rebecca Blank

MADISON, Wis. -

Blank surprised a tour group on campus Monday by coming out of Bascom Hall and greeting prospective students, sharing that she'd even taken a campus tour incognito last week with her daughter to see what they told students about the UW.

After unpacking boxes at home and work, Blank says she wants to get to work meeting internal staff, as well as the legislature and governor's office, especially after the controversy over the UW's finances in the last few months.

"I have some sympathy for the upsets people had down there [at the Capitol] that led to this," said Blank of the uproar over uncommitted reserves held by the UW System, that ultimately led to budget cuts and a two-year tuition freeze. "My hope is we can have some conversations in the long run. You can't freeze tuition, you have to have regular step increases."

Blank argues the UW is low in comparison to other schools in the Big Ten, especially when it comes to out of state tuition.

"I see no reason why we should sell a university that is this good at a lower price than any of our competitors," said Blank. "That's a market and you want to be in that market. That said, you really do want to worry about the in-state students and their affordability and I understand that and it's something we're going to have to keep talking about with the state legislature."

"I suspect the chancellor eventually may say, 'We don't have enough money and the university is going to suffer because of that in education,' and I've heard it all before," said Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, Chairman of the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee.

Nass believes the UW's credibility was damaged in the latest budget flap and says Blank will need to earn trust.

"I'll give anybody the benefit of the doubt, but I am going to be very cautious," said Nass. "I'd like to see movement as far as keeping tuition down."

"Firestorms come and go, and I'm sorry about the firestorm that happened this spring," said Blank. "But we need to put it behind us and move on."

Blank says she will spend these first six months meeting with lawmakers, campus staff and the governor's office, as well as laying the groundwork for a major fundraising campaign with the UW Foundation. 

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