from the Badger Herald, Thursday, April 14, 2005

UW students crash Reilly, faculty lunch

by John Potratz

University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly received criticism on a variety of student issues from Associated Students of Madison and Multicultural Student Coalition representatives during a roundtable discussion at the Memorial Union Wednesday.

Riley appeared caught off-guard as ASM and MCSC representatives entered unannounced into the banquet hall predominantly filled with UW faculty and staff.

The representatives from the two student organizations questioned Reilly’s methods to increase campus diversity and maintain affordable tuition costs following his roundtable luncheon speech titled “Keeping the ‘public’ in a public university.”

During his lecture, which was originally directed to faculty and staff invites, Reilly said managing university expenses is becoming increasingly difficult due to state budget constraints and that he is committed to keeping UW tuition affordable to the general public and low-income families.

“The ‘public’ in public university does not represent a funding formula,” Reilly said. “It represents what we are and what we do.”

Reilly added Wisconsin state financial-aid increases are being enacted to counter tuition increases and that diversity on campus has grown over recent years.

“The diversity of our student body has grown dramatically … by the same token we have a more diverse faculty and staff,” Reilly said.

After a round of applause following Reilly’s lecture, MCSC and ASM representatives were quick to question his statements.

MCSC representative Brandon Walker asked Reilly how he plans to address diversity at UW, citing percentages that there are proportionally fewer minority students on campus now than in 1988.

“What is the difference from then until now?” Walker asked. “And how are you willing to change diversity on campus?”

Reilly said there are many ways to look at diversity.

“I think of diversity in a number of ways — one is how good of a job are we doing in increasing diversity in student, staff and faculty populations,” Reilly said.

Reilly said he also looks at diversity in the student curriculum, counseling and advising.

MCSC representative Josh Healy interrupted Reilly mid-sentence and said the numbers show there are fewer minority students on campus than 30 years ago.

But Reilly said that was not true.

“On a number of our campuses there are increases of minority students,” Reilly said. “Is it mixed? — Yes. Am I happy that we’ve made enough progress? — No. Do we need to do better? — Absolutely.”

Reilly acknowledged there are fewer minority students on the Madison campus than 30 years ago and said he is doing his best to offset diversity decreases within the student body.

ASM and MCSC representatives crowded by Reilly following the discussion and continued to confront him on diversity and tuition increases, among other issues.

But Reilly reiterated his stance on diversity and commitment to bringing in more minority undergraduates while adding that state financial-aid increases should help remedy tuition-increase burdens on low-income families who are in greater need of support.

“Everybody doesn’t need financial aid. The average family income of a [UW-Madison] freshman is $90,000,” Reilly said.

Reilly added there are efforts within the Board of Regents and the governor’s office to hold the lowest two tax brackets, or two-fifths of the population, immune to financial-aid repayments.

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