Friday, May 24, 2019

UW Oshkosh by the numbers: Campus opens its books on sexual assaults, enrollment, parking tickets, more

Photo by Patrick Flood. Copyright UW Oshkosh.
UW Oshkosh is apparently the first public university in the state to provide a detailed look at operations.

By Miles Maguire
Forty-four cases of sexual misconduct and 11 cases of discrimination or bias have been reported at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh so far this academic year.

This information is just one set of data points released as part of a university initiative to demonstrate transparency across a wide range of activities. This new effort has resulted in a Quarterly Finance and Administration Report that provides information on everything from how much tuition has been collected to how many campus parking tickets have been issued (and voided).

Other statistics cover such topics as the value of outside grants, work orders for repairs to campus facilities, the number of staff retirements, types of police incidents and unaudited revenues and expenses.  

“This is another important step forward in our efforts to modernize and become more transparent in university practices and finances,” said UW Oshkosh Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration James Fletcher in releasing the report May 15. “My understanding is that we are the first institution in the University of Wisconsin System to publish such a report.”

“This is a great move to improve transparency,” said Stephen P. Bentivenga, a biology professor who is president of the school’s Faculty Senate. “Faculty senators were very appreciative when Provost [John] Koker announced to us that financial statements would be made available.”

Like other schools in the UW System, Oshkosh has been struggling to deal with budget cuts, falling enrollment, reports of sexual misconduct by faculty and staff, and a campus climate that is viewed as hostile to minorities. University officials hope that by sharing more information they can show their commitment to addressing these issues and unify the campus community in implementing solutions.

UW Oshkosh is in the process of integrating with two-year UW System schools in Fond du Lac and Menasha, but the report appears to cover only the main campus.

The new report provides far more information than has traditionally been shared but does not provide a complete basis for evaluation. For example, the sexual misconduct and bias section does not include comparable figures from previous periods,  information about how the complaints turned out or how long it took to investigate them.

Here are some highlights from the third-quarter report:

  • For the first three months of the fiscal year, the university took in $213.4 million and spent $175.3 million. 
  • The spring enrollment was 9,184, compared to 9,736 in March 2018, a decline of 5.7 percent.
  • Total full-time employment was 1,3022, down 2.4 percent from 1,354 the year previous. 
  • The campus Sustainability Office has raised concerns about plans for the new dining hall operator to partner with Chick-fil-A, which has been criticized for funding groups that oppose gay rights.
  • Parking Services has been issuing fewer tickets over the last two years, with only 1,986 written in the third quarter of fiscal 2019, compared to 3,020 in the same period of 2017.
  • The campus police have sharply increased the number of safewalks and saferides they provide, from 76 in fiscal 2018 to 567 in fiscal 2019.

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