Let me pick up the tab

Heather Mawhiney

As the state awaits its budget, UW institutions are looking for ways to cut costs in preparation for the Legislature’s final decision.

For example, UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow said he and his wife wrote a personal check for nearly $8,000 to cover the non-donated expenses for his inauguration on Friday.

“I don’t think it’s good to be sort of carefree with student and state money. I felt we’ll have a great inaugural but keep the budget (low),” Gow said. “I hope it sends a signal to legislators that we’re using our resources very responsibly.”

Gow said he would rather put the money saved towards education and curriculum for students.

“This is such a wonderful community. I just want to get in tune with everyone here and help them keep doing great things,” Gow said, of his new responsibilities at La Crosse. “That will be challenging with the current budget environment.”

In an Oct. 17 campus wide e-mail, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich wrote that he has initiated a review of university expenses to prepare for adjustments once legislators approve the state budget. Levin-Stankevich said he will focus any financial decisions around education and “(putting) students and faculty together.”

Levin-Stankevich’s October 2006 inauguration cost approximately $8,000, which special assistant to the chancellor Mike Rindo said was funded through private donations to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

The Foundation’s $3 million annual contribution to the university community also supports such projects as faculty development, computers and new technology and new instruments for the Blugold Marching Band.

Of the $3 million, $1 million funds student scholarships, said Kimera Way, the Foundation’s executive director of development.

“(Levin-Stankevich’s inauguration) was rather conservative in comparison to other inaugurations at universities around the country,” Way said.

While Gow’s move to personally fund his own inauguration is somewhat unusual, System officials said, using private funding is nothing new in Wisconsin.

“Most (UW chancellors) try to use private donations and foundation accounts, but that varies from campus to campus,” said David Giroux, the UW System’s executive director of communications, adding at least one recently hired UW chancellor chose not to have an inauguration ceremony.

UW-River Falls raised $10,000 from private donors for Chancellor Don Betz’s April 2006 inauguration, said Mary Halada, UW-River Falls’ vice chancellor for administration and finance.

Student Senate President Ray French said he thinks it is appropriate to fund chancellor inaugurations privately so “taxpayer money could go straight to funding our education.”

French said he also thought it was very responsible of Gow to fund his inauguration.

Rindo said the inauguration committee planned a “classy, but not ostentatious” inauguration last year, to both properly welcome Levin-Stankevich and keep costs to a minimum.

“I think the university last year, when we weren’t facing a budget situation as we are now, was already mindful on how much money is being spent on events,” he said.

– Nathaniel Shuda contributed to this article