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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
CDIS Building Exterior Courtyard.jpg

Computer and data science school starts new fundraising project amid budget deficit for building

New project follows a trend of recent university projects seeking private funding sources for campus buildings.

The School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences (CDIS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is currently facing a $15 million budget shortage for construction of its new building, set to open in 2025.

With the final price of the privately funded building coming to $260 million and current funding standing at $245 million, the additional $15 million would bring the project to completion. 

CDIS launched a new fundraising program on March 5 called the Badger Effect as a way of countering this shortage, according to UW-Madison. The Badger Effect’s goal is to raise $1 million by awarding tiles in the building’s donor mosaic to the first 500 donors who contribute $2,019 or more to the building, an amount referencing CDIS’ founding year.

“The Badger Effect comes at an important moment as CDIS prepares to open its $260 million state-of-the-art building in 2025, which is completely privately funded and would not be possible without the generosity of donors to whom we are extremely grateful,” CDIS Director of Advancement Shannon Timm said in a statement to The Daily Cardinal.

For Timm, this program’s goals go beyond simply securing funding for the CDIS community and extend to broader campus culture.

“[The program] is an opportunity for our broad community to leave their mark in the new space and demonstrate their collective support to our students, faculty and staff who will see the donor wall each and every day,” Timm said. “The campaign is about inclusivity and recognizing the collective power of our community when Badgers come together, they can yield monumental results.”

The new CDIS building is not the only recent UW System building project to receive substantial private funding.

A new engineering building at UW-Madison was recently approved for $197 million in state funding after being embroiled in partisan controversy for nearly a year. The remainder of the engineering building’s $347 million price tag will come from private donations raised by UW-Madison.

The Hamel Music Center, which opened in 2019, was funded in part by a $15 million grant from George Hamel and a $25 million grant from the Mead Witter Foundation before reaching its budget of $55.8 million through other grants.

Levy Hall, the new building for the College of Letters and Science expected to open in 2026, has received $20 million from the sons of Irving and Dorothy Levy and $15 million in other gifts. The remainder of its roughly $60 million cost will come from the state.

A November report from Inside Higher Ed found increased reliance on private donors in higher education gives donors more leverage in the operations of universities.

The report detailed recent high-profile incidents at Ivy League universities like Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, where some donors withheld funds over concerns of antisemitism on campus.

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“Decades of dependency on philanthropic giving has weakened academic institutions, meaning that a highly polarizing event like this one can leave them particularly vulnerable to efforts by wealthy individuals to shape campus speech,” Trinity College political science professor Isaac Kamola told Inside Higher Ed.

In Wisconsin, though, the last decade has been a choice between donors and Republican state lawmakers, the latter of whom recently used its financial power to leverage university policy changes. 

The UW-Madison engineering building gained state funding only after the UW Board of Regents agreed to cap diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) positions at the behest of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester. 

The Republican-controlled state Senate earlier this month fired two regents who were against the deal. 

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