Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

General

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What is a university-wide policy?

A university-wide policy applies generally to all members of the UW–Madison community, including faculty, staff, students, users, and visitors, regardless of where the policy originated. A policy may be university-wide even if it applies only to a small group of people. For example, the Smoke-Free Policy applies to you even if you don’t smoke. “University-wide” refers primarily to the policy level (i.e., for the UW–Madison campus, rather than for the entire UW System or the State of Wisconsin) rather than to scope. The scope of a policy may be relatively narrow (such as “students living in campus Housing”), even where the policy is university-wide.

Is participation in the policy library required or recommended?

All university-wide policies must be included in the UW–Madison Policy Library to be considered official university policy.

If only policies in the policy library are considered official university-wide policies, does that mean that any policy outside the library should not be considered legitimate (i.e., official) policy?

The policy library presumably includes all existing university-wide policies and should be considered the single reliable up-to-date resource for all university-wide policies. In the unlikely event that a policy surfaces that is not yet included in the library, we will work with the relevant campus office(s) to determine whether or not that policy is a university-wide policy to be included in the library.

Although school-, college-, and division-specific policies are not currently included in the policy library, they are still considered official policies of their respective areas.

Our policies only apply to certain people or situations. Should they be in the policy library?

If they meet the definition of a university-wide policy, then they should be in the policy library. If they are not in the library, they will not be considered official university-wide policy. As the campus community becomes more accustomed to using the policy library, users will come to expect that all relevant policies will surface in the policy library. Only department-level or unit-specific policies should be excluded from the library. If you are unsure as to whether your policies are university-wide, please contact the policy library coordinator for guidance.

How will we ensure the policy library remains current over time?

The policy library is an asset to our campus. As stewards of this resource, it is incumbent on all of us to actively ensure that the policy library remains up to date by submitting revisions and new policies promptly and avoiding duplicating policies outside the library (e.g., on websites, in KnowledgeBase sites, etc.). Units should follow the Best Practices for Publishing Policy to help maintain the integrity of the policy library.

Will school-, college-, or division-specific policies be included in the policy library?

The initial scope of the policy library was to include university-wide policies. A planned phase 2 of the library will incorporate school-, college-, and division-specific policies in the library. The Office of Strategic Consulting is currently working with one school on a pilot project to develop this level-2 capability; as part of the pilot, we will develop guidance to help other schools, colleges, and divisions ready their policies for movement into the library. The library will not expand beyond that level—no department- or unit-specific policies will be included in the policy library.

Are there plans to include procedures in the policy library?

There is no current plan to include separate procedure documents in the policy library. Units should house their procedure documents elsewhere—such as on their website or in their KnowledgeBase. Maintaining procedure documents outside the library allows units greater flexibility in managing these documents and makes it easier to update or create the operational processes necessary to implement their policy. The policy template used in the library includes a field for related documents, which is where a link to the procedures specific to a policy can be included.

When campus policies were pulled into the library, they were accepted in their existing format; for this reason, some policies currently in the library do have procedures within the policy (either intermingled with policy or in a separate section). However, best practice is to separate procedures from policy, and that is the standard we hope to establish over time as policies are revised.

Do we need to remove procedures from our policies?

Over time, yes. The long-term goal is to follow best practice and have procedures be separate from policies. This is something we can work toward as policies are updated.

Who can we contact if we have questions or want to provide feedback about the policy library?

Questions and feedback are welcome. Contact the policy library coordinator at policylibrarycoordinator@wisc.edu. The Office of Strategic Consulting currently monitors this email and will respond to your questions.

Policy Roles & Responsibilities

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Does the policy library change our authority, autonomy, or ability to revise policy?

The policy library does not change your ability to revise policy within the Guidelines for Policy Development at UW-Madison. However, it does require more attention to which positions have policy responsibilities, including approval authority, policy management, and contact responsibilities.

Are the shared governance groups engaged and what is their role?

The faculty, academic staff, university staff, and student shared governance groups have an integral role in policy development processes at the university. These groups were all involved in the development of the policy library and continue to be engaged with and actively advising the interim policy library coordinator (in the Office of Strategic Consulting).

What if the approval authority for a policy is a committee?

Although it is uncommon for a committee to be the final approval authority for a policy, it is the case in some instances; in all such cases, the committee is listed as the approval authority (and the incumbent committee chairperson is considered the final “sign-off” on the policy). In most instances in which a committee is involved in policy approval, the committee is a “concurring approver,” meaning that the committee’s approval is transmitted as a recommendation to the final approver. In such cases, the committee’s role is documented in the policy library as “concurring approver,” with the final approver listed as the approval authority.

Can students be policy managers?

Yes, students can be listed as policy managers, where relevant (e.g., for some Wisconsin Union policies); however, given the frequency of student turnover, we recommend listing a staff advisor instead of a student as the policy manager.

Policy Development Processes & Best Practices

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How do I get a new university-wide policy published in the policy library?

Follow the policy development process and use the policy template and other tools found on the Policy Development page of the policy library website. Refer to the Policy Lifecycle Detail tab for more specifics.

When the policy is final and has been approved by the approval authority, send a copy to policylibrarycoordinator@wisc.edu indicating who approved the policy and requesting inclusion in the library.

How do I revise a policy?

Begin with step 3 (Review/Revise) of the policy development process on the Policy Development page of the policy library website. Refer to the Policy Lifecycle Detail tab for more specifics. Note that the steps for revising a policy include obtaining approval of the final revised policy from the approval authority (unless the changes are minor and do not impact the substance or meaning of the policy, in which case you should simply work with the policy library coordinator to update the language).

Before you start, make sure you extract and save a copy of the current policy from the policy library; do not rely on any previously saved copies of the policy as they may be out of date. To extract and save a copy:

  1. Search for your policy in the library.
  2. Open the policy.
  3. Click on the “Layout for printing” button on the far-right side of the page.
  4. Right-click on the HTML page that comes up, and then click “print.”
  5. In the destination box, choose “Save as PDF” and then click the “Save” button. You can choose where to save the PDF in your files.

Once you’ve saved a copy of the PDF:

  1. Convert it to a Word document:
    1. Open the PDF.
    2. Select “Export PDF.”
    3. On “Export your: PDF to any format” choose “Word Document.” You can choose where to save the word document.
  2. Open the Word document and enable “Track Changes.”
  3. Make your edits to the policy with “Track Changes” enabled.
  4. Save the Word document with edits.
  5. Submit the edited Word document to policylibrarycoordinator@wisc.edu.

Using track changes helps the policy library coordinator see exactly what has been changed and correctly update the policy in the policy library.

What is the process for retiring a policy?

Begin with step 3 (Review/Revise) of the policy development process on the Policy Development page of the policy library website. Refer to the Policy Lifecycle Detail tab for more specifics. Note that the steps for retiring a policy include obtaining approval to retire the policy from the approval authority.

We need to be able to tweak and control our policies in real-time. What is the response time for policy revisions and updates?

The goal of the policy library coordinator is to respond to requests within two business days whenever possible. However, if you have multiple requests and/or more complicated formatting needs, please allow more time if you can. The need to revise policy frequently and on an emergency basis should be rare; policy documents should be relatively enduring. If you find that you are making policy revisions frequently, this may be an indication that your policy includes procedures or other non-policy language. A policy consultation with the policy library coordinator may be helpful.

When divisions or departments have internal policies, is it okay to use the term “policy” there?

Yes, of course. Any unit that has policy (i.e., that mandates or prohibits the conduct of its employees, students, or other stakeholders) can and should use the word “policy” to refer to those documents.

Do you have (or are you planning) templates or content best practices for procedures and guidelines documents?

Yes. We currently have a template for procedures and we are working on a more comprehensive guidance document to accompany the material currently on the Policy Development page of the policy library website.

Publishing Policy Content

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Are units required to remove policy content from their websites and/or KnowledgeBase (KB) sites?

If a unit’s policy content duplicates all or parts of policies, then that content will need to be removed or amended per the Best Practices for Publishing Policy. Only policies in the policy library are considered official university-wide policies.

Can we still use our KnowledgeBase (KB) for policies?

You can use your KB for non-policy documents, such as guidelines and procedures, however, policy content should be removed from the KB entirely or replaced with a direct link to the policy in the policy library. For more information, see Best Practices for Publishing Policy.

If we want to provide additional context or procedures that relate to parts of a policy, what’s the best way to do that?

The best way to do that is to have a separate document and link to that document from the policy. Ideally, you would include that related document and link in the Related UW–Madison Documents field at the end of the policy.

What if a policy is currently under revision or part of it has been superseded by a higher-order policy; is there a way to denote that in the policy library?

Yes. For these types of instances, the policy library coordinator can add a message at the top of the policy itself. Typically, these messages would be temporary in nature and the policy would be revised in short order so that the message would no longer be necessary. If you have questions about how to handle a particular need, please contact the policy library coordinator at policylibrarycoordinator@wisc.edu.

Where should we maintain documents we reference in "Related UW-Madison Documents" to ensure they are sustainable (and protect against broken links). Is the KB a good choice?

The KnowledgeBase is a good option to serve as a “related documents” repository. However, as with all web-based materials, the responsible office should have in place a regular review and refresh cycle to ensure that materials posted in the KB remain current.

Can we link to procedures manuals (and other resources) within a policy in the policy library—or is that not advised?

While the functionality in the policy library allows this, it is best if links to related documents are included at the end of the policy itself, in the field labeled “UW–Madison Related Documents” (there are also fields for “Related UW–Madison Policies” and “External References” that can be used when applicable).

 

Version History

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What if we need access to old versions of a policy? Where will we find those?

The policy library shows current, up-to-date versions of all university-wide policies and will maintain a version history as revisions/changes to current policies are made. (Note: for previous versions of policies before implementation of the policy library, contact the relevant policy manager or responsible office noted in the policy.)

Policy Library Notifications

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Is there a list we can get on to be notified of updates to policies in the library?

There is not currently a subscriber list for updates to policies but it is something being considered for the future.