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Regents Criticized For Not Including Faculty, Staff, Students On UW President Search Committee

Shared Governance Groups, Democratic Lawmaker Say Search Committee Not Representative

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Van Hise Hall, home of University of Wisconsin System offices.
Van Hise Hall, home of University of Wisconsin System offices. James Steakley (CC BY-SA)

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents is being criticized for not including any faculty, staff or non-regent students on a search committee for the next UW System president.

On Nov. 1, Board of Regents president Drew Petersen appointed a nine-member committee to search for the new head of the state’s two- and four-year campuses. This followed an Oct. 25 announcement that current UW System President Ray Cross would retire after five years on the job.

The search committee is made up of regents, a former regent and campus administrators. Absent from the committee are any faculty, staff or students who weren’t appointed as regents by lawmakers.

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In addition to Petersen, the people on the committee are:

  • Michael Grebe, regent vice president
  • Rebecca Blank, UW-Madison chancellor
  • Mike Jones, regent
  • Edmund Manydeeds III, regent
  • Regina Millner, former regent
  • Betsy Morgan, UW-La Crosse provost
  • Torrey Tiedeman, student regent
  • Renée Wachter, UW-Superior chancellor

On Tuesday, State Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, wrote a letter to Cross and the regents asking that student, faculty and staff representatives be included in the search.

“I think it does not inspire confidence when they willfully exclude our academic staff, our university staff, our faculty and our students who are not regents,” Shankland told Wisconsin Public Radio.

She said the lack of representation on the committee could also hurt the search process.

“And I think that potential candidates might look at the composition of this committee and recognize that not only is it problematic, but it could seriously undermine their ability to lead down the road when the entire process will come into question from day one,” Shankland said.

A statement from Petersen sent to WPR Friday morning said the search for a new UW president is “one of the most important responsibilities” of regents in setting the direction for the system.

“Central to that effort is to actively account for the interests and concerns of students, faculty and staff,” said Petersen. “There will be multiple public opportunities for our shared governance stakeholders to provide meaningful input throughout the process.”

Petersen’s statement continued, stating the committee members are “best positioned to guide this search.”

The last two search committees for UW System presidents were formed in 2013 and 2004.

The 2013 committee that ultimately recommended Cross to head the system was made up of 18 people and included regents, faculty, staff and one student.

The 2004 president committee that resulted in former UW System President Kevin Reilly heading the institution included regents, faculty, staff and students.

UW-Milwaukee professor Nick Fleisher is president of the American Association of University Professors Wisconsin Conference. In an interview with WPR, he said the exclusion of faculty, students and staff follows years of policy changes within the UW System aimed at diluting the power of shared governance groups.

“Whether it’s intentionally sending a message or not it means that they simply do not value the input from those groups, and they are not willing to make people from those groups full voting members of the search committee,” Fleisher said.

Fleisher said he also took issue with the inclusion of Regina Millner, a former regent, on the search committee. He said that’s because Millner headed the Board of Regents between 2015 and 2017 when UW System policies on hiring and tenure were changed to make it easier to fire tenured faculty members and hire chancellors from non-academic backgrounds.

Fleisher said faculty governance groups at UW-River Falls and UW-Oshkosh have passed resolutions urging the Board of Regents to include non-regent students, faculty and staff in the hunt for a new UW System president. He said UW-Milwaukee’s faculty senate will consider a similar resolution next week.

The national AAUP tweeted Friday that “excluding the faculty from a presidential search violates AAUP governance standards.”

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