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UW-Madison Faculty Condemn System President For Excluding Them From Restructure Talks

Letter To Cross Cites 'Deep Concern' About 'Willfull Disregard For The Role Of Shared Governance"

okandasan (CC-BY)

University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty members railed against UW System President Ray Cross on Tuesday for excluding them from the plan to restructure the University of Wisconsin System.

In a letter to Cross, the UW-Madison chapter of the American Association of University Professors expressed “deep concern” about Cross’ “willful disregard for the role of shared governance.”

“It is shocking and disheartening that you consider your true partners not to be the shared governance bodies of the University of Wisconsin System or the leaders of the communities we serve, regardless of party affiliation, but rather to be politically connected business interests and exclusively Republican legislators,” the AAUP professors wrote. “It does not bode well for the success of your policies that you consider shared governance to be nothing more than an impediment to progress.”

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The letter follows a Wisconsin Public Radio report that Cross had consulted a Republican lawmaker about his plan to merge two- and four-year campuses and dissolve UW-Extension before talking to employees, including UW-Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen. The report also cited an email from Cross to UW-Board of Regents member Gerald Whitburn in which Cross wrote that if shared governance groups had “been involved we wouldn’t be doing anything!!”

In an interview with WPR UW-Madison associate professor and AAUP member Dave Vanness said though the letter is non-binding, it sends a message to Cross.

“We have to let our voices be heard. That’s really all we can do,” said Vanness. “We don’t have any authority to call for Ray Cross to resign or call for changes at the Board of Regents or anything like that. The most we can do is say, ‘Hey, this is not good governance. It’s not the Wisconsin way and it’s got to change.’”

Vanness said he’s concerned that Cross’s top-down approach to the UW-System reorganization and his disregard for input from university faculty or staff could lead to layoffs in tough budget years.

“Future changes in implementing this merger could involve deeper cuts and job losses and changing of programs that affect faculty, staff, students and partners all around the state,” said Vanness.

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sandeen, the UW-Extension chancellor, said she understood Cross’s need to vet a large decision about the UW with lawmakers but neither she nor her team knew what was going on. Sandeen said she thought they could have been helpful planning the restructure.

Editor’s Note: Wisconsin Public Radio is a service of the University of Wisconsin-Extension and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.