On October 25, UW System President Ray Cross announced his retirement. Just one week later, Regent President Drew Petersen unveiled the search committee for the next UW System President. In a break from past practice, the announced search committee contains no faculty, staff, or students (apart from one student Regent). At nine members, the committee is half the size of past presidential search committees.
Even by the Regents’ own recent standards, this decision shows a shocking level of disrespect for UW System faculty, staff, and students. It also shows a troubling lack of humility on the part of the Regents. In selecting a system president, the Regents need to draw upon the knowledge and perspectives of a diverse array of campus constituencies, and those constituencies need a seat at the table. Wisconsin statute and Board policy accordingly give the Regents wide latitude to determine the process by which the next system president will be chosen. If faculty, staff, and students are excluded from the presidential search committee, it is because the Regents have chosen to exclude them.
Excluding faculty from a presidential search is a clear violation of the AAUP governance standards to which the UW System purports to hold itself. Beyond that, two of the committee selections show a particular disdain for governance norms. Former Regent Regina Millner was Regent President from 2015 to 2017, when the Regents’ role in weakening tenure and shared governance led to no confidence votes in the Board of Regents and President Cross all across the UW System. UW-Superior Chancellor Renée Wachter’s administration actively evaded the faculty governance process in cutting 25 programs in fall 2017. There are numerous highly qualified former Regents and current administrators whom the Regents could have selected to serve. The choice of Millner and Wachter sends a message.
AAUP Wisconsin and the AFT-Wisconsin Higher Education Council resolve as follows:
- To ensure confidence in the search process, we join a growing number of faculty governance bodies and Rep. Katrina Shankland in calling upon the Board of Regents to expand the presidential search committee to include faculty, staff, and students. These individuals should be selected by appropriate representative governance bodies such as the UW System faculty representatives. The Regents, having sought to exclude these constituencies from the search committee, should not be involved in selecting their representatives.
- To ensure confidence in the result, we call upon the search committee to ensure that the finalists for the position of UW System President are academically qualified individuals who understand the needs of the UW System’s many constituencies. The next UW System President must have a demonstrated commitment to shared governance and must prioritize working together with faculty, staff, and students to restore the Wisconsin Idea.