UW System President Ray Cross’s “Blueprint for the University of Wisconsin System Beyond COVID-19,” announced on May 7, proposes an aggressive consolidation and elimination of programs across the UW System beginning as early as the 2021–22 academic year, leading to what President Cross calls “inevitable” employee layoffs.
President Cross’s Blueprint proposes sweeping changes to academic programs, delivery of instruction, and administration at campuses across the UW System. Such medium- to long-term measures are not a sensible or effective response to an immediate, pandemic-driven, near-term financial crisis.
Moreover, such decisions will have profound implications for faculty, staff, and students on these campuses. Primary responsibility for these decisions must rest with campus shared governance bodies. Yet President Cross’s Blueprint includes no participation from campus shared governance groups. Instead, the Blueprint suggests that System administration will, in the wake of COVID-19, move even more aggressively to disregard shared governance processes, shifting “from the convener/collaborator/coordinator” of program consolidation and elimination “to the director and manager.”
The AAUP reiterates its longstanding position that university faculty exercise “primary responsibility” for decision-making on academic matters, including “curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction,” and emphasizes in a recent statement that “The COVID-19 pandemic should not become the occasion for administrations to circumvent widely accepted principles of academic governance.”
Responsibility for the difficult decisions of post-COVID-19 planning rests with shared governance groups on the campuses of the UW System, and should not be imposed on campuses by System administration. System administration must not exploit the present crisis to pursue unrelated and unpopular downsizing projects. AAUP Wisconsin urges UW System administration to withdraw its ill-considered Blueprint and to respect institutional autonomy and shared governance in campuses’ response to the crisis. We urge faculty, staff, and students to use the shared governance processes on their campuses to make their voices heard in the future of the UW System.