A chorus of faculty demanding that University of Wisconsin System president Ray Cross demonstrate respect for their role in governing the university is rising, as news of looming layoffs on one campus renews concerns over the way Cross is leading the institution.
The UW-Madison Faculty Senate is slated to consider a resolution Monday that demands Cross “honor his earlier pledge to protect and respect shared governance in all relevant administrative decisions regarding the UW System and its campuses,” a draft version reads in part.
The resolution also calls on Cross to outline specific policies and practices for including faculty, staff and students in meaningful shared governance, “in a manner that is neither post hoc (after the fact) nor trivialized.”
Preparation of such a public statement at UW-Madison follows action by faculty at UW-Milwaukee and UW-Whitewater demanding Cross demonstrate respect for the shared governance process.
Faculty were reacting to a Feb. 1 article by Wisconsin Public Radio that disclosed emails from Cross to UW System Regent Gerald Whitburn about a sweeping reorganization of the university system that they said disparaged shared governance and revealed that Cross had intentionally circumvented it.
After announcing the reorganization plan devised without participation by shared governance groups, Cross said they would be involved in implementing it.
Campus groups of faculty, staff and students have traditionally crafted policy together, but the role of such groups has been diluted by the state Legislature and UW System Board of Regents in recent years. Changes to policy by regents also give campus administrators more latitude in laying off tenured faculty.
New concerns about Cross’ leadership arose this week after a WPR article quoting the provost at UW-Stevens Point on the looming need for program cuts and layoffs in response to a projected $2.5 million budget deficit next year.
Nick Fleisher, a faculty member at UW-Milwaukee, contended on Twitter that the changes to tenure and shared governance paved the way for layoffs and program cuts unrelated to educational concerns at Stevens Point.
Shared governance groups at seven campuses and UW Colleges declared no confidence in Cross and the Board of Regents in 2016, citing their failure to protect the university from interference by the governor and Legislature in tenure and shared governance policy.
The student governance group at UW-Stout voted no confidence in Cross’ leadership earlier this month, calling his conduct around the system reorganization “ruinous."
The UW-Milwaukee Faculty Senate resolution calling Cross to account referred to shared governance as “an essential mechanism to guarantee the accountability, transparency and high quality education” expected in the UW System.
The UW-Whitewater Faculty Senate resolution quotes a UW System document that says shared governance is based on the understanding that “inclusiveness leads to better decision-making. ... Effective policy development comes from early, active and wide collaboration and consultation.”
Sociology professor Chad Goldberg, author of the UW-Madison policy, said he is optimistic about adoption of the resolution by the Faculty Senate.