The University of Wisconsin System is a jewel — one of the great networks of institutions of higher education in the United States. It should be cherished. That does not mean that it cannot change, but it does mean that changes should be undertaken with care.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin System President Ray Cross has not shown care in his rush to reorganize the system’s campuses. In mid-October, Cross announced a plan to merge the system’s 13 two-year campuses with seven of its 13 four-year campuses. Under Cross’ scheme, UW-Extension programs would be merged with UW-Madison and the UW System central administration.
Those are radical changes that would have an impact on students, instructors and communities across the state. Yet, with scant discussion or public input, Cross wants the UW System Board of Regents to approve his sweeping proposal at their Nov. 9 meeting.
The regents should put the brakes on this proposal.
Some of the concerns Cross has outlined, with regard to enrollment patterns and future planning, make sense. But there has to be a broader, and deeper, discussion that opens the debate to include more voices — and more ideas.
A letter to Cross from 20 Democratic state legislators hits the nail on the head when it complains about “the complete lack of collaboration and deliberation in such a far-reaching proposal.”
“We are concerned that this merger will not maintain adequate access to higher education and that it could open the door to campus closures in the future,” wrote the legislators, who have asked the regents to delay action.
That’s not just a reasonable request. That is the only sensible thing to do. To simply make changes without adequate consultation with those who will have to live with the changes is antithetical to the Wisconsin Idea.
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