University of Wisconsin System Regent Tony Evers cast the sole vote Thursday against a policy change that gives regents a larger role in selecting chancellors for system campuses.
The policy change — one of two proponents say are needed to attract candidates from outside higher education for top campus and university system posts — makes regents a dominant force on search and selection committees.
The policy sets a limit of 10 members on such search committees and requires that five of them be regents, and that a regent chair the committee. There previously was no set limit on the number, or specific requirements of representation on the committees, other than to reflect the interests of students, faculty, staff and other stakeholder.
As regents approved the policy revisions at the meeting at UW-Stout, Evers said less representation from the campus community was the wrong direction to go.
“It sends the wrong message that we’ve begun to limit people’s input,” said Evers, the state superintendent of public instruction who is running for governor in 2018. “We need to reach out make sure that happens.”
Past budgets by Gov. Scott Walker have diluted the influence of campus shared governance groups like faculty and students, and that makes it all the more important that more campus stakeholders have a say in selecting their leaders, he said.
“It concerns me greatly that we are diminishing voice when we should be increasing voice,” Evers said.
Regents also changed policy to conform to a provision in Walker’s latest budget prohibiting the requirement that top UW academic leaders have be qualified for tenure. UW-Madison had such a policy.
UW-Madison faculty leaders went on record against the changes, saying they wouldn't improve the prospects of selecting candidates with the capacity to work with the many constituencies of the university community.
The policy changes were recommended by a special committee chaired by Regent Drew Petersen, who expressed surprise that it typically has taken five months to search for and make an offer to a UW campus chancellor.
Petersen has pointed to the looming retirement of college presidents and chancellors from across the nation, and the increasingly complex nature of the job as reasons that the UW System had to become more nimble in the process of hiring top leaders.
Several regents spoke in support of the policy changes.
“This seems to me to be a sensible streamlining of our selection process,” said Michael Jones, a former Miller Brewing lawyer now with Michael Best and Friedrich in Milwaukee who was appointed to the Board of Regents by Walker last spring.
“I believe it will result in a larger pool of qualified applicants, more efficient use of our time and more timely selection,” Jones said.
Regent Regina Millner supported the policy changes, but voiced her concern that the regents involved in selecting candidates for chancellor posts go on the ground to get insight in a way they have not always done.
“We have augmented our piece in this role, so it is critically important that regents take the time to visit campuses and take the time to do the discussions about what each campus needs in leadership,” Millner said.
Regents are scheduled Friday to take up a controversial free speech policy calling from mandatory expulsion of students who disrupt speakers on campus.