What One University System President Really Thinks About Shared Governance


“Getting hammered by the ‘shared governance’ leaders because they weren’t involved in the process; however, had they been involved we wouldn’t be doing anything!!”

That’s part of an October 11, 2017 email message from University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross to a UW regent. Cross was complaining about the backlash he was facing after news broke on October 10 of his proposal to merge the state’s two-year schools with its four-year universities, before any announcement from system officials.

While UW faculty, staff, and students were blindsided, Wisconsin Public Radio reported late last week that Cross’s proposal had been an “open secret” at the state Capitol. Among those in the know was Republican state Rep. Dave Murphy, who had been pushing for a restructuring of the UW System since at least 2015. He tried to justify keeping the campuses in the dark by claiming, like Cross, that nothing would have been accomplished otherwise:

If you opened this up, it could end up just being a free-for-all as far as trying to bring students and faculty and everything together to discuss this, you’d never get it done. Anybody who thinks they’re going to lose their job, anybody who thinks there’s any chance that their campus could be cut, they overreact and you start getting special interest groups that try to sabotage things.

Rep. Murphy’s and President Cross’s comments make clear that they have no use for shared governance. Thankfully, Nick Webber does. The lone student representative on Cross’s 25-member restructuring committee–which includes just two faculty–Webber had the courage  to release a statement describing Cross’s comments as “divisive” and “simply inappropriate,” insisting they “must be addressed immediately.”

President Cross (and Rep. Murphy) could learn a great deal from Webber, whose statement also offered an eloquent defense of shared governance:

It is my firm belief that shared governance plays an integral role in ensuring transparency, accountability, and the quality of education we have come to expect from the University of Wisconsin System. It is crucial that shared governance remain at the core of university progress, for this deliberative process serves as an institutional safeguard to political whims and other outside forces that jeopardize the experience of our students.

But are they listening?

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2 thoughts on “What One University System President Really Thinks About Shared Governance

  1. Thank you to brave young Mr. Webber! This anti-governance attitude is shameful. Here is a 2nd thing–leaving the majority of faculty out of governance–the NTTs–is shameful too. And a 3rd thing–if faculty governance means only deciding how to cut faculty and programs, and NOT how to save money on highly paid administrators and building projects, then governance is deeply limited and controlled before it can even begin. Governance means that faculty should truly govern. And ALL faculty need to have voting rights.

  2. Pingback: UW Madison AAUP Letter to President Cross | ACADEME BLOG

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