AAUP’s Governance Committee Denounces Remarks by UW System President

BY MICHAEL DECESARE

Yesterday the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance released the following statement:

In October 2017, news broke of University of Wisconsin system president Ray Cross’s decision to propose a merger of the system’s two- and four-year institutions. It was the latest in a number of unilateral and secretive actions taken by system leaders, the state legislature, and Governor Scott Walker, condemned at the time by the AAUP and AFT Wisconsin as constituting “a concerted attack on the university as a public good and on the university’s role in fostering democratic participation.”

The day after the news of the proposed merger, President Cross, facing backlash from faculty, staff, and students, wrote the following in an email message to a system regent: “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!!”

President Cross’s remarks, which came to light last week, have drawn quick condemnation. The lone student representative on the twenty-five-member restructuring committee immediately released a statement that read in part: “It is my sincere hope that divisive sentiments toward the employees and students of the University of Wisconsin System will no longer be tolerated. The comments made were simply inappropriate and must be addressed immediately.”

The UW-Madison chapter of the AAUP followed with an open letter to President Cross, expressing its “deep concern about your willful disregard for the role of shared governance” and concluding:

With the surfacing of your emails, it is particularly difficult for people who are supposed to share responsibility with you in governing this institution to have any confidence in your leadership. When you treat the core principle of shared governance as a concept so worthy of derision and disregard that you surround it with “air quotes” in an email to a member of the Board of Regents, it is difficult to envision ever regaining that confidence. In short, your attitude and words have done further damage to an already damaged relationship.

The AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance joins the growing chorus of voices denouncing President Cross’s ill-judged remarks and calling on him to explain them.

The committee further calls on President Cross to actively work with faculty, staff, and students on developing policies and practices that will restore a meaningful and productive system of shared governance.

To inform that effort, the committee recommends: 1) the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) and the American Council on Education more than fifty years ago; and 2) a recent AGB white paper on shared governance, which concludes that “shared governance is an essential component of America’s higher education institutions that needs to be preserved and enhanced.”

One thought on “AAUP’s Governance Committee Denounces Remarks by UW System President

  1. AAUP Governance

    I am an outsider/insider. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, got my PhD from UW, worked as faculty at SUNY, now retired, and my partner works at UWM.
    Effective action must come from correct analysis. Ray Cross was hired to serve up the University of Wisconsin for the benefit of Wisconsin big businesses (think Foxconn most recently, Johnson Controls, Rockwell, and of course the Koch brothers holdings, etc.). His job is to turn the Wisconsin Idea upside down. This has been a long range plan, from his coming from SUNY to head UW Colleges. Now, he plans on getting rid of them—e.g., 120 support staff recently received “at risk” notices. The idea all along has not been privatization, but using public resources to enrich the few owners. Or, as Montesquieu put it, “When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community. . . . Formerly the wealth of individuals constituted the public treasure; but now this has become the patrimony of private persons. The members of the commonwealth riot on the public spoils, and its strength is only the power of a few, and the licence of many.” Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, Book III.
    For UW faculty—and this applies to all public higher education faculty everywhere in the United States—they need the support of the public. For decades a concerted and deliberate public relations campaign has been waged against faculty and teachers in public education. Today, the reputation of faculty is at low ebb. Faculty must work to re-establish solidarity with the public. An important way to do that is to expand AAUP’s campaign to issues other than those that mainly affect faculty to those that affect the public, which means taxpayers and students.
    Ending UW Colleges, for example, will have an enormous impact on the counties in which they are located in terms of employment, education, and not least the county-owned physical plants of the Colleges. Cross has a plan afoot to turn UW into a free labor supply center (aka internships). Faculty should demand that all internship be paid a decent minimum wage and come with guaranteed employment after graduation. This is but one example of what faculty in general and AAUP in particular can demand. And the demands must be made publicly—not in closed door meetings with administrators. If AAUP spearheads a faculty effort to reach out to the public, the nefarious plans of Cross and his handlers can be thwarted.

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