Professors, lawmakers upset that UW regents won't expand presidential search panel

By Benjamin Yount, APG-Wisconsin

The anger from University of Wisconsin professors isn't changing minds as the school looks to pick a new president. Neither is criticism from the state Capitol. 

Faculty and staff members are upset that the UW Presidential Search Committee doesn't include any faculty or staffers. 

“The people with the boots on the ground are not represented,” UW-Madison food science professor Mark Etzel said at a Faculty Senate meeting this week. 

The union representing faculty members says 96 percent of the people who work in the UW system are either faculty members or staffers who want a say in picking a new university president. 

But UW Board of Regents President Drew Petersen said they are not needed. 

Petersen said the four current regents, one former regent, one student regent, two chancellors and a university provost that he's named to the search committee are enough. 

Faculty and staffers from 13 of the UW Systems campuses wrote to Petersen this week, demanding a seat at the table 

Some Wisconsin lawmakers are joining those demands as well.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, said this week that she also wrote Petersen. 

"I sent the Board of Regents two letters demanding they include shared governance stakeholders on the committee. It was disappointing to see the regents double down on breaking with decades of precedent," Shankland said. "Now that resolution after resolution from shared governance stakeholders has passed on 13 campuses while groups like AFT [American Federation of Teachers] and AAUP [American Association of University Professors] and other legislators have called on the regents to rectify this wrong, their refusal is both embarrassing and vindictive."

Shankland added her worries about why the regents are keeping the search committee small. 

"If 96 percent of the UW workforce is not allowed to have a representative in the room as they search for the UW System President, what confidence will this inspire? Absolutely none," Shankland said. "It appears they are deliberately setting the UW System up for failure."

Petersen said the group he's picked to find a new university president has “diverse interests and viewpoints of the board, academic leadership, faculty and students.”

UW President Ray Cross announced his retirement back in October. He's promised to stay on with the school until his replacement is found. There's no word just when that could happen.