UW System chief: I'll step down if new budget slashes $300M, academic freedom

'Tenure and shared governance is a part of education,' he says

Ray Cross, the president of the University of Wisconsin System (UW), last week promised to resign if the final state budget includes the planned funding cuts and loss of shared governance, tenure, and academic freedom, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

If approved by the state legislature, Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget would cut $300 million from higher education over the next two years and would exempt the Board of Regents from certain state rules and processes, awarding them more power over construction and service contracting. To award that autonomy, Walker cut significant portions of the state statute that governs the UW system, including tenure and shared governance.

Wisconsin to cut $300M from higher ed, but increase system autonomy

Nine of 16 Joint Finance Committee members must vote to do so, says Cross.

"I really do believe the cut is going to be reduced. And tenure and shared governance is a part of education. It's going to be in statutory language or board policy. It's not going away," says Cross.

If tenure and shared governance are eliminated, "I don't think I want to be a part of a higher education system that doesn't have it," he says.

Cross is in the midst of an 11-campus tour across the state. Recently, he has faced some criticism for closed-door negotiation tactics, but Cross says he does not take sides in the negotiations with legislators.

"I have to stand in the middle and I have to straddle this. We are all in this together... We have to do everything we can [to avoid] dividing our campuses internally," he says.

About $2 million in cuts to UW's central administrative offices will be announced in mid-April, followed by more cuts in mid-July and mid-November, according to Cross. But he predicts state revenue projections will improve throughout April and that more funding will be allocated to both higher and K-12 education (Herzog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/25).

The takeaway: The chief of the University of Wisconsin System pledged to resign if proposed cuts to tenure, shared governance, and funding are not removed from the new state budget.

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