A Letter To System President Cross

The following letter is being circulated among UW System faculty, staff, students and alumni. It was generated by a UWM faculty member, and we post it here for your information. If you are interested in signing it, please visit this link.
(February 25, 2015)

Dear President Cross,

We write to insist in the strongest possible terms that you come out immediately and publicly against the Governor’s budget plan to transform the University of Wisconsin System to a public authority at this time. We also ask that you oppose the $300 million in cuts that the System is being asked to absorb in exchange for public authority.

Your editorial in yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel claims “the tools to build a more stable and sustainable UW System of the future are within the state budget proposal.” But there is no evidence as to how these tools function or what impacts they will achieve. Moreover, there is an almost complete lack of detail in the current proposal; an absence of any public or system-wide examination of the structure and composition of the governing board of a new public authority; a failure to undertake any serious economic study of the costs of the transition to a public authority, its sustainability, or the size of the benefits a public authority might yield; and the total removal of any statutory protection for tenure, shared governance, indefinite employment status, or any of the academic and fiscal provisions spelled out in Chapter 36. Given this, we demand that you call for an immediate moratorium on any move to a public authority until the next biennium, pending a thorough study and widespread public input into the transition and structure of such an authority.

Since the budget cuts are a quid pro quo for public authority, we urge that in your upcoming testimony to the Joint Finance Committee you request tabling the $300 million of proposed cuts to the next biennium. A moratorium would provide time for the University System and the citizens of Wisconsin to learn what the scope of the efficiencies of a public authority might actually be. Further, such a moratorium would allow the System, the Legislature, and the citizens of Wisconsin to do their due diligence on this seismic shift in the governance and financing of the University of Wisconsin System.

We believe that your efforts to adopt these positions would represent a positive step on the behalf of System administration to perform the kind of due diligence that any large organization or firm would do before making such a radical change in its funding and institutional structure. Your leadership would help reverse the growing loss of confidence in system administration among faculty, staff, and students in system schools, as well as protecting the national and international reputation of the University of Wisconsin System from potentially irreparable damage.