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No-Confidence Vote Spreads To Other UW Campuses

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Faculty at UW-Madison will take up a no-confidence vote against UW System President Ray Cross and the UW Board of Regents at their monthly meeting Monday.

Update: Since UW-Madison's faculty senate passed its no-confidence vote last week, campus leaders at UW-Milwaukee, UW-River Falls and UW-La Crosse have approved similar measures of their own.

Original post, May 2: Faculty leaders at the University of Wisconsin System's flagship campus approved a no-confidence vote Monday. 

UW-Madison's Faculty Senate - comprised of 220 professors from various departments - discussed the resolution at its monthly meeting. The vote was a symbolic gesture, a statement that in the senate's opinion, UW System President Ray Cross and the governing UW Board of Regents are no longer fit to hold their positions. 

Faculty leaders are targeting Cross and the Regents following recent policy decisions made regarding tenure and budget cuts.

The Regents approved sweeping changes to the UW System's tenure protections last month, replacing the state tenure law that Republican lawmakers scrapped in the most recent state budget.

Higher ed interests say the move weakened a tenure policy that had previously been one of the strongest in the country. Many UW professors argue that the changes will damage the system's reputation, preventing their schools from attracting and retaining top faculty. 

Cross also came under fire last month when he canceled a series of presentations from individual campus leaders about how their schools planned to respond to legislative budget cuts.

Lawmakers slashed UW System funding by $250 million during the most recent budget cycle. 

UW-Madison Sociology Professor Chad Alan Goldberg introduced the no-confidence measure. In his resolution, he wrote that "the erosion of tenure and shared governance in conjunction of budget cuts is likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on faculty who are already most marginalized and/or engaged in politically controversial research."

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank previously advised against a no-confidence vote. In a blog post last week, she called the move "counterproductive," and warned it could cause more harm than good: 

"I do not see any positive outcome from such an expression and believe there is a risk of substantial negative effects. Such a vote would put the UW-Madison faculty in opposition to our governing board, with which we w0rk closely and must have a positive relationship. UW-Madison makes requests of the Regents monthly, needing their approval of a host of activities...I believe it will only reduce support for us at a time we need to communicate our value to the citizens of Wisconsin as strongly as possible."

Several Republican lawmakers also voiced their concerns ahead of the vote, claiming faculty are overreacting to tenure changes. It's been suggested that a no-confidence vote could have repercussions in the state Capitol, as lawmakers prepare new budget discussions for the upcoming legislative session next year. 

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said in a statement that the resolution "shows an arrogance that doesn't serve the University or its students well."

"The Legislature passed some modest changes that aligned the system/state relationship with the rest of the nation," Steineke continues. "These changes should not be used to retaliate against President Ray Cross or the UW Board of Regents whose leadership and vision for the UW System is exactly what we need during this time."

Faculty at other UW System campuses have said they would likely follow Madison's lead with their own no-confidence votes.

Resolutions similar to Goldberg's have been introduced at UW-River Falls and UW-Milwaukee, where a discussion is expected next week. 

Members of the American Federation of Teachers union and Wisconsin Higher Education Council have also created a change.org petition, where other UW System community members and Wisconsin residents can express their opinions about System leadership. 

"My fellow union members and I will continue to advocate strongly for UW-Milwaukee and the UW System," said Richard Leson, an associate professor of art history at UW-Milwaukee and president of the local AFT union, in a statement. "We should expect no less from the UW System President and Board of Regents."

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