Cross lays out potential changes to UW System policies

University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross is calling for a slew of changes to the UW’s regulatory and educational policies.

“By demonstrating that we are managing our existing resources responsibly, we believe we’ll be in a better position to make a compelling case for increased resources and flexibilities,” Cross told the Board of Regents Friday.

Cross floated reducing the number of credits required to graduate from UW institutions “so that students have a better opportunity to finish in four years,” along with establishing guidelines for faculty workloads outside the classroom.

“Faculty do so much more than simply what happens in the classroom,” Cross said. “We need to help the public better understand these important contributions.”

He also said the system must review elective course offerings, “so that priority is given to students having access to necessary and required core courses.”

On the regulatory side, Cross also said the system should re-evaluate its use of student fees and commission an outside review of its administrative operations.

“Services could possibly be consolidated, regionalized or even eliminated to achieve savings,” Cross said. “Reorganizing the back office is one way we can potentially maximize existing resources on each campus and allow those resources to be redirected to the classroom.”

He also mentioned a long-sought overhaul of the system’s capital building process and changing the process for selecting campus chancellors and other top officials. Cross said although the current process “in many ways has worked very well” — jokingly referring to himself — “it can also be limiting and restrictive.”

“National search firms have repeatedly told us that highly qualified candidates are declining to participate because of our process,” Cross said.

Cross’ presentation also included establishing a system-specific hotline for reporting waste, fraud and abuse; the board approved a request for proposals to set up such a hotline this morning.

Cross conceded the changes “would not be easy,” but vowed faculty and other stakeholders would be involved throughout the process.

“This is the right thing to do. If we do our jobs well, the result will be a stronger UW System,” Cross said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he hopes the changes “reduce the time it takes for students to graduate and increase the time that professors are in the classroom teaching the future leaders of the state.”

— By Andy Szal