Removing tenure and shared governance from state statute, Act 55 required the UW system to create policies that would pass muster with the Board of Regents. Accordingly, and over the objections of a faculty task force, the board passed new policies empowering university administrators over shared governance. Deploying the familiar logic of disaster capitalism, Cross explained that, in challenging economic times, administrators need flexibility: “it is almost impossible to separate fiscal issues from educational considerations.”

Trapped in the false logic of deliberately created public austerity, Ray Cross sees few alternatives but to reshape the UW system without the input of faculty, staff, or students. In October, the UW Colleges Faculty Council wrote a letter asserting the importance of their labor in the two year colleges around that state. In it, they articulated priorities beyond the false imperatives of austerity and “flexibility”:

We are all heartbroken that [our] labor will be undone by a single vote. But we are not naive. We only ask that you preserve those very core things–the mission–that brought us all to work at the UW Colleges and respect the labor we have contributed to making it what it is.

As yet, it is unclear what the merger plan will mean for the fate of these institutions, with their historic mission of broad access under the lofty rubric of the Wisconsin Idea. A recent “No Confidence” resolution by the UW Stout Student senate termed Cross’s leadership “ruinous.” If the purpose of university administration is to provide broad access to democratic public higher education, they are correct.