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Ray Cross in the State Capitol

Ray Cross started his job as UW System president in February with a promise to spend more time at the State Capitol and make changes to the System to make it more efficient and transparent. He's shown here in February at the State Capitol.

A group of professors, staffers and students from University of Wisconsin campuses statewide urged UW System president Ray Cross to withdraw support for sweeping changes to the universities proposed by Gov. Scott Walker, calling for a two-year moratorium.

“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,” they said in a letter posted to the blog of Richard Grusin, an English professor at UW-Milwaukee.

“We also ask that you oppose the $300 million in cuts that the System is being asked to absorb in exchange for public authority.”

The letter included the names of more than 200 professors, staffers and students as of Thursday night from at least 18 campuses in the 26-campus System. UW-Madison, the state’s flagship and by far its largest university, had the most signers.

Cross wrote in support of the new public authority model in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel column on Wednesday.

“Right now, we have a substantial budget reduction to face and to manage,” he said. “However, the tools to build a more stable and sustainable UW System of the future are within the state budget proposal.”

In their response, the group of professors and students said that too little is known about how the new governing body would work, saying there is “no evidence” that the changes would lead to promised cost savings.

Delaying any changes for two years would allow university officials, legislators and the public “to do their due diligence on this seismic shift in the governance and financing of the University of Wisconsin System,” the group wrote.

Walker’s budget is in the hands of the Legislature for debate and amendments.

The final version will need Walker’s signature for passage. The UW System Board of Regents plans to discuss the effects of the proposed changes next week at its meeting in Madison.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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