Next UW Regents must be champions for public funding

Just weeks before Governor Jay Inslee’s deadline to appoint members to the University of Washington (UW) Board of Regents, an electronic survey of more than 600 UW faculty reveals that 90 percent believe his top priority in decision making should be candidates’ uncompromising advocacy for more public higher education funding.

Just weeks before Governor Jay Inslee’s deadline to appoint members to the University of Washington (UW) Board of Regents, an electronic survey of more than 600 UW faculty reveals that 90 percent believe his top priority in decision making should be candidates’ uncompromising advocacy for more public higher education funding.

When asked what strategic priorities a Regents appointee should advance, the most important principle was to “oppose privatization and support UW as a public good,” according to 74% of respondents.

By contrast, eight of the existing Board of Regents, all appointed by former Governor Christine Gregoire, are captains of finance and industry. They have done very little to signal to the state legislature they support progressive revenue increases, some of which might land on them, for higher ed.

Other qualities of new Regents members, respondents said, were a record of integrity and civic virtue (89%), and “commitment to an open and inclusive process for future presidential searches” (76%). 

The UW is in the middle of a presidential search right now, seeking a replacement for Michael Young, who left for Texas A&M University after less than four years at the UW. “He didn’t last as long as our undergraduate students,” said one survey respondent.

Respondent faculty said aside from resisting privatization, the Regents should recruit and retain excellent faculty by increasing faculty salaries to be competitive with peer institutions, followed by the aim of prioritizing affordability and accessibility for UW students. In a forced-rank question, 82% of respondents said their top recommendation was to support specific state revenue solutions to restore public funding for UW, as opposed to philanthropic donations (30%) or public private partnerships with industry (19%).

About 86% of respondents said they believed faculty should have a voting position on the Board. UW students have a voting seat on the UW Board of Regents now, although faculty do not. In the states of Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Michigan, the Board of Regents is even elected by the public.

When asked to nominate individuals for consideration, a wide smattering of current faculty and community leader names turned up. Here’s my personal favorite: an “award-winning K-12 teacher.”

The UW’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors and UW Faculty Forward co-sponsored the survey, conducted through an on-line survey tool that was distributed to all faculty listed in the directory between August 13 to 25.

What's Next?
We will be sharing the results of the survey with Governor Inslee’s office, as he prepares to fill two UW Regents appointments at the beginning of the academic year. The two Regents whose terms are set to expire are Joanne Harrell, Senior Director at Microsoft, and Orin Smith, former President and Chief Operating Officer at Starbucks, both appointed by previous Governor Christine Gregoire. The Governor could name new appointees or simply reappoint the two members.

All UW photographs by Curtis Cronn and subject to CC-licenses as indicated on Flickr

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