The question surrounding Interim Chancellor David Ward's term length recently surfaced as UW-Madison's University Committee requested he stay an additional year. While the interim position is only allotted a single-year term during a search and screen process, members of the UW faculty argue Ward's background, collegiate experience and national insight put him in the best position to lead UW-Madison through Wisconsin's rocky political climate.
And after meeting with Ward on Monday, this board can't help but agree.
Since Ward has taken on the Interim Chancellor position he has made it his primary focus to rebuild relationships with particular members of the faculty, state and most notably the UW System. As the university recovers from the spring's legislative turmoil and crushing budget cuts, UW-Madison needs a strong leader who is able to patch up splintered relationships and provide stability.
The experiences gained in his previous chancellorship from 1993 to 2001 give Ward the knowledge base and skill set to adequately tackle major issues facing the UW. His familiarity with the university instills a sense of a reassurance across the campus community, which is especially important in a time when the fate of Wisconsin's very own governor hangs by a thread.
We believe his experience on the national level as the president of the American Council on Education along with his passion and work with UW-Madison make him the best candidate to move the university forward in this transitory and politically tempestuous period. With this, Ward upholds a forward and well established relationship with the UW—something a new chancellor may struggle to acquire off the bat.
While we would love to see a new chancellor take the university by storm, we can't help but recognize that this already happened. Former Chancellor Biddy Martin shook the UW and the state with the New Badger Partnership and look what happened: The UW System put its foot down and Martin resigned. What the UW needs now is stability, and Ward can provide that.
This isn't to say that his only duty as interim chancellor is to uphold the status quo. After meeting with Ward we learned of his innovative ideas to handle budget cuts through technological initiatives and administrative streamlining and his suggestions to retain professors through pre-emptive relationship building with administrative officials. Ward may be an old dog, but he most definitely has some new tricks.
With Ward in the chancellor's office another year, the Board of Regents and the Search and Screen Committee will be given an extended deadline for selecting UW-Madison's new leader. While a year may seem long enough, keeping Ward on not only gives the committee time to make a well-researched decision but it also gives the chosen candidate time to prepare.
In the meantime we are happy to have Ward as UW-Madison's leader. With the support of all three shared governance committees, he has the university at his fingertips. And although we trust his judgment, we take more comfort in the fact that, as stated in our interview, the last thing he wants to do is create a controversy.