The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents elected Ed Manydeeds III to serve as its next president on Friday. The board, now with a majority of appointees by Gov. Tony Evers, rejected promoting vice president Michael Grebe, a Scott Walker appointee, in a 10-8 vote.
The decision to elect Manydeeds comes at an important moment for the board, which will begin its second search in two years for a new president of the University of Wisconsin System this summer. Manydeeds has been on the board since 2010 and was reappointed last year for a second six year term on the board. He’s also just the second person of color to hold the position.
The board also unanimously chose Evers appointee Karen Walsh as vice president.
Grebe, who oversaw the controversial and unsuccessful first search for a new system president, said his goal if he were elected would be to “listen first,” but with the recently installed Evers majority on the board Manydeeds won easily, promising a more inclusive process for the search. Under Grebe, the search largely excluded the input of university staff, faculty and students — neglecting the principle of shared governance that is meant to guide how decisions are made.
“The search for the next president of the system, I think, has to be inclusive, it has to be the shared governance model, it has to include members of not only the regents but the chancellors, the faculty, staff, students, all our shareholders, people that are involved in the system and our partners with us, at some level of the search,” Manydeeds said.
Grebe’s run for president was also criticized because he only has one more year left on his term while presidents traditionally serve for two years. Many people within the system also saw Grebe as complicit with the Republican-held state Legislature’s frequent use of the state’s higher education as a punching bag.
Scott Beightol, a Walker appointee who spoke in support of Grebe’s nomination, said the potential one-year term was a benefit and that Grebe was only running out of good intentions and a desire to serve the public.
“He’s not doing this because somebody asked him to do this, or any outside influences,” Beightol said.
Manydeeds’ election is part of a broader change in state government in which Evers is gaining majority control over many of the administrative levers of power — despite Republican efforts to thwart that control.
Kyle Weatherly, who was appointed to the board last year by Evers, said he thought both candidates were qualified but was supporting Manydeeds because of his perspective as a Native American and his ability to make the UW System a benefit to families across Wisconsin.
“I’m voting for Regent Manydeeds, not only because I think he’ll be a wise and impactful leader, but also because he brings the important experience of being a person of color and a lifetime of advocating for greater diversity inclusion,” Weatherly said. “Under his leadership, I am confident we will push ever more quickly towards fully expanding the magnificent influence of the UW system to all Wisconsin families.”