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John Behling, the new president of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, said Friday that he wants institutions to recruit leaders from the private sector and otherwise “streamline” the process for hiring chancellors and other top administrators. In so doing, he might have shed light on why a state budget proposal includes language -- opposed by faculty members -- that would ban the regents from ever considering only academics as top administrators.

Currently, there’s no systemwide policy requiring that the system president or campus chancellors or vice chancellors have tenure or terminal degrees. But Madison campus policy says that its chancellor, provost and vice chancellor must hold a tenured faculty rank, effectively disqualifying nonacademics. Saying that the policy has helped keep Madison a top-ranked institution, members of the campus Public Representation Organization of the Faculty Senate have asked the state Legislature to remove from a state budget bill nonfiscal language saying that the regents can’t ever require that the system president and campus chancellors and vice chancellors be academics.

In his first address to the regents as president, Behling, an attorney, said the hiring process often results in leaders with academic backgrounds and that he wants to expand recruitment of those from outside academe, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The board's vice president will reportedly lead a working group on potential policy changes to the timeline for recruiting chancellors and other university leaders, with the goal of approving new hiring rules by the end of the year.

“Across the country, hiring of private-sector individuals to lead universities is the latest trend,” Behling said, contradicting the findings of a major report from the American Council of Education saying that the hiring of nonacademics as presidents is actually down within the last year. “The University of Wisconsin [must] make sure our hiring process allows for a pool of candidates that is both diverse and dynamic.”

Behling’s statements didn’t go over well with many academics. Here's a social media reaction snapshot.