Lone UW president finalist withdraws from consideration

MADISON — The lone finalist for the University of Wisconsin System's president job withdrew his name from consideration Friday in the face of mounting criticism from faculty, staff and students.

UW has been searching for a new president since October, when Ray Cross announced he would step down as soon as a successor could be found.

University of Alaska System President Jim Johnsen emerged as the only finalist after other would-be finalists dropped out of the running, saying if they were identified they wouldn't be able to effectively combat COVID-19 in their current positions. UW faculty, staff and students have complained that Alaska faculty don't support Johnsen and UW should restart the search.

The University of Alaska System issued a statement Friday saying that Johnsen no longer wanted the UW job.

“After deep reflection as to where I am called to lead a university system through these challenging times, it is clear to me and my family that it is in Alaska,” Johnsen said. “I appreciate the strong support from the search committee at Wisconsin, and for all those who supported my candidacy, but it's clear they have important process issues to work out.”

UW Board of Regents President Andrew Petersen called Johnsen's decision disappointing. He said regents will focus on the pandemic for now and decide whether to launch a new search “when there is a better opportunity.”