Jim Johnsen, the sole finalist for the University of Wisconsin System presidency, withdrew his name from the search process Friday morning.

The decision to name Johnsen as the only finalist sparked controversy. Several other candidates for the position removed their names as they didn’t want to be named finalists during the COVID-19 pandemic — and several organizations, including the Associated Students of Madison and the American Association of University Professors Wisconsin declared the process a “failed search.”

As President of the University of Alaska System, Johnsen attempted to merge all the UA schools into one institution. Recently, his colleagues in the UA System began the process to remove him as president, voting they had “no confidence” in his leadership.

ASM and AAUP cited these as reasons he shouldn’t be the sole finalist and the search committee had failed.

ASM, AAUP declare UW system presidential search failed, ask committee to restartThe American Association of University Professors Wisconsin and Associated Students of Madison have both released statements in opposition to the Read…

Despite this, the UW System search committee still voted unanimously in favor of Johnsen. In their statement on Johnsen’s withdrawal from the process, UW System Regent President Andrew Peterson called Friday a “dark day” for the System.

“It’s disappointing, a dark day for the UW System,” Peterson said. “Dr. Johnsen is a fine person who conducted himself with professionalism and honor throughout the process, during which he was unanimously identified by the search committee as the best candidate for our system.”

UW System Presidential Search Committee announces finalist for presidencyTuesday, the University of Wisconsin Presidential Search Committee announced their one finalist moving forward to the next phase of the Read…

Peterson said in the statement, for now, the UW System will focus on challenges with the pandemic, then pick up the search again when there’s a better opportunity.