Walker’s Wisconsin

Writing for WiscNews, Nicco Savidge attempts to provide an overview and a gauge of “the Extent of Scott Walker’s Impact on UW.” Here is the opening section of Savidge’s article:

“Gov. Scott Walker has had a bigger impact on Wisconsin’s public universities than any governor in decades, and he is among the most aggressive governors in the country in reshaping higher education, experts say.

“Walker has cut funding for the University of Wisconsin System byhundreds of millions of dollarsfrozen undergraduate tuition and approved legislation that shifts power on UW campuses toward administrators and away from faculty, while also weakening those professors’ protections from layoffs.

“The governor’s influence has also extended into the administration of the UW System, which has hired a longtime friend and political confidant to one of its top positions and is governed by a Board of Regents made up almost entirely of his appointees.

“Noel Radomski, an expert on the history of the UW System, said Walker’s influence on higher education has been greater than any Wisconsin governor since Patrick Lucey merged UW-Madison with the rest of the System in the 1970s.

“The new tenure policy, changes Walker sought to the UW System’s mission statement and pushes to cut regulation of the for-profit college industry have made him one of the most active governors in the country on higher education topics, said Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

“’Walker has sought to redefine the foundational policies and practices of universities,’ Harnisch said. ‘I can think of no other governor who has pursued all of those policy changes in recent years.’

“According to Democrats, supporters of the UW System and many of its faculty, the changes that Walker has pushed for and signed into law have been disastrous.

“Former Regent David Walsh, an appointee of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said the current leaders of state government, Walker chief among them, are “as bad as we’ve ever had” for UW.

“But for Republicans and those who support changes to public higher education, Walker’s legislative accomplishments have been necessary reforms to ensure UW serves Wisconsin residents and the state’s economy.

“’We’re working to have more of a market-based approach where we’re more responsive to the private sector,’ said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester. ‘There’s a long way to go, but we’ve started the journey.’”


I find that last sentence to be particularly telling: although the rest of the nation looks at what has been occurring in Wisconsin as an extreme imposition of political ideology on public higher education, those pushing that political agenda in Wisconsin feel that they have only just begun to effect “needed” changes.

Of course, Walker and the legislature continually describe what they are doing with oxymorons because there is no convincing way to “sell” what they are doing more straightforwardly and honestly.

They have made draconian cuts to the state funding of public colleges and university while talking about increasing affordability.

They have appointed political cronies to oversight positions while talking about increasing institutional flexibility.

They have gutted the financial and employment security of college and university faculty while talking about rewarding productivity.

They have undermined the reputation of one of the most long-admired public university systems in the country and the world while talking about insuring that the degrees from those universities are of the most possible value to the students who have earned them.

This is all very highly politicized doubletalk—in line with what we have seen in Kansas and Louisiana and with what we are seeing now in Illinois. Like administrators, governors and legislators are too seldom held accountable for the damage that they leave behind as they pursue their personal ambitions—unless that damage is so spectacular that even those blinded by political partisanship cannot help but take notice. Sam Brownback’s and Bobby Jindal’s states are facing impossible budgetary crises, and their possibilities as national political figures have evaporated. Walker’s presidential campaign fizzled because it was impossible for him to explain, cogently and convincingly, how what he has been doing in Wisconsin would be good for the nation. Even in this era of “Trumpism,” unremitting ideological extremism cannot be glibly and endlessly “repackaged” as a commitment to the public good.


Savidge’s complete article is available at: http://www.wiscnews.com/news/state-and-regional/article_dba6c905-0f2d-56b5-9590-c437e0a27d2d.html.




2 thoughts on “Walker’s Wisconsin

  1. I beg to differ. Many UW faculty and general population liberals blame Scott Walker. Much as I detest him and everything he stands for, Walker is NOT to blame. UW faculty and their supporters should look within their own house.
    1. The gutting of the Wisconsin Idea did not come from Walker; it came fro UW faculty/administrators, specifically the current president of UW System, the previous chancellor of UW Madison, and current chancellor of UW Milwaukee, among a few others.
    2. Responsibility for Walker’s governorship rests partially with UW faculty and other liberals who failed to support his predecessor Governor Jim Doyle. When I asked them back in 2010 why they didn’t like Doyle, they couldn’t tell me, even though he was the one who made faculty unionization possible along with cutting back prisons, providing state health insurance for everyone, and similar measures.
    3. For years, nay decades, UW faculty took advantage of the status quo, to wit: With apologies to Martin Niemöller,
    When the state kept jacking up tuition, I said nothing because it maintained my comfortable salary, perquisites, and health and retirement benefits. I did not advocate for contingent instructors to receive equivalent pay and benefits out of pride of status. I even thought they were lesser scholars than I. I relied on clerical support staff to do what I could do myself, and often complained when they did not take care of my needs right away. I barely noticed the buildings and grounds workers, but when I did, it was to complain to their supervisors about how they did their jobs. So now, when I and my colleagues have lost tenure, and might even lose our jobs, there is no one left to stand in solidarity with us to make the university what it should and could be.
    Geoffrey R Skoll is a retired faculty member who worked in Wisconsin as a contingent instructor usually without health benefits for fifteen years before getting a tenure track position and getting tenure in another state. Not coincidentally, it was in a university system with unionized faculty. His partner works as clerical support staff. And, of course, he was once a student.

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