The news that the Wisconsin GOP has begun to investigate UW-Madison faculty should cause all members of the UW-Madison community to take a gigantic pause and ponder the reality that if the New Badger Partnership is approved, Governor Walker will get to immediately –July 1–appoint the majority of the board that will govern the public authority.
This is not an “NBP myth.” The Administration does not dispute this fact– instead, they say:
“Myth: Gov. Scott Walker will be able to control UW-Madison because he will be able to appoint a majority of the board.
Fact: Having the executive branch appoint a majority of the Board of Trustees will preserve the university’s public status and its sovereign immunity status from certain types of lawsuits. The UW System Board of Regents is fully appointed by the governor to staggered terms, where the UW-Madison Board of Trustees would include appointments by the governor and the university of members with a closer interest in the university, such as faculty, staff, students and alumni.”
Regardless of whether appointing the majority of the board equates with being “able to control” the UW, this statement does not dispute the fact that the governor will immediately get to make 11 appointments. In contrast, the governor’s appointments to the Board of Regents would occur over time–only as the current appointees are term-limited off.
There are 17 Regents. Only 3 have terms ending this year. Another 3 have terms ending next year. It would clearly take at least 3 years until the governor could appoint a majority of the Regents. He may not have enough time.
We are supposed to be assured that the 11 appointees would have to have a “close interest in the university”– well, frankly, who in Wisconsin cannot make that claim? UW-Madison is unusual among state universities in that it is widely viewed as a “common good.” Everyone feels a part of the place and claims to have its best interests at heart. We vary, however, in what activities we think are in those best interests. There is even variation among the alumni– attending a university hardly makes one an expert on higher education policy and practice.
It is abundantly clear that the Wisconsin GOP thinks it’s in the state’s best interests to harrass and intimidate Madison faculty. If you disagree, you need to send a very clear message to Chancellor Biddy Martin right now: The NBP should not be pursued while Governor Walker is in office. Period.