Evers wants independent UW Board of Regents
Walker filled 2 spots, 1 open a year, this week
LA CROSSE - A member of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents who often voted alone or in the minority on controversial political issues arrived at Thursday’s meeting on the UW-La Crosse campus as the guy everyone wanted to embrace.
“Sometimes we have respectfully disagreed and there’s nothing wrong with that in a democracy,” said the regent, state schools superintendent Tony Evers, who last month amassed political power as the Democrat governor-elect.
Evers thanked fellow regents who were appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker “for putting up with me” and said he knows what he wants to see in future regents he will appoint as governor. His first two appointments will replace current regent President John Behling and past president Regina Millner in May.
“They will not be people who feel they are acting as an employee of mine,” said Evers, who has served as an ex officio member of the regents for the past 9.5 years as superintendent of schools.
Evers alluded to criticism in recent years that the UW System’s Board of Regents is in lock step with Walker, who appointed 16 of the current 18 board members.
The other two members are ex-officio. In addition to the state schools superintendent, a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System board also serves on the UW Board of Regents.
Evers said he thinks it’s important that regents be independent of the governor who appointed them and encouraged the board to “stay true to not only the teaching and learning but the
research that goes along with it.”
The GOP agenda for UW System has both shaken tenure job projections for faculty and shared governance for campus decision-making in areas such as curriculum.
Evers in 2016 opposed a GOP-approved budget plan that watered down tenure job protections for UW faculty. He introduced three amendments to the Board of Regents that were supported by professors and would have given faculty stronger protections.
None of the amendments passed.
In August, Evers was the only regent who voted against the UW System’s $6.3 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that starts in July because of what he called “a strategic error.”
Evers said the $107.5 million requested from state taxpayer dollars for UW operating expenses should have been $70 million higher because of potential revenue loss from an ongoing tuition freeze for undergrad residents that began in fall 2013.
Evers told reporters at the regents meeting Thursday that he believes the state should replace with state funding any money campuses lose through a tuition freeze. Residential undergraduate tuition has been frozen for the past six years.
This week’s two-day meeting at UW-La Crosse will be Evers’ final regents meeting.
He will be replaced on the board by his successor at DPI.
Evers was pre-empted from filling two spots open until this week because Walker acted quickly to make his own regent appointments before leaving office in January.
The state Senate confirmed both appointments Tuesday, including high-powered attorney Scott Beightol, who works for the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich, which helped Republi- cans redraw legislative boundaries in 2011.
Democrats allege the redrawn boundaries are unconstitutional.
Beightol will serve until May 2023. He replaces Republican U.S. Rep.elect Bryan Steil, who resigned last week to focus on his first term in Congress in the district now represented by Paul Ryan.
Beightol’s law practice focus is employment discrimination and labor arbitration.
The other new Walker-appointed regent is Torrey Tiedeman, who will be the nontraditional student regent until May 2020. Tiedeman replaces Lisa Erickson, who graduated and resigned last December.