Former Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton and I meet for lunch about every six weeks, keeping up a tradition we had started several years ago with our dear friend, the late Ed Garvey.
We typically discuss family, friends and, of course, a healthy dose of politics. Considering the state of things these days, we always have plenty to talk about.
Last week Lawton was particularly upset — outraged would be a better word — over UW Regent President Drew Petersen's refusal to include faculty, staff or students on the search committee for a new system president to replace outgoing president Ray Cross.
But, what rankles her even more is that no officeholder, even Gov. Tony Evers himself, is speaking out. And she wonders why neither of Evers' two appointments to the otherwise all-Republican appointed board is expressing outrage over Petersen's actions.
Lawton has been a longtime advocate for the University of Wisconsin and especially for its campuses throughout the state, and she's been disturbed by the cutbacks, givebacks and consolidations that those campuses have had to endure in recent years under the Republican-controlled Legislature, former Gov. Scott Walker's Regent appointees and Cross.
She sees the selection of the new president as crucial to the system's future and can't fathom why the search committee doesn't include representatives from the very people who will be most affected by the new president.
Walker appointee Petersen broke precedent last month when he named just nine people to the search committee — four Regents, one student Regent, one former Regent, two chancellors and a provost. He named Regent Michael M. Grebe — son of the longtime GOP kingpin by the same name — to chair the committee and included Regina Milner, a former Regent appointed by Walker, as well. He did include one Evers appointment, Edmund Manydeeds III, on the committee. Previous searches have always included faculty and student representatives.
AFT-Wisconsin, the union that represents faculty and staff on the campuses, joined the Wisconsin conference of the American Association of University Professors in calling Petersen's action a "shocking level of disrespect and troubling lack of humility on the part of the Regents."
Faculty organizations on 12 of the state campuses passed resolutions asking the Regent president to reconsider his slight, but the TDS Telecom exec refused.
That apparently has become a modus operandi among Wisconsin Republicans these days. No matter public opinion on issues like gun safety, health care or university president searches, it doesn't seem to matter.
Meanwhile, Barbara Lawton is right. Tony Evers should be raising hell about this.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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