After the extraordinarily wrongheaded special session of the Wisconsin Legislature, it might have seemed as if the crude partisanship of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, and Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, would become the norm in Wisconsin politics.
But Gov.-elect Tony Evers is determined to prevent that from happening. While the dead-enders in the Legislature will always put politics ahead of public service, Evers is reasserting the independent, nonpartisan ideal that has always underpinned the Wisconsin Idea.
The Evers standard was particularly notable last Thursday, when the state superintendent of public instruction attended his last meeting as a member of the UW Board of Regents. Gracious and good-humored, Evers acknowledged that he had often disagreed with outgoing Gov. Scott Walker’s appointees to the board and added, “There’s nothing wrong with that in a democracy.”
Those were not idle words, as the governor-elect signaled that he would end the practice of packing the board with political cronies. His appointees, Evers promised, will be encouraged to bring their intellect and expertise to debates among the regents. "They will not be people who feel they are acting as an employee of mine," he said, emphasizing his faith that independent-minded regents can play a pivotal role in ensuring that UW administrators and instructors "stay true to not only the teaching and learning but the research that goes along with it."
It will take time to break the patterns of partisanship that have so damaged the UW System in recent years. But, with Evers, there is great hope for the great state University of Wisconsin.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and @NicholsUprising.
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