Gov.-elect Tony Evers, at his last meeting as a member of the UW Board of Regents, briefly outlined a vision for higher education that has often been at odds with a board governed almost entirely by Gov. Scott Walker appointees.
“Sometimes we have respectfully disagreed and there’s nothing wrong with that in a democracy,” Evers said of his colleagues on the 18-member board.
Evers’ appointees to the board will be independent, “not employees of mine,” he said during brief remarks Thursday at the meeting held in La Crosse. He also said the University of Wisconsin System is a “democracy driver” and campus research opportunities need to be valued.
Evers has butted heads with his colleagues on the board, going so far as to say last spring that he “can’t wait” to replace them as governor.
“Thank you for putting up with me for the last nine and a half years,” Evers said to his colleagues.
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As state superintendent of public instruction, Evers automatically earned a spot on the board and is the longest-serving current member. Most of the other regents serve seven-year terms.
Evers did not address the lame-duck session bills passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this week that, if enacted, will curb Evers’ powers.
He also did not directly address the circumstances surrounding two new regents appointed by Walker and confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday — attorney Scott Beightol and nontraditional student regent Torrey Tiedeman, a third-year UW-Madison student who served for four years in the U.S. Marines.
The two were among 82 appointments made by Walker after his loss in the election that were approved by Republicans in one Senate vote, 18-15, along party lines Tuesday. Democrats argued that many of the appointees were not properly vetted and had not even submitted forms identifying any conflicts of interest.
Evers issued a statement Tuesday requesting Walker withdraw those names from consideration, which Walker ignored.
Evers takes office Jan. 7. He will appoint at least three new regents in his first year as governor.
Also at the Thursday meeting, the board unanimously approved a pay plan that would provide UW System employees a 3 percent raise in each of the two fiscal years starting July 1. The request now goes to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Employee Relations.