Economy

Scott Walker Wants to Eliminate "Public Service" as a Value at State Universities

February 4th 2015

By:
Dante Atkins

Last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) announced his intention to cut the budget of the University of Wisconsin system by $300 million over two years. But such a drastic cut to the University’s public funding isn’t enough for Walker: this week, his administration released a draft of proposed language from his budget that would fundamentally rewrite the entire mission of the university system.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the so-called “Wisconsin Idea” that has served as the guiding principle of the UW system calls on campuses to be an integral part of their communities and to focus on public service and improving the human condition. Under Gov. Walker’s proposed rewrite, the language guiding the University to focus on knowledge, public service, and the search for truth would be gutted in favor of language about meeting workforce needs. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the current language followed by the new language from Walker’s budget proposal:

The mission of the system is to develop human resources to discover and disseminate knowledge, to extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses and to serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise, and a sense of purpose. Inherent in this broad mission are the methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition. Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.

Here's the proposed new version:

The mission of the system is to develop human resources to meet the state’s workforce needs, to discover and disseminate knowledge, and to develop in students heightened intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise, and a sense of purpose.

In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, it seems, the mission of a university is not to search for truth, improve the human condition, or be a cultural beacon that improves the communities of which it is a part. Rather, Walker seems to believe that universities should simply be diploma mills to certify people to participate in the workforce. If this language passes the legislature and is adopted, it would provide a template for Walker to further force his more mechanistic and less enlightened views on his state’s aspiring students.

This comes after Walker's announced budget cuts.

The details of Walker's proposed $300 million in cuts were released last week. Wisconsin's revenues have been set back by both the recent recession and by a deep tax cut that has not produced the economic growth its proponents expected, leaving Walker no choice but to make drastic cuts to state services in an attempt to balance the budget in advance of his widely anticipated run for president. If Walker’s plan is approved by the legislature, it will likely lead to layoffs, reductions in course offerings, and possibly an increase in tuition when a state-mandated tuition freeze expires in 2017.

State funding of public universities has been trending downward for decades. When state governments experience fiscal shortfalls, state support for higher education usually takes a hit in an effort to get the budget back into balance. The decline in government funding usually results in higher tuition, as university administrators seek to recoup the money from the next immediately available source.