The battle over the makeup of the Wisconsin Board of Regents has been politically mired far too long.
Kept from getting a fair shake in the Senate by then-majority leader Chuck Chvala, the five sitting regents as yet unconfirmed (Gerard Randall, Phyllis Krutsch, Lolita Schneiders and James Klauser, in addition to student Regent Tommie Jones) can now be ousted by Jim Doyle when he takes office in January. Doyle has the opportunity to re-nominate them if he wishes, and we urge him to consider it from more than a partisan perspective.
Additionally, two other regents, Alfred De Simone and Jay Smith, asked to continue their service beyond their planned expiration by Gov. McCallum, were never formally re-nominated. As they have not been confirmed by the Senate, Doyle may now choose to select his own appointments to fill their seats.
These appointees deserve to have their chance on the floor of the state Senate. Doyle should not replace them simply because their presence is the work of his Republican predecessors. Instead, he should leave the decision where it is legally mandated.
In May, the terms of three more regents — Jones, JoAnne Brandes and Patrick Boyle — will expire.
Jones, the lone student regent, was at first the only applicant to fill the seat vacated by former student Regent Joe Alexander. The Doyle administration must begin the process of finding a politically expedient replacement for Jones aggressively and quickly. An unconfirmed or outright absent student voice on the board is unacceptable.
As these terms and others over the next four years expire, Doyle will surely find fresh faces to fill their seats, as is his obligation. But we urge him to temper the partisanship of his appointments, placing greater attention than did his predecessors on the needs of students as opposed to mere political patronage.
Likewise, when Doyle makes these appointments, the now-Republican-controlled Senate should not hold up its hearings and confirmations in hopes of holding out for a Republican governor in 2006. Any repeat of the gridlock that characterized the Thompson-Chvala statehouse is unacceptable. We urge Mary Panzer and the rest of the Republican delegation to accept a higher standard than recent precedent suggests.
When partisan differences and political in-fighting take over the governance of public universities, the result is a UW System in which the direction is determined by the whims of broad and transient political trends — precisely what the current appointment process was designed to resist. The process was created to diffuse the partisan motivations characteristic of most other political appointments. Control of the governor’s mansion equating to control of Van Hise leaves students in the lurch.