The Wisconsin State Senate passed legislation yesterday that will give students in the University of Wisconsin System increased representation. The bill, S.B. 85, will create a second student regent on the UW Board of Regents. While we applaud bipartisan actions taken to increase student voices on the principal governing body of the UW System, we ask the Assembly, which must now review the bill, to take a more critical look at this legislation than their Senate counterparts.
The bill would create a “non-traditional” student regent. Translation: the student regent appointed by the governor must be at least 24 years old, attend one of the UW System schools as an undergraduate, and represent the views of non-traditional students, such as those who are employed or who are parents.
It is certainly true that non-traditional students are integral to Wisconsin’s economy and to the technical college system that serves many people throughout the state. However, when considering student representation as a whole, the number of individuals that would truly be represented by a regent such as this one is relatively small in comparison to the large number of “traditional” students across the state, particularly those in Madison.
As an alternative, we encourage Assembly leaders to consider adding a regent not based on age, but upon resources. Nearly half of all state resources going to the UW system end up at UW-Madison. Moreover, UW-Madison receives one of the largest allocations of federal dollars for research and development in the country, far more than any other campus in the state. This campus is the one that achieves recognition every year as one of the top public universities in the country and, in turn, attracts large numbers of out-of-state students. And this campus alone is comprised of nearly one-fourth of all the undergraduates studying in Wisconsin.
The Assembly should consider this question: Why not create one regent to represent the Madison campus and one regent for all of the others?
Considering the large amount of economic resources this university receives from the state as well as the equally large amount of resources we give back, this alternative is entirely reasonable. It would more accurately represent the needs and priorities of Wisconsin students than the bill passed by the Senate yesterday.