University of Wisconsin’s student government hosted a student regent Wednesday, giving student representatives the opportunity to ask about the recent recommendation of Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank for chancellor.
Despite having to maintain confidentiality about the details of the UW System Board of Regent’s chancellor selection process, student regent Katie Pointer joined the Associated Students of Madison’s Student Council to address concerns about tuition, diversity and shared governance.
ASM spokesperson David Gardner, who asked for Pointer’s reassurance on Blank’s position on tuition increase and university accessibility, expressed concern that Blank did not seem to find truth in the “sticker shock” of tuition.
According to a previous ASM statement summarizing student impressions of the four chancellor candidates, which also endorsed candidate Michael Schill, Blank seemed to dodge questions regarding tuition accessibility.
However, Pointer assured Student Council that Blank is aware of the importance of accessibility.
“She never said she favored a high tuition, high financial aid model,” Pointer said. “I think that was an assumption along the way.”
Pointer said she has discussed the issue with Blank, and the recommended chancellor talked about the changing demographics of Wisconsin families.
Pointer said she was never able to talk to chancellor candidates individually, as individual meetings were not part of the format for the selection process.
“Meetings between the regents and the prospective chancellors were, at their smallest, three [regents] to one [candidate],” said Pointer.
However, Pointer said she was personally reassured by Blank’s responses, as Blank “displayed the best understanding of this university and it’s intricacies.”
Blank seemed to understand the access mission of UW as a land grant institution, she added.
“With students, [tuition] was a huge concern, and I wanted to make sure that was brought up,” Gardner said. “It seemed like Regent Pointer really did her research and asked a tuition question… I hope to see good things.”
Diversity Committee Chair Mia Akers also questioned how Blank would encourage diversity on campus.
Pointer, who said she agrees diversity is a crucial issue, said the Board of Regents exists partly to serve the diversity-access mission and Blank is aware of this mission.
“I think we oversimplify diversity and this was also something Blank talked a little bit about,” she said. “We [are] not just worried about diversity of skin color. We are interested in diversity of economic background, political thought…She brought up a lot of types of diversity.”
Shared Governance Committee Chair Britt Moes questioned Blank’s stance on shared governance, emphasizing the need to uphold UW’s tradition of collaborative governing among administrators, faculty and students.
Pointer said her position as a student regent on the selection committee was a “prime example” of such collaboration.
Shared governance, Pointer said, was also demonstrated through Blank’s recent campus visit. Blank, who spent two days on campus at various student events as well as events with faculty and staff during the selection process, held multiple open forums and lunches where students could interact and talk to the candidate.
Pointer also expressed confidence in the regents’ selection and the process that lead to the selection of Blank and said she believes Blank “will take this university forward.”
She said Blank’s new appointment will be confirmed in an April meeting, adding the vote is more of “a formality.”