Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, was appointed to chair the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee Monday by incoming Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem. Rep. Nass has a long history of opposing the UW System, from chastising UW-Whitewater for hosting a controversial speaker to his assertion that the regents violated state law by opposing the gay marriage amendment. Allowing Rep. Nass to lead a committee presiding over Wisconsin's largest state agency is an irresponsible choice that may impede the state's ability to collaborate with UW on vital legislation.
Despite Rep Nass' obvious passion for UW System policy, he is not a sound choice to lead a committee inextricably dependent on communication with the regents. Speaker-elect Huebsch would have been wise to appoint a representative that has displayed a stronger commitment to compromise with both the university and political foes. Rep. Nass' overbearing public criticism of UW has helped spawn the unproductive partisan climate that taints UW's dialogue with the state. The resulting ideological gridlock is to the detriment of UW students and taxpayers because the interests of each party are neglected without meaningful discourse.
The Colleges and Universities Committee needs representatives from across the political spectrum. However, Nass' respect for the regents' sovereignty from state politics is questionable. Although we respect Rep. Nass' ideas to improve the UW System through increased accountability, his methods to this point have been questionable as well.
While Rep. Nass' appointment as chair is disappointing, we do not suggest banning him from the committee altogether. We recognize that diverse ideas will only promote more discourse, which is sure to benefit both the state and UW System.
In his new role, Rep. Nass won't just be judged on his ability to publicly scold UW administration. Now he must guide tangible legislation that will have more than just a rhetorical impact. We hope Rep. Nass will be able to put aside his disdain for the Board of Regents and work to promote Wisconsin's interests rather than political ones.