Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Next UW chancellor has big shoes to fill

Since the first day of this century we have had the
privilege of being led by Chancellor John D. Wiley, a privilege that affects us
both as students and as residents of the state of Wisconsin. Past chancellors
have often had restrictive or even reactionary policies, bringing on such
fiascos as a teaching assistant strike in 1980 and a schoolwide "speech code"
that was found unconstitutional by a federal judge in 1991. By contrast, the
focus of Mr. Wiley's chancellorship has been to adapt to the times and prepare
for the future. He has been consistent in his encouragement of discussing the
latest controversies candidly and in his commitment to the 2005 University of
Wisconsin Campus Master Plan, which anticipates UW's evolution over the next 20
years. On the whole, Wiley's "sifting and winnowing" has indeed been continual
and fearless, and so it would be in the best interests of his successor to
study Wiley's guiding principles rather than the bullet points of his
accomplishments over the past seven years.

This is not to suggest that singular actions are irrelevant.
Even before last Friday, when Mr. Wiley announced his intention to step down in
September of 2008, both critics and admirers have been mapping the shape of
Wiley's legacy. Yesterday, The Badger Herald Editorial Board praised Wiley's
support of research and student freedoms in particular. The University of
Wisconsin is undoubtedly the most influential and longstanding institution in
the state, and will be for years to come; thus, its reputation as a
cutting-edge research university will depend on just that: innovative
scientific research. As a trained research physicist, the chancellor has always
understood this. His philosophy of planning ahead, then, is the factor that
really raises our expectations for the next chancellor, whoever he or she may

Scientific research is the future. Nothing will be a greater
boon to the state economy and the Wisconsin Idea than the advances made on this
very campus. Unfortunately, the state is not taking this investment as
seriously as it used to, or it cannot afford to. The scandalously long duration
of this year's state budget debate shows us just how volatile state support
could be in the decades ahead. Consequently, our next chancellor would be wise
to maintain the warm relationship Mr. Wiley has formed with alumni, and to keep
Wisconsin traditions at the heart of alumni-funded expansion.


An even greater challenge to our next chancellor will be
maintaining the open exchange of ideas, even when those ideas are contentious
or offensive. When discussions are silenced, issues that should be nuanced are
reduced to simplistic tenets, and the debaters take sides with far less
deliberation. Chancellor Wiley called for open discussion about the behavior of
law professor Leonard Kaplan and former UW lecturer Kevin Barrett, for example.
But his successor could perhaps learn more from his words following the case of
reproducing a sensitive Danish cartoon in The Badger Herald. His statement on
that topic was centered on the idea of actions carrying a social cost, since
people were likely to be offended by the cartoon the Herald chose to run. He
did not use any personal reservations he may have had to suggest that free
speech should be limited.

Next fall, we would be extremely fortunate to have a new
chancellor who similarly prioritizes First Amendment rights and tolerates doubt
— even doubt of ideas regarded as common sense.

The University of Wisconsin has had chancellors in the past
with diverse temperaments. The quality we have seen in Mr. Wiley, and would
like to see more of in future chancellors, is open-mindedness. As demonstrated,
we should not allow UW's growth to be hindered by the state's budget woes, and
we must not sacrifice future conversation on uncomfortable topics by dismissing
unpopular opinions today. We also cannot inhibit ourselves in research,
especially in the area of biological research, else the spotlight on scientific
breakthroughs will shine elsewhere.

In short, the principle of open discussion is what we have
lacked in past chancellors, and what will really matter in the future as Mr.
Wiley's successor works to maintain the prestige of this institution. Best of
luck to whomever it will be; hopefully his or her leadership will bear as much
fruit as John Wiley's has.

Carla Dogan ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in economics.

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