There are a lot of stakeholders in the University of Wisconsin. That is why it is unsurprising that the 21 people who would be appointed to the university’s new governing board under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget come from a wide range of backgrounds.
What is surprising, however, is that only one of those representatives is required to be a student. Chancellor Biddy Martin attempts to justify this imbalance several times on the New Badger Partnership’s website:
? “The composition of the Board of Trustees as proposed ensures that the board fulfills its independent oversight function while at the same time drawing its representation from diverse constituencies that will act in the best interests of UW-Madison.”
? “On a board of this sort with fiduciary responsibility for a university, none of the members are considered to be representative of any group.”
? “Two students serve on the Board of Regents, but there is no requirement that one be from UW-Madison, and one cannot be from UW-Madison if a UW-Milwaukee student is currently serving. Thus, as composed, the new Board of Trustees increases shared governance compared with the Board of Regents.”
This board understands that the fate of UW is tied to the fate of the state, and for that reason it is important that a wide range of opinions are represented. However, it is worrisome the student voice should for the most part be contained to the lower committees involved in the shared governance process.
Though the chancellor holds none of the board’s members represent a specific group, they will be called on individually to provide insight on their areas of expertise. Asking one student to represent the diversity within the student body is a defenestrable offense.
Also worrisome is the sentiment that one student member should be accepted because it is better than the status quo. The New Badger Partnership is not in any way about accepting something minimally better than how things are now – it is about the sweeping changes this university needs. Students should have that same opportunity to achieve the best representation possible.
The Associated Students of Madison Legislative Affairs committee has already begun forming plans to advocate for another student member. This board commends them for their action and suggests adding another provision to ensure the students come from diverse parts of campus – say, one undergraduate and one graduate.
Whether this additional student would come from the university or state side of the appointments, we urge Martin and Walker to consider that, in the end, governing UW should be about the students.