Thursday, June 11, 2015

The “Political Leaders” of Wisconsin Are Jackasses (or, “How I Learned That It’s Fun To Meddle with UW-Madison and Other Venerable Institutions”)

The anti-science gang of dolts running the state legislature, with their constant attacks on public education in the Badger state, need to be spanked and put to bed without supper. From their transparent, ALEC-driven mission to dismantle K-12 public education and turn it over to their cronies in “the private sector”, to their attempt to meddle with the mission statement of our great state university, to their petty attacks on the ranks of DNR scientists, these guys – and gals – in the clown car need to be given directions to the nearest cliff.

The popcorn-peddler (he really is) who runs the State Assembly and actually graduated from UW-Whitewater, Robin Vos, and Lt. Col. Scott Fitzgerald (US Army – retired), the guy who runs the State Senate and actually graduated from UW-Oshkosh, have a contempt for education and science that belies their baccalaureate degree.

It’s about time the people of this state woke the hell up and sent these two men the same kind of message they sent to Governor Walker when he tried to change the mission statement of the UW. The message, by the way, was essentially “HEY – that mission statement is not yours to change, doofus.”

This group of dolts, reinforced by positive feedback from some of the state’s choicest collection of tea drinking morons, now wants to make the UW System the only institution of higher learning on the planet that won’t give academics the protection of tenure, babbling ill-informed platitudes like “those high-paid professors ought to spend more time actually teaching, rather than doing research that’s really partisan garbage”.

Perhaps it is as simple as these guys – and gals, like Bert Darling – are really so ignorant that they don’t understand tenure.  Take this case, boys and girls: brilliant recent Ph.D. grad seeks position with institution of higher learning to pursue further research and share it with colleagues. Institution of Higher Learning UW no longer offers tenure-track positions. Institution of Higher Learning XX does. To which Institution of Higher Learning does our brilliant young Ph.D. grad apply?

Let me make it more simple.

As a former chancellor of the UW recently wrote, generations ago the people who settled Wisconsin and founded our state’s institutions scraped together their pennies and nickels to build a land-grant university which has become the fourth-leading research university in the nation – ranked ABOVE Harvard, Yale, Cal Tech, MIT, and on and on. The Wisconsin Idea – the name by which we know the mission statement of the UW – the one Mr. Walker tried to f with – says, among other things, that the knowledge generated by the UW must be shared with all the people of the state.

Perhaps one of Mr. Vos’s constituents is a dairy farmer, who has a problem. His fields don’t yield as much as his neighbors. His cows don’t give as much milk as the farmer down the road.  Yet he follows the same practices as his neighbors. To whom does our farmer turn for help? The UW Extension Ag Agent. That person brings to bear the brainpower of all his colleagues to help Mr. Farmer figure out why his yields are down and his milk production is down. That’s the Wisconsin idea in action. That’s why those immigrants and settlers sacrificed to support this institution with that plaque on Bascom Hall about sifting and winnowing and so on.

Perhaps one of Lt. Col. Fitzgerald’s constituents – or, God forbid, the Senator himself – suffers some sort of debilitating ailment that none of the local doctors can figure out. What happens next? The local docs say “we’re going to send you to Madison to UW Hospital to see if those docs can figure out what’s going on here.” Odds are those doctors – and all their researchers and scientists, just like the dairy experts and soil scientists of the UW Extension – will put their heads together and come up with what’s wrong, and how to fix it.

It just seems so shallow and narrow-minded to bash this great institution that the people of Wisconsin have created and supported for generations.


Today, facts aren’t facts any more. It used to be that we accepted facts and agreed on them. Now, the constant ass-braying we hear is “everyone is entitled to their opinion”- as if opinions were the same as facts.  

In practical terms, the UW-Madison has a 15 billion dollar impact on Wisconsin’s economy. It represents 193,310 Wisconsin jobs. The five billion dollars spent by UW-Madison and its faculty, staff, students, and visitors generates an additional seven billion dollars in economic activity. For every dollar of state funds invested in the UW, $24.14 in economic activity is generated in Wisconsin.

Those are facts. They’re not my opinion, and they’re not someone else’s opinion. The source of these facts is not the UW-Madison, but rather the PRIVATE SECTOR company known as NorthStar Consulting Group.  One would think these tea-drinking politicians running the show under the big top now would be able to understand FACTS like these.

But they’re busy cutting the ranks of scientists at the DNR, because, well, science.

And undercutting K-12 public education, by slashing funds for school districts and even going so far as to try and make Wisconsin the only state in the union which would do away with licensing standards for classroom teachers and to allow anyone – high school dropouts included – to become a teacher.

What’s happened to us? Why are we allowing these dweebs to do things like this? Are enough of us ‘sconnies so jealous of teachers and scientists and professors that we think it’s right for our politicians to get away with crap like this? Has politics really become hate-sport, rather than the art of compromise?

I keep hoping that some day the people of this great state will wake up, take a good look around, and say it’s time for us to take control again, to throw the bums out, and start fresh with citizen-legislators who respect government and want to help it work better, rather than the majority in the legislature now, who apparently hate government and are there to dismantle our long-revered institutions.

It’s well past time to get rid of the clowns.


  1. If only. But unfortunately the people that vote for the clowns only listen to clown car radio and the other like minded folks. They are never exposed to facts. Only opinions for dullards and, worse, zealots that believe all the things Tim outlined. Those people will defend their right to believe that dross to the death. Probably from their front porch with an assault rifle.

  2. very well stated

  3. There are more than a few issues at work here. I think a majority of the public just doesn't understand what the UW system really does for the state of Wisconsin. The examples you sited above are just a fraction of what the UW does, but if you never have personal interaction yourself, you don't realize the value. They see the football and basketball games on tv, and that's pretty much where the perceived interaction begins and ends. I think the fault there lies directly with the UW. They haven't done a very good job of selling themselves and convincing people of their importance to the State. When I lived in Madison, I couldn't open up the paper without reading some article about the UW and what they were doing to help people. Up here in North Central Wisconsin they get very little coverage and so the people here don't understand the importance of the entire University system we have. When the people with an axe to grind do a better job of marketing and selling why you shouldn't exist, than you do of telling people why you should, the result is sadly very predictable.

    They also don't understand the concept of tenure and why it's an important tool for the University to use to attract and retain the best and brightest talent. After all, if I can be fired at any time for any reason from my job, why should the rules be different at a University? Why should they be given a benefit that I don't have myself? And why are my tax dollars paying for that benefit? The answer is pretty simple really. The company I work for makes money from my labor now. The UW doesn't operate the same way my company does. It might be many years in the future before they are able to capitalize on the work the professors and scientists are doing. That's why tenure becomes important in a University setting. But they hear the Sykes, Bellings and Baders decry this practice and instead of that simple concept that explains tenure, it becomes a message of greed.

    That was the same message that got pounded into people over and over again that led to act 10. I'm not a union shill here. I think in many instances the teachers union was a bit too powerful. It put small schools at a tremendous disadvantage, especially with state aid declining. There simply weren't enough dollars to go around. We want to support the schools, but when the tax burden gets shifted from those who can afford it, to those who really can't, something has to give. The union itself tended to be inflexible and tone deaf. They could have and should have made concessions on salary and benefits to reflect that. That didn't happen, and it created the environment where the teachers and unions could be villified and again called greedy.

    The cuts at the DNR are, I believe, being down out of sheer vindictiveness. When they publish reports that don't support the decisions the ruling party wants, like on the mine for instance, then the DNR and science becomes the problem, not the positions that the ruling party has chosen to take. That is just pure politics. It's ugly and hateful, but I think whichever party is in power tend to think that State agencies should be lap dogs for their positions, and not an independent voice looking out for the citizens and the environment of the State.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to express your thoughts in depth. Your contribution is sincerely appreciated!

  4. Absolutely terrific post, as is the comment from Anon #3. I'm a university staffer (not a faculty member) who has worked in a UW lab for over three decades, and it's great to hear this from people on the "outside". I've been involved in public health and environmental work and those of us who do this work do so because we believe it serves the needs of the public and the state. We do science objectively and don't follow any hidden partisan agenda--not for either party-- no matter what that idiot Sen. Tom Tiffany or those rant radio hosts think. It now seems like anyone who has gone to college is an "elitest" and therefore an Enemy of the People. Well, this elitest worked his way through college, hunts, fishes, uses a chainsaw, and drives a seven year old pickup truck.And I agree with Anon #3 that the university--indeed, state agencies in general--need to publicize or market themselves better to the people of the state. Again, many thanks.

    1. Thank you, university staffer. And thank you for doing work that helps all of us - just like the Wisconsin idea says.

  5. When I meet new people, I am no longer proud to state that I'm from Wisconsin. And that is truly, truly sad.