Don’t play politics with UW-System
Wisconsin’s broken appointment process and inherent government dysfunction is taking center stage as two of Wisconsin’s gubernatorial candidates promise to play politics with the UWBoard of Regents.
Since 2019, Gov. Tony Evers has nominated 11 individuals to the UW-Board of Regents. The board is made up of 18 members who set standards and policies for the UW System as well as appointing the president of the university system and the chancellors of the 13 universities.
Of those 18 members, 16 of them are appointed by the Governor and 14 serve staggered seven-year terms with the other two being student representatives serving two-year terms. The intent of the staggered terms is to insulate the board from the fickle winds of politics so that they can make decisions looking to the longterm good of the UW-System and not be subject to political games.
Wisconsin gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Kleefisch and Kevin Nicholson want to change that. They have gone on record saying they would appoint their own nominees to the UW-Board of Regents, replacing those nominated by Gov. Tony Evers.
The intent is a clear one. The candidates seek to make the regents yet another extension of partisan politics while tossing out common sense leadership. In place of reasoned discussion with room for differing opinions, candidates favor political litmus tests.
The problem with playing political games and subverting the basic institutions of government when you have control of the playing pieces, is that eventually someone else will hold those pieces. The general incompetence of the Wisconsin state legislature and particularly the State Senate’s dereliction of duty to review and either confirm or reject nominees for state boards, has set the stage for the politicians to toss generations of good government into the burn barrel.
The political appointment process was established to be a check on the power of the governor and recognizes the value of opposing views even when regimes change.
In order to ensure that actual grownups, who are able to set aside political differences in seeking a common good, are serving on important government boards, Wisconsin needs to establish a deadline for the senate to act on any appointment. If no formal objection has been raised within a reasonable amount of time, for example four to six weeks, then the appointment should stand as approved without a formal vote. This sort of pocket approval has routinely been used to prevent bureaucratic backlogs from stalling other areas of government. It should be implemented at the confirmation level to ensure the smooth continuation of government regardless of who sits in the governor’s office.