Tone perfect. The column is written by Christine Evans, an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I work, is an urban research university that has been nationally recognized for service to the community. Twenty million dollars — our campus’s likely share of the cuts — represents the entire annual budget of our business school, or our college of engineering, or our schools of public health, information studies and social welfare combined. Which should we eliminate to help students prepare for “real world” jobs?
We should reject Mr. Walker’s claim that he knows best what the limits of Wisconsin students’ education should be. As my students understand, the humanities train critical thinkers and citizens. That may be inconvenient for politicians who see their constituents as merely a “work force,” but it is definitely good for our democracy, as well as our economy.
Students like mine are the ones who will be hurt most directly by Mr. Walker’s proposed changes. The experiences of the Wisconsin system and that of other state universities show that when state funding is cut, regents raise tuition sharply to compensate. Students pay more and get less. This has already happened in Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal has implemented similarly drastic cuts to the public university system. During his time in office, tuition at public universities in the state has nearly doubled.
The Wisconsin Idea has been a national model for over a century. Mr. Walker’s assault on it is meant as a model, too — a guide for dismantling the public universities we’ve all inherited.