Horticulture Professor Irwin Goldman offered a forward-looking view on the University of Wisconsin in the July 26 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Goldman is chair of the Horticulture department and has served on the PROFS Steering Committee since 2011. The letter is printed here with his permission.
Groucho Marx once said that politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.
As we entered 2015, Gov. Scott Walker and members of the Wisconsin Legislature found trouble with the University of Wisconsin System, attempting to reduce its mission statement to workforce development, separate it from state agency status, remove a large chunk of its budget and eliminate long-standing statutory provisions for shared governance and tenure; all under the guise of “helping” make us be more efficient, like a corporation. There were moments when those overtures made the Wisconsin winter seem even darker and longer than usual.
But, thankfully, universities are stewards of knowledge that transcends the vagaries of the market and the political ambitions of candidates. Our university has been serving people with extraordinary success for 167 years and will still be turning out creative, productive citizens after the ballots from scores of elections are counted, composted and returned to the soil. In fact, the current political climate in our state suggests an imperative for the professoriate: our job is perhaps more urgent than at any time in recent history.
Wisconsin has entrusted us with a critical role in collecting, analyzing and sharing the knowledge upon which its civil society depends. Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens use this life-changing experience every year to carve out their own future and secure the future of our state. Educators and educational institutions are therefore deputized to carry out a sacred duty; one that we embrace no matter who is in office and no matter which ephemeral ideas find political currency.
This fall, our students will return and we will pick up the mantle of teaching and learning once again, finding tremendous meaning and joy in a profession that focuses on helping people acquire knowledge. And politicians will take to the road, looking for trouble and finding it everywhere.