Since 1904, the State of Wisconsin and its university system have been governed by the public service mandate of the "Wisconsin Idea" — until Governor Scott Walker's office leaned on the university to change the Idea to be all about providing workers for the state's businesses, and then lied about it.
The original Idea held that the university system contributed "to the government in the forms of serving in office, offering advice about public policy, providing information and exercising technical skill, and to the citizens in the forms of doing research directed at solving problems that are important to the state and conducting outreach activities" and "ensured well-constructed legislation aimed at benefiting the greatest number of people."
Governor Walker's office instructed the university system to scrap the Idea and replace it with a new mission: to "meet the state's workforce needs" — and told them that this was "not open to debate." When news of the university's objections to this leaked to the press, the Governor first claimed that there had been no change, then that it had been a drafting error, then that there had been a misunderstanding, before finally being forced to admit that it had mandated the changes.
On Jan. 29 — five days before Walker introduced his budget — the UW System's John Yingling sent an email to the state budget office flagging concerns about the proposed changes and then followed up by phone. Yingling is a special assistant to Ray Cross, the system's president.
"We strongly urge that stricken language is unique to depicting the character, mission, and vision of the UW System," Yingling wrote, according to an email released Thursday under the state's open records law.
On Wednesday, Walker initially expressed no concerns when questioned by a reporter about the proposed changes to the system's mission statements.
"Learning's important, but ultimately it's most important for people to get the chance to get the education they need to succeed in the workforce and in life," Walker said during a stop in De Pere, according to Wisconsin Radio Network.
But later that day, hebacked away from the changes by saying they had been included because of a drafting error or oversight in his budget. He further implied that UW System officials saw the changes and "somehow overlooked" them.
On Thursday he acknowledged that, in fact, UW System officials had thrown up red flags and been rebuffed.
Walker forced to admit UW objected to Wisconsin Idea changes [Jason Stein, Patrick Marley and Karen Herzog/Journal Sentinel]
(Thanks, Genie Ogden!)