After an amazingly adroit failure at selecting a new president for the University of Wisconsin system, the Board of Regents selected former Governor Tommy Thompson to act as the interim president.
And the reception to the announcement among officialdom has been for the most part positive if maybe a bit reserved. But Wisconsin’s longest serving governor has often been touted for his ability to compromise and unify diverse constituencies during his term as governor.
He is also a two time alumni of the University of Wisconsin – Madison and was a vocal supporter of UW and education in general in the past.
“Governor Thompson is a statesman who offers the kind of leadership the UW System needs right now,” Board of Regents President Andrew Petersen said Friday. “I have witnessed his collaborative yet direct leadership style. He is perfectly suited to serve as interim president.”
And showing that statesmanship, Governor Thompson replied:
“The University of Wisconsin System is the state’s most valuable asset, and I will be its biggest advocate and its toughest evaluator,” Thompson, 78, said in a statement. “No other institution in the state can do more to improve lives, communities, and Wisconsin’s economy.”
But now let’s face reality. State politics in Madison in 2020 in no way resembles state politics in Madison in 1990. And the Republicans in the current legislature seem to have it in for the UW system. Gov. Thompson is going to find it difficult to find places of agreement under the dome in the Capitol. But he is a smart enough man and an experienced enough politician to understand that. I wish him well in the position.
But what about having one hand tied behind his back? Well, before he’s even been able to find his briefcase in the closet and get ready for his July 1st starting date, one of his supposed party allies shot a warning shot across his bow:
State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who serves as the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families, said he would be an ally to Thompson if the former governor fights for preserving the ongoing tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates, reducing administrative spending, and refocusing the system “on education instead of liberal indoctrination.”
Sen. Nass: you are a belligerent, obstinate, asshole.
This is a first hand example of the obstructionist attitude of many of the elected Republicans in Madison. Shoot off an ultimatum before anyone has even had a chance to assess the situation. The Board of Regents expect the governor to listen and review and put together a plan of governance for the university. After all they said:
Petersen (Board of Regents President Andrew Petersen) said he asked Thompson to take on the position because of his “legacy of bringing people together and finding common ground.”
Good Luck to you, Governor Thompson!