A century old concept at the heart of the University of Wisconsin’s stated mission could vanish, if a provision contained in Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget is enacted. Walker’s budget removes language – known as “the Wisconsin Idea” – that requires the UW “to extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses.”
Walker adds to the opening line, on the mission of the UW System, “to meet the state’s workforce needs.”
“The focus would be honed in, in particular to look at making sure that we prepare individuals in this state . . . for the jobs and opportunities that are available in the state,” Walker said during a stop in DePere on Wednesday.
AUDIO: Governor Scott Walker talks about the proposed change (:14)
Walker would also strike language ensuring that the university’s mission is to “extend training and public service designed to educate people, and improve the human condition,” and deletes the line, “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” For decades, the UW declared that the Wisconsin Idea means that the “boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state.”
UW officials responded to the proposed deletions. “The Wisconsin Idea is— and always will be– central to the mission of this university,” UW Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said via Twitter. “The Wisconsin Idea is embedded in our DNA. It is so much more than words on a page,” said a statement from UW System President Ray Cross . “It is the reason the UW System exists. It defines us and forever will distinguish us as a great, public university. Wisconsin must not abandon this core principle and value. We will work to preserve the Wisconsin Idea in every form.”
“Learning’s important, but ultimately its most important for people to get the chance to get the education that they need to succeed in the workforce and in life,” Walker said.
Walker’s budget would cut state funding to the UW by $300 million over the next two years, in exchange for giving the university autonomy for operations and setting tuition.
UPDATE: Late Wednesday afternoon — shortly after Twitter blew up with comments from people reacting to the initial news — Walker’s office issued a tweet of their own, saying the verbiage change to the UW’s mission statement was a “drafting error.”
The Wisconsin Idea will continue to thrive. The final version of budget will fix drafting error – Mission statement will include WI Idea.
— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) February 4, 2015