Monday, September 11, 2006

Mark Green's Plans for Micro-Managing the UW

The big news in the gubernatorial race today is that Mark Green accepted special interest donations that swayed his votes and influence as a congressman.


Don't get me wrong, the front-page, below-the-fold Journal Sentinel story does serve the political purpose of neutralizing the ridiculous attacks the GOP has been waging against the Doyle administration for months on the front-page of the JS. But it really says nothing about Green's qualifications (or lack thereof) for governor.

I mean, if we want a governor who isn't accountable to campaign contributors, then we certainly shouldn't elect a politician to the post. (The catch-22 being that once elected, the person automatically becomes a politician.)

And if we want elected officials who are accountable solely to the public, then we need to make the public their sole campaign contributor.

But to get back on the topic of Green and the governor's office, what makes the congressman unfit for the state's top elected post is not that he's a politician, but instead proposals like this one about the UW System, which Green announced on Friday.

It's a telling sign when a politician chooses to make an announcement about public education at a private school.

But that irony aside, the proposal itself is nothing short of outrageous. Essentially what Green is saying is that he, if elected governor, will actively micro-manage the UW System. And not in a good way.

This interest in micro-managing the UW should really be no surprise considering Green's similar plans to personally control commerce in the state, re-direct the research aim of the state's scientific community, and make personnel decisions at UW-Madison.

Side-Note: After just one indoctrination session, Kevin Barrett's students are already under his mystical spell...that is, they like the class.)

In terms of the UW System, what Green wants is to prevent all UW campuses in the state from considering non-academic factors during the admissions process. UW-Madison has been using non-academic factors in its admissions process for years. This past May, the UW decided to use those same factors for admissions at the other campuses in the system.

I explained the purpose of holistic admissions here, along with my take on the effect of expanding the policy, so I won't go into that in this post.

But what deserves highlighting again is how Green completely misses the mark on the impact of the policy. Green and other UW critics suggest that holitistic admissions will water-down the academic rigor of the UW campuses. Unfortunately for them, this argument doesn't hold water.

After all, we have a perfect test case for the effect of holistic admissions in UW-Madison. The flagship campus has considered non-academic factors in admissions for years, and yet the academic reputation of the campus has not waned a bit; if anything, it's become stronger.

This year US News & World Report ranked UW-Madison as the 8th best public university in the country. And in terms of admissions selectivity, UW-Madison is consistently ranked in the top 10% nationally.

Providing a different perspective on college rankings is the Washington Monthly, which considers community service (i.e., what the campus gives back to the public as a whole) equally with the more traditional factors assessed by US News & World Report. According to the way the Washington Monthly sees it, UW-Madison is the 11th best university in the country -- public or private.

The actual numbers also shoot down the argument that holistic admissions will shut white students out of the UW System. In spite of having holistic admissions for years, UW-Madison still ranked in 2005 as one of the least racially diverse campuses in the Big Ten with only 10% of its student body being African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian.

And the charge that holistic admissions will lead to more out-of-state students taking the place of in-state students is preposterous. To be sure, there is absolutely nothing in the holistic admissions standards that would allow an admissions office to privilege an out-of-state applicant over an in-state applicant.

The one thing Green gets right in his proposal for the UW is keeping tuition down; but, as it happens, Doyle and the Board of Regents are already committed to doing the exact same thing.

And it's highly questionable whether Green would be willing as governor to commit enough state resources to the UW System in order to hold tuition down.

After all, Green has already pledged to not use the veto pen as governor to reduce spending cuts. That means that if Green was governor during the last budget cycle, he would've approved $50 million in cuts from the UW System that Doyle vetoed.

And I'm curious to know how the micro-manager Green intends to juggle maintaining the resources that make the UW System great, his pledge to lower student tuition, and his commitment to TABOR, which would devastate the UW System budget.

If one of those balls needs to drop, I wonder which one Green would choose?


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