There have been discussions, teach-ins and campus forums in the past week discussing the NBP. Based on the faculty response that I have come to note at our departmental faculty meeting last week and from an informal water-fountain report by a colleague who attended the Faculty Senate meeting this week, it appears that our faculty are convinced on inevitability of the initiative in this political and economic climate. The Wisconsin Idea Partnership (WIP) document floated by the UW System appears to toe the NBP line as well. Pick your poison, comments a blogger. Is this the ‘shock doctrine’ at work?
It is being argued that the transformation that we will see with either the NBP or the WIP will enable us to survive and thrive in the future because of our increased flexibility to raise funds from non-governmental sources besides increased tuitions to keep up with our ballooning budgets. While there is no one stopping us from raising funds from non-governmental sources at the moment, the increased flexibility will allow us accept funds that come with strings attached, that are may not meet our established transparent rules of conduct. Let’s examine this train of thought for a moment.
Say our budget constraints get tighter in the future and we are forced to accept funds that are provided by corporate, private or anonymous donors in order to survive. Recall that Chancellor Martin recently tweeted that the people that make up the lobbying firm floated to promote NBP ‘appear to be the kinds of people who support us with financial aid $$ and professorships’, and questioned if we should ‘forego it all’. Will the financial aid packages that are funded by such generous donors free of any attached strings, unlike support from our state sponsors that allow us to sift and winnow without fear? Would we end up financial aid packages like this? Will the professorships be free of such confinements as demonstrated scholarship in say, ‘market approaches to democracy’?
How did we get here? We have become so dependent on non-tax-payer support for our operations over these decades, sliding along the slippery slope, that we are at the precipice now. This is not what John Bascom and Charles Van Hise dreamed about our future. We have failed our social contract. NBP, WIP or not, our goal should be to regain our footing and reestablish our sponsorship by the people of the state. We should be reducing our tuition in a time, like this college, when the people of the state are broke, and we need to set our long-term goal to become dependent only on the people of the state, and not otherwise. Our future lies in with the people of Wisconsin. No matter chapter 37 or chapter 36, we will not be free otherwise. It may be slow and painful, but failure to act means an end to democracy and becoming the servile priests of a society crippled by castes.