I do not remember many times in my life when I have been more ashamed. On Monday, the faculty of the great state University of Wisconsin voted to no longer be the great state University of Wisconsin. Instead we chose to become a private university, absolving the taxpayers of Wisconsin of any responsibility to support public higher education. Make no mistake – this is what the senate voted to do.
How did this happen? Was it due to greed? Frustration due to the lack of pay plans? Sure, we are still in the midst of the greatest recession since the Great Depression, with high levels of unemployment, but no matter, we didn’t get ours. Or perhaps more charitably, the senators were simply confused by the smoke and mirrors manipulated by the Bascom Hall and Badger Advocates PR machine (how much and whose money are they spending?!).
On July 2, 1862, in a profoundly democratic moment, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act creating public universities ‘to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes’. This act was perhaps the single greatest engine of income redistribution and creation of the American middle class until the New Deal. On May 2, 2011, in a profoundly undemocratic act the faculty senate of UW-Madison turned its back on the aspirations and dreams of the poor, working- and middle classes of Wisconsin. I am ashamed.
*John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath