BREAKING: this is the content of the email to all students from the Chancellor, more analysis to come after I’m off work.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
I write to inform you that I have accepted the presidency of Amherst
College, and I will conclude my term as chancellor of the University
of Wisconsin-Madison later this summer.
The decision to leave UW-Madison is one of the most difficult
decisions I have ever made. I love this university. I loved it when I
was a student. I was shaped by its lively intellectual culture and by
its great teachers, from Klaus Berghahn to Elaine Marks and George
Mosse. It has been a joy to be back and an honor to serve as its
chancellor. I will miss the extraordinary beauty of the campus,
Madison’s lakes, my view of our students climbing Bascom Hill, the
state’s majestic capitol building and my home at Olin House. More than
anything, of course, I will miss you — the faculty, staff, students,
alumni and supporters of UW-Madison.
UW-Madison is one of the world’s public treasures, and it deserves the
support of every citizen of the state and every branch of state
government, just as the state deserves the benefits of having a great
research university. I am proud of the fact that we have succeeded in
moving the New Badger Partnership forward. The plan passed by the
Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance takes a positive step toward
allowing UW-Madison to adapt to changing circumstances, as it must, if
it is to continue to flourish as one of America’s premier public
universities. That is what the New Badger Partnership is designed to
The future of UW-Madison is bright because of the quality of its
students, the caliber of its faculty, the professionalism of its
staff, the loyalty of its alumni, the generosity of its donors, the
university’s commitment to the people of Wisconsin and the public’s
devotion to the university. The Wisconsin Idea was born at UW-Madison
and has distinguished it for a century. It will always define this
university, and I will always be honored to have been part of it.
I feel lucky to have glimpsed the future of interdisciplinary
scientific innovation in the faculty who now do their work in the
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and in the Wisconsin Institutes for
Medical Research. I am fortunate to have witnessed the social
interactions that are highlighted and enabled by the new Union South,
to have helped attract the public-private match in support of the
humanities, and to have celebrated the academic successes of so many
faculty, staff and students. I will miss the community-wide
discussions of the books we have read together, student performances
of all sorts, watching football games from the sidelines and shooting
free throws in the Kohl Center. My memories of our victories over
previously unbeaten Ohio State at Camp Randall and again at the Kohl
Center this past year will remain vivid forever. I will never forget
how to Bucky.
It is a privilege to be a Badger.
In the end, I have made the very difficult decision to leave a place I
love for an institution that I have long admired because of what I
consider to be a unique opportunity. I was educated in the liberal
arts at the College of William and Mary, and I am deeply in its debt.
There are a wide variety of forces arrayed against the benefits of the
liberal arts today, yet I believe fervently in the importance of a
national commitment to the fundamentals — a broad and integrated
education in the arts and the sciences. The strength of American
higher education is its diversity, and the continued success of the
American experiment, depends on the accessibility of many forms of
advanced learning. As we consider the future of the United States and
its place in the world, technology, innovation and medical
breakthroughs are all essential, and a great research university with
UW-Madison’s mission will continue to produce them. Great liberal arts
education is also critical to ensuring these very achievements and
guaranteeing that they are continually renewed.
Education and research in the fundamentals of the sciences,
humanities, arts and social sciences provide the foundation on which
so many other forms of learning and practical solutions depend.
Preserving and enhancing these fundamentals is our best hope for
citizens who are prepared to answer questions of meaning and value,
even as they contribute to the global economy, to education, to
scientific discovery, to cultural diplomacy and to a renewal of our
political institutions. We need leaders who understand how these
domains are interrelated, who can think about them in their
complexity, who can push the boundaries of language and other media,
and who care about creating opportunity at a time when economic and
social disparities threaten to tear apart the fabric of our democracy.
Amherst is the premier model of the kind of liberal arts education we
need to nurture and propagate, and I want to play a role in promoting
it. It is among the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the country,
as well as being among the most selective; it has shown that
inclusiveness and excellence are complementary, not contradictory. Its
faculty has an unwavering devotion to the intimate art of teaching,
even as its members pursue advanced research across a broad range of
endeavors. The integration of research and teaching is one of
Amherst’s hallmarks. Further, the college seeks to inculcate the ideal
of service and public engagement in its graduates, whatever walk of
life they may pursue. For liberal arts education as a whole, Amherst
College is pointing the way by its actions. The chance to combine my
belief in the transformative potential of the liberal arts with the
presidency of the leading liberal arts college in the country is the
best opportunity I can imagine. I would have left UW-Madison at this
point for no other school and considered no other. I look forward to
teaching Amherst’s students, supporting its great faculty, working
closely with its dedicated staff, engaging with its vibrant alumni
community and leading the college’s ongoing efforts to serve as a
model of quality, diversity and invigorating intellectual exchange.
At a moment such as this, it is hard not to cast a look backward —
and forward. I am delighted that Wisconsin’s great flagship will move
into the years ahead with new kinds of flexibility as it takes
significant steps toward the operational autonomy it needs. I hope
that a future chancellor will pick up the effort as political
circumstances permit. When I arrived in 2008, I drew on what I learned
from you, using that information to articulate a number of goals:
successful recruitment and retention of faculty, which would be
enabled only if we found new ways to ensure we could provide
competitive pay; enhanced administrative infrastructure for this
amazing research enterprise; tuition at the median of our public peers
with significantly increased need-based financial aid; transformations
in undergraduate education to ensure that our students reap the
benefits of studying at a world-class research institution; increased
diversity among students, faculty and staff; a stronger international
presence; invigoration of the Wisconsin Idea; improved communications
and relations with the public; and new developments in our operational
model that would keep pace with rapid changes in higher education
financing. With the increases to faculty salaries at the point of
promotion, assistance with compression issues and the achievements of
the New Badger Partnership, the university will be in a better
position to support its faculty and staff. The organizational changes
to research administration will help ensure that UW-Madison’s
extraordinary research enterprise continues to thrive. Our still
relatively new Office of University Relations has enhanced our reach
and strengthened our relationships.
I am especially proud of our success at increasing the financial aid
available to our students, adding faculty and staff in areas that our
students need, and improving undergraduate education through the
Madison Initiative for Undergraduates. We have increased institutional
grant aid by 226 percent. Though there is still a long way to go, the
Great People Scholarship campaign is poised to generate a great deal
more support. UW-Madison can price itself in way that combines average
tuition with outstanding quality, and I hope it will. The Class of
2016 will include a larger number and percentage of targeted minority
students. Our presence in China and the opportunities it has created
for our faculty, staff and students are a source of particular
satisfaction to me. These accomplishments have been the work of many
hands. They will pay off for years to come.
UW-Madison students: You have been a complete joy. Our interactions,
whether serious or fun, have been a deep pleasure that I will remember
for the rest my life. I will miss you enormously and think fondly of
everything from our book discussions, our interactions on matters of
governance, your indulgence of my dog Oscar, your sense of humor and
your signature jump around.
UW-Madison faculty and staff: I will continue to be inspired by the
quality of your research and scholarship, your dedication to teaching,
your support of our core mission, your commitment to the Wisconsin
Idea and the entrepreneurial spirit that helps make this such a unique
place. I will remember fondly and miss so many in the university and
Madison communities, more than I can possibly say.
Finally, I am happy to point out that by assuming the presidency of a
Division III institution, I can remain an unconflicted — indeed, a
rabid — Badger fan forever, and I look forward both to seeing the UW
take home the Paul Bunyan Axe once again and to seeing Amherst beat
Williams at their 126th meeting this fall.
I thank all of you for your support and your contributions to
UW-Madison, and I wish everyone well.
Chancellor Biddy Martin
After yesterday’s passing of a bill to replace the Stillwater Bridge sponsored by Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) by a large bipartisan majority, the commentary around the Capitol continued to reflect on the $225 million that had just been spent on what our very own Representative Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) called a “boondoggle bridge”.
In his press release, Hulsey urged members to vote against the bill because over 1,000 other deficient bridges exist in Wisconsin. Think about it. Yep, he just argued that we shouldn’t fix one because there are other problems out there. Not a good start. Shahla Werner, the Director of the regional Sierra Club is also quoted in the release saying,
“This bill will pave the way for constructing a $633 million bridge just seven miles north of an
eight lane bridge while ignoring more reasonable bridge upgrades…This massive project unnecessarily
jeopardizes the federally protected St. Croix Scenic Riverway.”
Now, the good Director’s first two claims are true: the bridge will cost upwards of $633 million and is about 7 miles north of Hudson, Wisconsin which has I94 running through it into Minnesota. While true, those statements are misleading.
- The first is that Wisconsin is not spending $633 million; Wisconsin authorized bonding for $225 million, our share of the bridge. (The additional implication that this will be funded through bonds and not the internal budget is another matter entirely…)
- The second statement about Hudson’s I94 bridge is misleading in that its not exactly an empty bridge. During peak time the bridge is bumper to bumper for all the lanes, cars backed up from St. Paul 10 miles farther into Minnesota. That doesn’t sound like a bridge capable of adding another 18,000 cars per day without extreme congestion and cost. Additionally, the next nearest bridge is in my home town of Osceola, and is built just like the I35 bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis a few years back prompting strict weight limits and frequent inspection. Neither option can handle the strain.
- According to data collected by the Federal Highway Administration, the Stillwater bridge has two peers that have over 10,000 vehicles per day and a structural deficiency rating of less than 3/100. (Stillwater bridge is labeled as the Township of St. Joseph in this data) So that already puts it near the top of the replacement list. In all honesty, if the bill included provisions to bond a total of $600 million for all three of these bridges, I would be ok with that. People are at risk daily because of political gridlock and that’s not okay.
- Stillwater bridge closes annually in the Spring when the water of the river rises to touch the deck and sometimes flood the roadway of the bridge. That water enhances the corrosion of the beams, many of which are original 1931 steel, leading to the infamous rust holes in the support structure. That’s right, I can see through the bridge’s supports because they are so weak and rusted away. Every so often, a large truck will come across the bridge and actually hit the beams, bending the steel!
- For more commentary and public views (some of which are blatantly ignorant of the past forty years of regional history) check out the recent MPR discussion between the Mayor of Stillwater and a representative from the Sierra Club. It’s interesting.
There are over 2,000 bridges in Wisconsin deemed to be structurally deficient and earlier yesterday, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bipartisan bill to rebuild the one at the center of one of the longest and strangest controversies between the Cheeseheads and East Dakota. Having lived in Osceola, Wisconsin, twenty miles from this bridge, I can assure you that I have traveled it extensively, and I’ve followed the history closely.
The Stillwater Bridge has gained notoriety over the years for being exceptionally frightening to drive (or walk!) across, and for being habitually closed for repairs and floods. Conversations about replacing the bridge started when the bridge turned 50 (in 1981) and when the Twin Cities was just beginning to grow enough to consider Stillwater a suburb. Early on, there was much confusion over who should pay more for the bridge, Wisconsin or Minnesota? Complicating matters more is the fact that the bridge lies on the St. Croix River National Scenic Riverway, an area with strict construction requirements and conservation laws. Nevertheless, plans had slowly trudged along.
In 1994, when it seemed like a new bridge would come soon (the current bridge could legally retire now…) two of my friends who lived in Stillwater at the time were subject to Minnesota’s Eminent Domain and their neighborhood was bought out for the new bridge that would soon be coming. Nearing twenty years after THAT, and the end is finally in sight. Governor Walker sent a letter to US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood asking for support in an exemption to the protections placed on the Scenic Riverway. This letter mirrors one sent by Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Gottleib to Secretary LaHood.
Both letters note that the appropriate Congressional process is being pursued by two matching resolutions S. 1134 in the Senate and H.R. 850 in the House. The Senate’s version features signatures from ALL FOUR of Wisconsin and Minnesota’s senators (Klobuchar, Franklin, and Kohl for the Democrats, and Johnson for the Republicans) Additionally, the House version features the four most affected congressmen in the states, Democrat Ron Kind who actually represents the district, and Republicans Sean Duffy, Michelle Bachmann, and Chip Cravaack.
This is as bipartisan as it gets folks and its exciting to see finally happen.
Tomorrow, a follow up post will appear where I make the case as to why this bridge should be funded, despite cries from the likes of Representative Brett Hulsey that its not necessary.
I’ll preface this by saying that I am on the Board of Directors of United Council, which seems to imply that I was part of a board that could, you know, direct action for the organization. Well, this novel concept is not very well embraced in United Council, and today’s “Students are as good as dead to legislators” Zombie Day was no exception. The plan for students to come, dressed up as the living dead is certainly a cute idea but cute doesn’t have a lot of currency around the Capitol, even among Democratic offices.
Now, United Council has done stupid things before, and I’ve even participated, but at least the stupid events that I’ve done have been with approval from the Board. Newly elected President of United Council Seth Hoffmeister, if you’re reading this, please use this occasion, regardless of if you like or dislike the event, to assert the Board’s authority over staff.
United Council internal crap aside, I have numerous other problems with the horde.
- Poor theatrics. Staffers didn’t know they were Zombies unless I told them about the event because the makeup was ambiguous and the students were walking around like normal. You have to sell these things.
- Don’t commit crimes by smearing your paint on the carpet of the Co-Chair of JFC’s office. Additionally, if you do a “die-in” somewhere, the last 3 students who haven’t been dragged out should NEVER just get up and leave. Way to stay united on that one.
- Don’t disrespect other students for the sake of spiting anyone. Especially fellow students. Especially those being honored in a state-wide ceremony. This was a once in a lifetime thing for these kids and it was ruined for a quick photo op. Think it really affected Governor Walker’s morale? No, but I can bet that he was mad as hell for the athletes whose ceremony you interrupted. I know I am mad as hell for those athletes when I wasn’t even there and I’m VERY sympathetic to the plight of students, you know, from being one. Edit: Video added below