The following editorial appeared in the Oct. 8 La Crosse Tribune:
As the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents continues to make sweeping changes to the direction and governance of our state universities, it’s troubling to see that La Crosse still has no representation on the 18-member board.
By every measure, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is a top four-year campus in the University of Wisconsin System.
Professors at UW-L have snagged several Wisconsin professor-of-the-year honors in recent years. When it comes to academic excellence, our students continue to shine. And, our campus continues to rate highly when it comes to affordability and quality.
La Crosse also has a rich heritage of long-term leadership on the Board of Regents, including Brent Smith’s term as president in 2012-2013.
But the La Crosse area was last represented on the board more than three years ago.
Regents serve staggered seven-year terms at the pleasure of the governor and after confirmation by the Senate.
There’s nothing that stipulates or guarantees that La Crosse will have a seat at the Regents’ table.
In 2011, the governor signed legislation requiring each of the state’s congressional districts to have representation on the Board of Regents.
Indeed, the chair of the board this year — John Behling — is from Eau Claire.
But as we’ve pointed out before in this space, the lack of a regent from the La Crosse area seems puzzling.
And, there doesn’t seem to be much of a groundswell of local support to push for La Crosse to have a regent to represent our interests as well of the UW System statewide.
We certainly have plenty of La Crosse-area leaders who could pass muster for an appointment by the governor. (Festmaster and former state Senate President Brian Rude is one who comes to mind.)
As we’ve suggested in a previous editorial, the notion of representation on the UW Board of Regents isn’t merely parochial.
It fits with the Wisconsin Idea — something that many in our state still cherish.
The Wisconsin Idea is the concept that the university will spread knowledge and service in Wisconsin from border to border.
And, the governing body of the UW System can better accomplish that with more representation outside of Milwaukee and Madison.
It’s time that our corner of Wisconsin once again has a seat on the UW Board of Regents.