Wisconsin gives a template for what would be happening in Minnesota had we elected Emmer. Some of you might like that scenario. However, that would be hovering like a dark cloud over our University of Minnesota-Morris. This isn't even opinion, it's fact.
Let's look to University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. We heard recently of the proposal there to cut 13 majors in the humanities and social sciences. Under the ax would be English, philosophy, history, sociology and Spanish. This would pave the way for programs with "clear career pathways," according to a March 22 report. The purpose is to address declining enrollment and a multi-million-dollar deficit.
We've been over this before: whether those wondrous liberal arts disciplines may be approaching obsolescence in a new chapter of human development. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is the epitome of the contemporary aggressive GOP view of things, where total practicality rules. In addition to the weakened liberal arts commitment, the proposals are seen as a way to lay off faculty under new rules that weakened tenure. You can count on the likes of Gov. Walker to promote such things. Has his philosophy run its course in Wisconsin? How would our UMM have adjusted if GOPers got the same kind of lock on power here?
Gov. Mark Dayton has been plugging the dike. He has even had the courage to not be 100 percent sympathetic to law enforcement after controversial police shootings. In an earlier time, we'd expect his attitude to be common. Beginning with the tea party wave, a new normal has established itself, where it's fine to decry "Obamacare" in an almost possessed way. The public will wake up because our health care needs are so pressing. The public will then realize belatedly the standard template for what Republicans believe: we ought not appreciate government.
A sit-in was planned at the UW-Stevens Point administration building. The theme was "save our majors." This school is one of eleven comprehensive campuses in the University of Wisconsin system. Walker has had his sleeves rolled up for a long time on such matters. He is a true believer in such things, but his presidential bid turned into a dud pretty quickly. Wasn't that because he proposed a border wall between the U.S. and Canada? Or because he demurred on a simple question on whether he believed in evolution? Now he doesn't even want special elections to be held in Wisconsin. That's because he fears the signs of the "blue wave" foreseen by so many. So, let's just torpedo democracy, Gov. Walker appears to be saying. The courts have had to straighten him out on this.
Aren't Republicans famous for promoting a strict, literal interpretation of the law? That law would have made it a no-brainer to call the elections. Walker showed chutzpah and tried gumming up the works. Thank God for the judges. Now let's allow the "blue wave" to proceed.
Tweaking education for sake of politics
There is a clear ideological backdrop to the conservatives' push to minimize liberal arts and promote "workplace skills." Conservatives see many four-year colleges as politically correct institutions that graduate too many students without practical job skills but with liberal political views. What is "liberal" about a health care program that serves all? Can't Republicans ever adjust their fundamental principles and realize that government has its role? They could adjust or compromise a little, allowing a proper set of health care policies to unfold, and that would give them the opportunity to take credit for it. In this new "Breitbart" world that sucks in so many of the conservative stripe, don't bet on it.
And gradually we will see this "blue wave" grow. We can overcome the Russians, heh heh. Republicans are on their high horse with the Wisconsin legislation, still. The legislature weakened tenure in 2015, removing it from state law. In a somewhat below the radar manner, the legislature also changed the traditional power-sharing arrangement at public universities that had given students, faculty and staff an important role in governance.
The administration can now roll up their sleeves more, along with the regents who are of course appointed by the governor. The regents are eyeing policies that make it easier to lay off tenured faculty.
No one can deny that higher education everywhere is facing a state of flux, but certainly we must be vigilant against throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We saw that op-ed in the Star Tribune recently advising strongly on how our State University system in Minnesota - I guess it's called "Minnesota State" now, like in the sitcom with Jerry Van Dyke - needs to address its "overbuilt" situation. Too many physical campuses, fully staffed, following a model that may have seemed practical back when I was in college.
Electronic communications has been a force re-shaping our whole world. Kids grow up self-motivated to learn and to type, in ways my generation could not have imagined. We got our knowledge from "books" that were padded by the publishers for business reasons. It was tedious and a chore to obtain much information. In our new age of Wikipedia and countless other sources, we get information in nice, bite-size pieces. We don't need professors assigning us to read an ungodly pile of books. Simple YouTube clips can give you background in anything. Go online and almost all of this knowledge is free. We take it for granted today.
My generation existed in a much different world, a world where we'd get packed into "dormitories" in an impersonal way. Today's young generation doesn't relate to all of that. Today's young generation wants some joy and practicality associated with learning. But this does not mean throwing out the baby with the bathwater and discarding the liberal arts.
A proposal for change in MN
I have suggested that, regarding our overbuilt "Minnesota State" system, the legislature establish something like what has been done with military bases. Because such matters become such obvious political hot potatoes, lawmakers assign the difficult decisions to a specially established commission. This is the "base closing commission" approach. Maybe an institution like Winona State has to close its doors, especially since Governor Tim Pawlenty ventured out and established a new U of M campus in Rochester. At least I think there's a new campus there? Has it broken out of its eggshell? In hindsight, Pawlenty should have just shut up and not tossed a political sop to that part of the state. But what's done is done.
Now the "Minnesota State" system has to confront some hard realities and make hard decisions. The state will rue the day it ever allowed St. Cloud State to become a punch line with its "party" image. We used to laugh at that. UMM used it for recruiting here. But it was a travesty. SCSU has desperately sought to right its ship from that. But I dare say, that "big" SCSU campus has become rather a millstone around the state's neck. One big funding package has been described as a "bailout" for St. Cloud State. I guess it was symbolic that Earl Potter III had alcohol in his system when he experienced that tragic fatal car crash.
What side our bread is buttered on
Now, getting back to our beloved UMM: we can certainly be thankful that it was Mark Dayton and not Tom Emmer who became governor. Mike Hatch would have been elected instead of Pawlenty, in all likelihood, if Judi Dutcher had known what E-85 was. Remember that? I think Minnesota was really disposed to electing a Democratic governor at that time.
I think the state will take care of our UMM campus, maybe even with Republican leadership. But let's not assume that state of affairs. We have Republicans representing our area who answer a question about gun control by saying that pornography demeans women.
Addendum: Re. Jerry Van Dyke, did you know he was the first candidate for the role of "Gilligan" on "Gilligan's Island?" He ended up choosing "My Mother the Car." And did you know that the Star Tribune, in its coverage of a long-ago Democratic national convention, referred to "wolf whistles" from the crowd when Judi Dutcher went up on stage? We don't judge women by such criteria any more, and I really thought Judi was pretty ordinary-looking anyway. Thinking of Judi brings to mind her father Jim the U basketball coach, and that in turn brings to mind Mitch Lee, he of the champagne glass image shaved into the side of his head. But surely that's a topic for a separate blog post. Remember Gopher Mark Hall and his mess with making long-distance phone calls? How quaint.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - email@example.com