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Michael Grebe Becomes Newest Member of the UW Board of Regents

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The Wisconsin Senate voted along party lines to seat Michael M. Grebe on the UW Board of Regents for a seven-year term.

The board oversees Wisconsin’s university system. Governor Walker nominated Grebe and Republicans confirmed his appointment on Tuesday.

Senate Democrats unsuccessfully urged a 'no' vote, expressing concerns about Grebe's political links with Gov. Walker and statements Grebe has made.

Grebe's father headed the governor's campaigns and oversees the conservative Bradley Foundation.

Dem. Senator Chris Larson said merit should determine who serves as a Wisconsin regent. “It should not be the single qualifier that a person’s relationship with the governor and his campaign, as being the only thing that matters in terms of whether they get a job,” Larson told the Senate.

Wisconsin is also in the midst of a budget season when Republicans plan to cut funding for the UW System and give the regents control over matters such as faculty tenure. Grebe has indicated he’s OK with the changes proposed so far, not something Dem. Sen. Jennifer Shilling wanted to hear. “At this time, we need someone who will be a strong advocate for the UW, for its students, for its faculty, for staff and alumni,” Shilling said.

The new regent has suggested the board could go even further in reshaping the state’s university system, for instance by offering certain degrees at fewer campuses for efficiency’s sake. Dem Sen. Dave Hanson bristled at Grebe’s view that Wisconsin should run its higher education system like a private business. “He was also very vague on his thoughts of the importance of tenure and recruiting and retaining top talent, at one of the top research universities in the country. I find this troubling given recent reports of senior faculty leaving our campuses,” Hanson testified.

Republican Senators did not respond to any of the Democrats’ concerns but voted to confirm the governor’s appointee.

In nominating him, the governor said Grebe would be a valuable addition to the UW Board of Regents. "His leadership skills, coupled with his diverse professional knowledge and expertise in corporate and business law, will undoubtedly serve the Board of Regents well as they work to establish rules and policies for the efficient governing of the UW System," according to a statement.

Grebe is executive vice president and general counsel for HUSCO International, a Waukesha-based company that develops and manufactures hydraulic and electrohydraulic components. Previously, he worked as a partner at the law firm Quarles & Brady, having graduated from the UW Law School.

The UW Board of Regents has 18 members, of which the governor appoints 16. Among the board’s responsibilities are setting policies for the UW System, hiring its leaders and approving campus budgets.

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