Wisconsin Idea: Records Show Walker Wanted to Change Mission of UW System

May 27, 2016

Gov. Scott Walker came under fire by UW System administrators and others last year, after his proposed biennial budget suggested altering the mission of the UW System.

Credit UW System

For more than 100 years, the Wisconsin Idea has been in place. The mission, which is described in state statutes, says, in part, that the public university system must "extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses." The statement also says that inherent in the UW System's mission is "public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition."

Gov. Walker's budget would have reshaped the mission, removing much of the language and inserting words to indicate that the UW System is meant to "meet the state's workforce needs."

In the wake of outcry over the proposed change, Walker said the suggestion was a drafting error. He removed the changes from his budget.

However, records Walker's office released on Friday show that the governor was behind the proposal. A Dane County judge ordered the records to be made public in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Media and Democracy. It challenged Walker over his refusal to share some of the documents related to the proposed change.