Gov. Scott Walker’s latest appointment to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents told a state Senate panel on Thursday that the UW should consider eliminating duplicative degree programs on some campuses.
Walker appointed Michael M. Grebe to a seven-year term on the Board of Regents. Grebe’s father, Michael W. Grebe, is the president and CEO of the conservative Bradley Foundation who chaired Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns.
The younger Grebe is an attorney and executive vice president at HUSCO International, a Waukesha-based hydraulics manufacturer. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Grebe said the UW needs to be more efficient, suggesting that could mean eliminating degree programs on some campuses if they’re available on others. He used a business analogy to make his point.
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“If you work at a company that has multiple manufacturing locations, you might not do the same thing at every single one of those locations, because your customer base may be different,” Grebe said. “You may specialize in one area or another on certain products or types of operations and processes.”
Grebe also said he thought the state was already contributing enough public money to the university.
Grebe’s confirmation hearing came less than a week after the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to cut the UW’s budget by $250 million. The panel also voted to remove tenure protections from state law and to give the university more power to fire faculty.
Backers of the tenure changes say they’ll let chancellors function more like CEOs, while critics say they gut tenure and will make it even harder to retain faculty. Grebe said he thought tenure still had a place at the university.
“I think the question right now in Wisconsin going forward is, what does tenure look like?” he said.
Asked about the possibility of eliminating some UW campuses altogether, Grebe would not rule it out, but said he’d have to be convinced the savings were worth the pain they would cause to a campus’s community.
“I think eliminating a campus is probably a pretty high mountain to climb,” Grebe said.
The Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges was scheduled to vote on Grebe’s appointment by paper ballot on Friday. He would also need a confirmation vote in the full state Senate.
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