Monday, July 18, 2005

COLS list discussion inspired by the Chancellor's letter, pt. I

Tom Lammers wrote:

I agree that this is an important message to convey, and we all should do so when the opportunity arises.

I do not pretend to understand fully how things operate at the upper levels of this university and the UW System, and I am certainly woefully ignorant about state government's inner workings. So take this as a thought that may be built on sand rather than a solid foundation.

Will anyone in state government pay any attention to the "quality" argument as long as we continue to provide access? I mean, they are essentially getting what they want. We are trying to convince them they should want more, but is that the best approach? Would it not be more fruitful to NOT let them get what they want? Could we not say, "So, this is how much money you are willing to provide to us? Okay, for that money we can handle 8,000 students next year. The other 3,000 can go fish."

I would think our most powerful allies in all this would be inconvenienced students and their parents. As long as it's chancellors and regents arguing the case, legislators can dismiss us as elitist intellectuals out of touch with the real world. But we might get somewhere if everyday constituents begin to buttonhole their state reps, shouting, "How come I'm paying five and six year's tuition for my kid to go to college? Why can't he get the classes he needs to graduate in four?"

Now, there are probably all sorts of practical exigencies and unforeseen consequences that make this idea impossible. But I just can't help but thing that the legislature might be a little more willing to bargain if they weren't getting what they want.

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)

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