‘Cynical power ploy’: Lawmakers spar over Senate not confirming Evers’ picks for UW Board of Regents

MADISON, Wis. — A Democratic lawmaker had tough words for her Republican Senate colleagues Thursday, who thus far have not confirmed several of Gov. Tony Evers’ picks to serve on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

The comments came when a bipartisan panel of legislators and other university stakeholders shared their review of the past year’s legislative session for the university and weighed in on a vision for the future.

“I think it’s a pretty cynical power ploy to just not confirm and hope that a new governor will be able to then stack the board immediately with his or her appointees,” said Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison.

She joined Sen. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, on the panel. Ballweg did not address Evers’ appointees not making it through the Senate but said the Regent appointees at least had committee hearings.

“I would think that a new [legislative] session is going to take a new look at all of those nominations,” Ballweg said.

Among the panelists was Regent Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, an Evers appointee who has been on the board since 2020. She has not yet been confirmed by the state Senate.

“It’s a very strange place to be,” she said. “We make jokes about it, you know, when we look at our calendars and look toward January, we talk about, ‘Well if we’re out of here, we’ll go to Hawaii or something.'”

January could be the end of her tenure on the board if Evers does not win reelection and a new governor decides to appoint someone else. Regents normally serve seven-year terms on the board.

“It makes me sad as a citizen of the state that there’s political fodder with confirmed and unconfirmed boards all over the state,” she said.

Bogost mentioned, however, that her lack of confirmation does not affect her day-to-day work.

“We are lucky in the sense that we’re seated at the table and we’re functioning as a full board,” she said. “Whether we’re [individually] confirmed or unconfirmed, no one sits around and takes notice of that.”

The two legislators also touched on the issue of campus free speech — which has been a hot-button issue in the past legislative session.

READ MORE: UW free speech survey received limited input

“Public education leads to democracy,” Roys said. “And that’s especially true at the university and [the] higher education level.”

“The most important thing the university owes to the state… is to create thinkers who can be good citizens,” she added.

“I think what happens on campus isn’t any different than you see in some of our city councils and school boards and county boards,” Ballweg said. “Hopefully this is the end of the pendulum, and we can get back to more discussion when it comes to things when we don’t agree.”