The Land of Monsters
For academics, being courageous is part of the deal. You fight for your ideas and observations in clear, concise language. You lay out a problem, share your data and propose a model or a solution. The next person comes along, kicks at the base of your idea with their data, adds their thoughts, and this forces you to refine your model or reconsider it whole cloth. This is the most fun part of our jobs. The give and take, the idea that ‘the best science wins’. It makes every day stimulating and it keeps folks mentally nimble and informed. But what about when a debate moves into your personal right to express your voice regarding university, state or national politics? This place is what the ancient map-makers use to label ‘here there be monsters’. The unknown where danger is ahead because so few people, if any, have returned.
Watching the University of Wisconsin system come apart at the seams under Governor Walker has forced academics to either be courageous or comfortable. Walker continued his streak of taking money out of public education and removing tenure protections for educators. His newest strategies include $250 million in cuts to the UWisconsin system. These actions would have clear, immediate and dramatic effects on faculty and student retention, as well as the kinds of programs that are offered and the burden placed on those who remain.
A singularly strong voice has risen up in defiance to these proposed changes. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Ph.D., a Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology and champion of accessible education, took to Twitter in a way that made administration, families and incoming students gird their loins. In some rather colorful language, she told incoming freshman to look hard at what parts of the U Wisconsin would remain if these cuts come to pass.
Professor Goldrick-Rab clearly knows what she’s talking about on education and funding. She’s been tapped by President Obama to speak to his goal of 2-years of post high school education to all Americans. She also has a great deal invested into the Wisconsin system and is passionate in defending the need for scholarship and opportunity. This is clearly going to be a huge issue for Wisconsin’s citizens, students and educators. Goldrick-Rab’s courage in championing education is going to have many eyes on her in the coming months as this state’s budget comes together….or apart.