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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Center for Media and Democracy executive director talks corruption of the Wisconsin Idea

Before an audience of students, faculty and members of the UW-Madison community, Lisa Graves, executive director of Center for Media and Democracy, spoke Tuesday about the corruption of what the UW System considers a great pride: the Wisconsin Idea.

The philosophy serves as a guiding principle for the UW System to “extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campus,” according to the statement itself.

Graves’ speech is a part of a 15-part lecture series about the Wisconsin Idea, organized by a new class in the sociology department called "FORWARD? The Wisconsin Idea, Past and Present.” The talks occur every Tuesday in the Pyle Center.

In May 2015, Gov. Scott Walker included an edited version of the Wisconsin Idea in his budget proposal. His administration eliminated that “the basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth,” inserting instead a sentence about “workforce needs.”

This key component of the Wisconsin Idea that Walker changed encompasses the ideal that “public universities should stay in the public interest,” Graves said.

Graves showed a video that introduced the influence of corporations in policy through the American Legislative Exchange Commission. It took the classic song “I'm Just a Bill” and aimed to demonstrate how the entire process of bill-making has changed. ALEC is a nonprofit organization that crafts legislation between corporations and legislators, focusing on enforcing limited government.

“Corporations and legislators get together behind closed doors and have an equal vote, which just should not happen,” Graves said.

Graves mentioned that there are nearly 1,000 ALEC bills in various states, including Wisconsin, concluding by tying back to Walker’s alterations to the Wisconsin Idea.

“He has insulted the concept of the Wisconsin Idea,” she said.

Graves said the search for truth is essential to a public university.

“The University system does not need to be corporate,” Graves explained. “It should seek truth and find solutions that benefit us all.”

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