Seats on the Board of Regents could be filled entirely by Gov. Scott Walker nominees if two appointees are confirmed following their public hearing held by legislators earlier this week.
The outgoing members are the last regents appointed by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, excluding Tony Evers, who continues to serves as an ex officio member due to his recent re-election as superintendent of schools.
The confirmation of these two men—Mark Atwell, a Milwaukee lawyer, and Micheal T. Jones, a Green Bay banker—who are friendly to Walker’s agenda could heavily shape the board’s actions in the coming months.
“It’s an important time with Governor Walker’s proposals and what may or may not be written outside the scope of the budget,” said Jake Lubenow, president of the UW-Madison College Republicans.
In its current state, the budget would give about $42 million in new funds to the system for the board’s use, pending approval of a spending plan by the Walker administration.
Both Jones and Atwell have provided many large donations to Republican candidates, PACs and organizations in the past. Jones’s donations included $15,000 to the National Republican Committee; Atwell’s included $2,500 to Walker’s re-election campaign and $7,400 to Reid Ribble, a “Never Trump” Republican.
Despite general approval for the administration, the appointees made clear such support is not unconditional and both emphasized the importance of affordability to the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges
During his hearing, Atwell voiced skepticism toward the proposed tuition freeze and subsequent 5 percent cut, criticizing the measure as a means to avoid more pressing concerns in other areas.
However, the banking executive went on to defend the governor’s hefty cuts to the UW System in the past, as well as his proposal to allow students to opt out of paying segregated fees, which was removed from the budget by the committee.
These controversial measures force the UW System to “own the experience of what is happening to the taxpayers around them and realize that