Bascom Hall, completed 1849, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison | Richard Hurd CC BY 2.0
Gov. Tony Evers appointed three new members to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents on Wednesday, replacing two former members of the board leadership who were appointed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker and were in charge of the system’s failed search for a new president in 2020.
Evers, a former member of the board himself when he was the state superintendent of schools, appointed former Assembly Rep. Dana Wachs, Goodwill Industries executive Angela Adams and Jennifer Staton, a student at UW-Parkside and U.S. Army veteran.
“Our UW System is not only critical for bolstering our state’s workforce and economy, but it also provides opportunities for students from all walks of life to develop new skills and meet their potential,” Evers said in a statement. “From serving in the Legislature and our communities to serving in our armed forces, the wide-ranging experiences that these folks hold will be invaluable to the overall governance of the UW System, and I’m honored to be appointing them to the Board of Regents.”
Evers’ appointments of Wachs and Adams replace Michael Grebe and Andrew Petersen on the board. Grebe and Petersen were the president and vice president of the body when it conducted a widely criticized and unsuccessful search for a new system president in 2020. The search was seen as suspect by faculty members across the system’s campuses because they felt they weren’t given enough input through the statutorily enshrined shared governance practices.
Grebe and Petersen were at the helm of the board as the state’s higher education system faced numerous attacks from Republicans in control of the state Legislature on the system’s budget and over the class syllabi of professors perceived to be liberals.
But the new appointments come as the Republican-controlled state Senate has refused to hold confirmation hearings or votes for many of the governor’s nominees to powerful boards and commissions across state government. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) has said the body will not take any more confirmation votes until after this fall’s gubernatorial election and some of Evers’ previous regent appointments have been waiting years to be confirmed.
This strategy has led to a yearlong fight over the Natural Resources Board, which is responsible for guiding Department of Natural Resources policy. A Walker appointee on the body, Frederick Prehn, has refused to vacate his post even though it expired last May. A lawsuit to remove him is currently pending at the state Supreme Court.
The uncertainty facing Evers’ unconfirmed appointees means that if he loses in November, a new Republican governor could immediately recall the appointments and install loyal members to the board.
Wachs represented Eau Claire as a Democratic member of the Assembly from 2013-19 where he served on the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, as well as the State Building Commission, which often decides on UW building projects.
Adams is chief communications and diversity officer of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin and Metropolitan Chicago. She has worked for Goodwill since 2016 and previously held leadership roles at a number of major Wisconsin businesses, including Ascension Wisconsin and Johnson Controls. She’s also on the board of directors for Froedtert Hospital and the African American Leadership Alliance Milwaukee.
Staton will be one of the two student members of the board, serving a two-year rather than seven-year term. She’s majoring in applied health sciences with a pre-physician assistant concentration and a minor in biology at UW-Parkside. From 2007-14 she served in the Army, where she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a combat medic.
The next Board of Regents meeting is set for June 9-10 at UW-Milwaukee.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.