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Higher Education Has a Role in Politics

September 16, 2008

Historically, higher education has avoided getting too involved in politics. Some argue that politics is "too dirty" and academia is "bigger than that." But, there is also a fear that if higher education, especially public colleges and universities, gets too involved in politics there will be negative consequences - mostly in the form of withdrawal of public funding for those institutions.

John D. Wiley, outgoing Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, disagrees and he's making sure he's heard loud and clear before he leaves his post.

In an article published in Madison Magazine, Wiley calls on the public to challenge the "hyper-partisan political environment at the state capitol" and decry the influence of political campaign contributions to elected officials, which have led to policies that weaken support for education and threaten the future of our communities.

While his article has gotten mixed reactions, if higher education really is to be a leader in advancing and strengthening the economy and our nation's democracy, colleges and universities need to examine how to take on a stronger role in the political process. Higher education can't continue to avoid politics; rather, it must challenge historical beliefs about the role of colleges in politics by utilizing their stakeholders—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—to engage in the political process through grassroots advocacy efforts.

2003 Madison Magazine story by Chancellor Wiley -


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