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Scott Walker's budget cuts drive Wisconsin-Madison professors to Minnesota

Scott Walker is pointing the way to Minnesota for Wisconsin-Madison professors.

Scott Walker is pointing the way to Minnesota for Wisconsin-Madison professors.

His disastrous and short-lived presidential bid now a distant memory, Gov. Scott Walker can finally get back to meddling with affairs of state in Wisconsin. 

Just look what's happening in the state capital, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The state's flagship school, long recognized as one of the best public liberal arts colleges in America, is about to lose at least a handful of professors — maybe a lot more — in an exodus that some are laying right at the governor's feet.

The Wisconsin Capital Times has the story. The paper talked to several Wisconsin professors who won't be back next fall, including a couple heading for greener pastures at the University of Minnesota.

Will Jones, a history professor who's headed our way, says the combination of funding cuts across the school and reductions in faculty authority mean the school's getting greedy. Whereas decisions had previously been made for "pedagolical reasons" — a professor's way of saying "for education" — now everyone's got their eyes on the budget.

It's not hard to see why: Walker's 2015-17 budget slashed $250 million from the university system. This was part of a budget that also cut hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes — right around the time Walker announced he was running for president.

The higher education cuts hit some areas of study harder than others. Jones' wife, Christina Ewig, a gender and women's studies professor, will be joining him on his move to the Twin Cities.

Ewig says professors in departments like hers felt forced to go looking for money to pay for their own research. She figures she'll see a lot less of that pressure when she joins the staff at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Jones says those kinds of soft sciences might wind up on the chopping block, as the school looks to find areas of study that make money, through research grants, rather than cost it. 

“Ethnic studies, gender and women’s studies — these are programs it will be tempting to downsize through attrition," he tells the Capital Times. "Over time, we may see those programs declining as a portion of curriculum, in a way that could be very damaging socially."

Also potentially "damaging socially" is the brain drain that might be just getting started at Wisconsin-Madison. Should any more educational migrants seek refuge from Scott Walker's stinginess, we here on the Minnesota side will keep the border open.