USFO, professors ‘cautiously optimistic’ with Thompson appointment


Former four-term Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson has been named interim president of the UW System.

Kaitlyn Scoville, Copy Desk Chief and Writer

Professors and the UWO faculty union are remaining “cautiously optimistic” on the appointment of former Gov. Tommy Thompson as interim UW System president, and hope that he will lead the System in a more positive direction.

UW System Board of Regents president Andrew Peterson announced on June 19 that former Thompson will serve as interim president of the UW campuses. Thompson’s appointment was effective on July 1.

Thompson served the longest governance in Wisconsin history, lasting four terms from 1987 to 2001. He was also U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

“The University of Wisconsin System is the state’s most valuable asset, and I will be its biggest advocate and its toughest evaluator,” Thompson said for the announcement by the UW System. “No other institution in the state can do more to improve lives, communities and Wisconsin’s economy.”

David Siemers

David Siemers, spokesman for the United Faculty and Staff of Oshkosh and political science professor, said that the group remains “cautiously optimistic” of the Board’s choice for interim UW System president because of the group’s practices in choosing Jim Johnsen as the sole finalist on June 2.

On June 10, Johnsen withdrew from his candidacy.

The UFSO listed several reasons for why the presidential search was flawed, including a lack of transparency and “exclusion of any faculty, staff or non-Regent students from the search committee.”

“We look upon the failure of the presidential search as one of the best things that happened to the UW System in the last 10 years,” Siemers said. “The pivot means we’re not being forced to unilaterally cut programs by the System and that we can have the broad array of majors and liberal arts education that we’re known for.”

Siemers said, with cautious optimism in mind, that the UFSO is hopeful that Thompson will bring the UW System in a new, and hopefully positive, direction.

Jim Feldman

“I think Tommy is probably the best that we could hope for in the short term,” he added.

Environmental studies professor Jim Feldman looked back upon Thompson’s prior career and was also optimistic about his new position as interim UW System president.“He was a good steward of the system and was seen as a partner in creating and maintaining a world class system of public higher education,” Feldman explained. “I hope that Tommy Thompson will take the positions of support for the system that he maintained when he was governor.”