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Republican-appointed University of Wisconsin regent refuses to step down when term ends

By AP | May 26, 2024

FILE - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks before President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his "Investing in America agenda" at Gateway Technical College, Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in Sturtevant, Wis. Robert Atwell, a conservative University of Wisconsin regent says he won’t step down when his term ends this month. Evers has yet to announce Atwell's successor. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

By TODD RICHMOND Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A conservative University of Wisconsin regent says he won’t step down when his term ends this month.

Then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, appointed Robert Atwell to the Board of Regents in May 2017. His seven-year term ends this month.

Atwell sent an email to Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman, regents President Karen Walsh and regents Executive Director Megan Wasley on Monday saying he won’t step down until he chooses to resign or the state Senate confirms a successor.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that political appointees don’t have to leave their posts until the Senate confirms their successor. Atwell said in his email that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos reminded him that he could remain in his position on the regents.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has yet to announce Atwell’s successor.

“I knew Bob Atwell as a person of high personal integrity,” Evers told The Associated Press on Saturday. “Something has changed.”

UW system spokesperson Mark Pitsch didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Atwell said in his email that he hoped that his “temporary continuation” as a regent will support communication between legislators and the regents.

He also complained in the email that the UW system’s financial reporting is weak and took issue with UW studies that conclude that system graduates earn more because they attended a UW school are “shallow, inaccurate and highly insulting to parents, the students themselves and to the community institutions who also help form young people.”

He also complained that no one has ever answered his questions about how many faculty and staff quit or were fired because they defied the system’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Atwell is one of two Walker-appointed regents who remain on the board. The other is Cris Peterson. Her term expires in May 2025.