Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Luxury of a Good Education

Now and again, in my travels seventy-five miles or so south of Madison, I run across a Ford Taurus or some such nondescript vehicle donning University of Wisconsin plates. Not booster stuff, but official tags for university business. I figure somebody must be out testing soil or whatever the hell else Wiscy might be up to slumming out here with the unwashed. No big deal.

So today I was heading to work and there's another one of these plates ahead of me. Slowly it dawned on my semi-conscious morning commute brain functon that there was something a little different here. These plates weren't attached to some dull blue four door sedan. These official plates had found a bright and shiny new home on the shanks of a brand new, silver Lexus R330 SUV. Typically equipped, $40,000.

Well, I'm not going to say that forty grand is in the luxury range of a Lexus LS 430 sedan, at about sixty large, but it's no Taurus either. Soon I began to think to myself, "Why?"

Or perhaps, "Who?"

Who at the University gets a Lexus as a company car? It could be a chancellor. the biggest cheese at UW gets a salary of about $350,000. Minor chancellors get in the high $100,000s or so. Barry Alvarez, the football coach turned AD, will get $500,000 from the U (more from alumni orgs), and the new football coach rates about $350,000 plus another $400,000 or so from "private" alumni funds.

There are many more coaches, and it's certainly not inconceivable that the Lexus in my mirror was just a little part of the picture in one of these deals.

I won't argue here whether it takes someone in the top percentile of incomes to run a university, though I doubt it. And I won't get into the absurdity of the importance given to interscholastic athletics, for now.

But the legislative reality of Wisconsin is gerrymandered Republicanism. Republicans are adverse to public education, or at least that which does not serve affluent suburbs directly. They continue to reach into the pockets of the University in order to fund their donors' road projects and what-have-you. From their bully pulpits they sermonize of the wasteful elite in Madison, while the pork sizzles out on our 350% over budget US 12.

And so maybe it's not such a good idea to have Lexuses tooling around the state with University tags on them. Whoever is driving them, give them the money and let them get their own cars and register them themselves.

Have a little sense.