We are finally beginning to publicly discuss UWM's "entrepreneurial" strategy, specifically their proposed engineering school on County grounds near Wauwatosa. Too bad much of the dialogue is condescending and superficial. The cabal of power brokers hell-bent on pushing forward with the suburban location are rather dismissive and disdainful of anyone questioning such a move.
Their well-reasoned and sound analysis, supporting such a suburban locale, comes in such stellar verifications as, "may offer," "difficult to measure," and "there is no guarantee that new research will bear fruit." Alongside such airtight assurances, platitudes such as, "Milwaukee needs to take a risk," and "we have to get in the game," are paraded out by sympathetic cheerleaders.
The "long-term potential is very strong," claims Rita Cheng, UWM vice chancellor for academic affairs. Just saying so, they seem to feel, makes it so. And, in the same article, Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel reports Michael Lovell, dean of UWM's College of Engineering and Applied Science, agrees. What a surprise that the dean of an engineering school would agree with an massive infusion of investment dollars into his department.
Their sloganeering and incessant boosterism is reminiscent of the lottery: "You gotta get in it, if you want to win it!" The problem is, the chances of UWM and Milwaukee winning with this investment are similar to the odds of actually winning the lottery. Faced with an actual analysis revealing the experience of the majority of universities over the past few decades attempting an "entrepreneurial" strategy has been a poor return on their investment, the cabal, like Pollyanna, bury their collective head in the sand and reaffirm, Stick To The Plan.
For an urban university to march forward with expansion plans in the suburbs, in this age of environmental awareness, borders on criminal. Growing within the City and encouraging others to do such...talk about an opportunity to have a long-lasting, sustainable, and community-friendly impact.
There is nothing quite as intellectually dishonest as academics, supposedly schooled in the scientific method, showing an aversion to data collection and analysis, open debate, and allowing the research to lead us to the most optimal conclusions. No. The cheerleaders will have none of that.
The Journal Sentinel editorial, as usual, is right behind, beating the drum. They believe UWM is "right to stick to the plan." They never corroborate why UWM must stay the course, provide any research findings or data collection of their own, or quantify why this facility, at this location, is a can't-miss and a must-do for Milwaukee.
The Journal editorial is a collection of anecdotes. The Journal, along with fellow boosters, completely ignores the actual return other universities have experienced regarding such developments [not] initiating collaborative efforts and [nor] attracting venture capital. All this in addition to the fact that the other supposed outcomes these snakeoil salesmen are promising have not been the results for the majority of other universities.
This doesn't mean not to build new facilities somewhere, or that the programs are somehow undeserving of investment. But maybe they can be scaled back a bit. Let's possibly revitalize older buildings or blighted strips in older neighborhoods of the city. (Which could spur investment in the most needy areas of the city, while also moving the university forward.) The investment could also be spread out over more of the departments at the university, capitalizing on numerous strengths, rather than putting all the eggs in one or two baskets.
There are more options available. There is no need to rush ahead with the suburban proposal. The University and the City need to look at this a bit more carefully before they make any decisions that will affect our City and it's largest public university for many generations to come.