University of Wisconsin’s Four Pillars of Insanity


At Inside Higher Ed, Kevin Reilly outlines his prescription for curing popular frustration with higher education, one that ignores the systemic illness while suggesting no real changes.  His strategy—dubbed the “Four Pillars of Promise”—calls for “better preparation, more graduates, more research, and better dissemination and commercialization.”  So in his mind, the public is frustrated simply because it wants more of what it has been receiving.  This “more of  the same” approach brings to mind Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:  “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

More importantly, Dr. Reilly overlooks the far more fundamental, far more obvious ills of modern academia:  as the wholly-owned subsidiary of the radical left, it blends intellectual repression with moral hedonism.  Whether it is imposing speech codes, kicking religious groups off campus, or adopting ideological litmus tests for certain programs, universities send a clear message to students:  “You can engage in any form of perversion you want as long as you think the way we tell you.” 

As President of the University of Wisconsin System, Dr. Reilly should be especially familiar with these problems.  As its institutions have been sued at least six times, the University of Wisconsin System embodies many of them and is well on its way to winning the ADF Center for Academic Freedom’s “Most Frequent Defendant” award:

  • In 2000, UW-Madison lost the landmark Southworth case where the Supreme Court declared that universities can only charge student activity fees if they allocate those funds in a viewpoint neutral way.
  • In 2005, UW-Eau Claire prohibited RAs from holding Bible studies in their dorm rooms, only to back down in the face of litigation.
  • In 2006, UW-Superior kicked InterVarsity, a Christian ministry, off campus because it wanted to have Christian leaders.  Weeks later, UW-Madison did the same thing to the Roman Catholic Foundation because it allegedly only let Catholics become members and leaders.  Two lawsuits later, both groups returned to campus.
  • Despite Southworth, UW-Madison continues to give funds to groups it favors (e.g., Sex Out Loud, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group) and to deny funds to groups it disfavors (e.g., Roman Catholic Foundation, Conservatives for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)).  Because it refused to comply with the clear requirements of the First Amendment, it became the target of two still-ongoing lawsuits, one from Roman Catholic Foundation in 2007 and another from CFACT in 2009.


Sadly, Dr. Reilly’s four pillars of insanity fail to address the real sources of frustration toward higher education:  an ivory tower mentality that derides and undermines values that most Americans cherish, silences any dissenting perspectives, engages in indoctrination rather than education, and openly disregards the elementary requirements of the Constitution.


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