Ex-Wisconsin governor questions hire for UW-Madison leader

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Former four-term Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is questioning the hiring of a law school dean from California to run the flagship University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, saying he hoped she does not bring a “California philosophy” with her.

Thompson, who finished a 21-month stint at UW System president this spring, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a story published Wednesday that he was surprised that the UW Board of Regents hired Jennifer Mnookin to serve as UW-Madison chancellor. She is the dean of the University of California, Los Angeles, law school and beat out UW-Madison Provost John Karl Scholz and three other finalists.

The provost position is second in command under the chancellor and higher-ranking than a dean.

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“Why would you pick a dean over a provost to run a school as large as Madison?” Thompson said to the Journal Sentinel. “Not getting involved in personality or philosophy. Looking strictly at credentials, provost is higher than dean.”

Thompson, a Republican, said he wasn’t involved in the interview process nor has he spoken with Regents to get more insight on their selection.

“Now that she’s been chosen, we have to get behind her and support her,” Thompson said. “Hopefully she does well. Hopefully she comes in here with an open mind and not a California philosophy that she seems to have articulated.”

Mnookin on Tuesday said during a news conference that she was willing to meet with Republican critics, who have characterized her as a liberal radical.

Regents Vice President Karen Walsh defended the board’s decision to hire Mnookin, which was unanimously made by board members appointed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Mnookin starts Aug. 4.