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

MADISON, Wis. — A conservative regent at the University of Wisconsin says he will not resign when his term ends this month.

Then-Government. 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 Monday to University of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman, Regents President Karen Walsh and Regents Executive Director Megan Wasley saying he will not resign until he decides to resign whether the Senate confirms a successor.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that political appointees do not 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 maintain his position on the regents.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has yet to announce Atwell’s successor. Evers’ spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. Neither did UW system spokesman Mark Pitsch.

Atwell said he hoped his “temporary continuation” as regent will aid communication between lawmakers and regents.

He also complained in the email that the UW System’s financial reporting is weak and objected to UW studies that conclude that system graduates earn more because they attended a UW school, “superficial, inaccurate and very insulting to parents, the students themselves and to the community institutions that also help shape young people.”

He also complained that no one ever answered his questions about how many teachers and staff were resigned or fired for defying the system’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

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