Ed Garvey of the Capital Times writes about how politicians are tending to neglect the role of the University when it comes to civic engagement. Politicians writ large are choosing PAC's and lobbyists, corporations as their source for consultation on public affairs. These groups are also the ones that are able to provide most campaign funding and immediate economic benefit for said politicians. The question is then, how does this reflect democracy?
In short, it doesn't if the will of government is negociated with the few who enact money to their words. Back in the days of Bob La Follett, the Wisconsin Idea was that the concerns of farmers, laborers, artists, engineers, and other members of the citizenry would debate their concerns and ideas in more pure environments, including the academic one and civic groups. Though much has changed since then.
I take a lot of pride in my time at UW Madison. It's very much a globally-known institution, with a reputation for diverse views and conscientious thought. UW Madison ranks high as an institution of research, stem-cell research especially. The sociology program is number one in the nation (which was my specialty). UW Madison also beats Harvard in the number of CEOs that it produces, those who will lead the future markets. If those in government want to see long-run prosperity, they should focus using more funding to create a next generation of civically-involved, educated, disciplined citizens. The University system and public schools are where to start.
But the state Gop would rather cut education funding and build more prisons. Hell, it's better for the short term.