Foreshadowing of the Ban's Economic Impact

UW-Madison is the only school in the Big 10 that does not offer domestic partner benefits. That's hurting the university. It's also hurting the state economy. Governor Jim Doyle tried to fix the situation with a budget proposal last year, but he was rebuffed by state lawmakers.

In February 2005, Governor Doyle told the Capital Times that this is a practical, economic issue:
"You can feel strongly about the definition of marriage. This does not overturn any kind of definition of marriage. You can feel strongly about what your religious beliefs or moral values are. But in the real world of living in a very competitive academic environment ... we should not go out into that competition with one hand tied behind our back," he said.
Around the same time, state Rep. Mark Gundrum (a lead sponsor of the civil unions and marriage ban) told the Associated Press, "I'm not looking to tailor our budgeting policy to make sure we retain left-wing social activists."

University researchers--regardless of their political persuasion, Mr. Gundrum--often bring in millions of dollars of grant money and help feed the expanding biotechnology sector. One of those researchers is Dr. Robert Carpick. He's a specialist in the cutting-edge field of nanotechnology. According to the Associated Press, Carpick has decided to leave UW because of the lack of equal benefits:
Rob Carpick, associate professor of engineering, said he will depart for the University of Pennsylvania, which offers domestic partner benefits, at the end of the year. He's taking with him a research portfolio that has won $3.4 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, branches of the U.S. military and private companies since 2000.

"After six and one-half years of working very hard, I found it's problematic to work in an environment where you are not treated equally," Carpick, 37, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Fortunately there are other entities that are more enlightened than the state of Wisconsin on this issue and the University of Pennsylvania is one of them."

UW-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell said Wednesday that Carpick, the winner of prestigious teaching and research awards for young scholars, was among the university's top young researchers in nanotechnology, an area the school is trying to expand.

"It's certainly a great loss for us," he said. "Rob has been very productive in his time here. He's been a model young faculty member, active researcher, great teacher. Students love him in his class."

Michael Corradini, chairman of the engineering physics department, made a counteroffer hoping Carpick would stay.

"Rob is one of our young superstars," he said.

*****

Carpick is the latest in a string of faculty members who have cited the policy in leaving or turning down jobs here, including two professors from its top-ranked sociology department. Farrell said other top scholars will not even consider working at UW-Madison because of the policy.

Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, defended the Legislature's decision to reject Doyle's plan, citing the estimated $500,000 per year cost of the benefits at a time the state has budget problems. He said Carpick's departure was unfortunate but the next person may be able to secure as many grants.
As we've noted many times, if it passes, the civil unions and marriage is very likely to be used to overturn existing domestic partner policies, potentially making it impossible for UW to ever enact such a policy.

If the lack of domestic partner benefits is already costing Wisconsin talented professionals (and their research grants), the ban will only make it worse. It's not enough to hope, as Rep. Kaufert does, that we may find another equally talented researcher. The point is that we shouldn't be at a competitive disadvantage that automatically screens out brilliant and creative minds just because they're gay or want to live in a place that values fairness for gay people.

Fortunately, more and more business leaders, like the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Madison Inc., are willing to go public with these concerns too.

8 Comments:

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carpick's decision to leave has a cascade effect on Wisconsin's economy as a whole, beyond just the loss of his $3.4M in grants.

Most university researchers who come up with some great and patentable idea then patent it through WARF, which then makes money selling access to that process or whatever to other researchers throughout the country.
Also, the area's biotech and nanotech industry is basically comprised of university researchers who came up with concepts that could be used in
industry. Most of these companies start out as the researcher and a
couple of employees trying to turn the concept into a commercially
viable thing; that means jobs in the region. Then with any luck, the concept becomes commercially viable, and either the little company becomes a bigger company, turns a profit, and employs a lot more people, or it gets sold to a bigger company either in the area or outside of the area. All of these options have positive economic impact on the area.

All of these options are now gone from Madison with the loss of Carpick, and they are now going to play out in the U Penn area.

 
At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carpick's departure doesn't surprise me. It's an absolute embarrassment that UW is the last of the Big Ten schools to put through a basic domestic partner policy, and if the amendment passes, then all hope for benefits equality in the near future will evaporate. I know other gay UW faculty who are also actively looking to leave, and I know that there have been more than a few faculty and grad students offered positions who chose to go elsewhere because of this situation.
If the Republican-controlled legislature wants the UW to be efficiently run like a private business supposedly is, then why doesn't it loosen the university's hands in this matter and let UW offer dp benefits? The UW realizes the extent to which this hurts the school and would do it in a heartbeat if they could.
Rob, by the way, is also a terrific colleague and friend, exactly the kind of person that you'd want as your neighbor. He will be missed for much more than just his research money.

 
At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

There's a piece that seems to be missing here. Does Rob Carpick have a partner with need for access to benefits? Or who would like to change career (e.g. start his own business or go back to school), but cannot without leaving his current job and bennies?

If so, I think it would make a very strong statement to profile these two guys, standing with Governor Doyle at a news conference, and talking about their situation.

Or better yet, standing with Rep. Mark Gundrum or with Rep. Dean Kaufert. Let those two guys explain to the people of Wisconsin why it's important to let the two guys rent a U-Haul.

The people of Wisconsin mistaken if they think that this ban is about the vague idea that we "want to live in a place that values fairness for gay people." (poor choice of words, Joshua?)

Instead, it is quite literally about POGROM. The parallel to the Germany of 100 years ago is not so far from the truth. Laws were gradually changed to force undesirables to depart. It wasn't until the 1940's that the cattle cars and forced migrations came. For a hundred years before that, little laws were passed one by one.

 
At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Todd said...

You can read a story that includes information about Rob's partner, Carlos, here.

 
At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that the specifics of Rob's situation are what's important. Would it make it any less significant a move if he just wants "to live in a place that values fairness for gay people?" (which I don't think is a poor choice of words)

Although I do think that personal stories are going to be a huge factor in the ban's defeat in November.

What matters is that the lack of domestic partner benefits is the reason he's leaving. Period. God bless him for making sure that reason is known.

I consider Wisconsin my home and always have. I have a strong sense of loyalty to UW-Madison, my Alma Mater. I have a great sense of pride in both, but that pride has been teetering on the brink of shame.

I completely agree that "It's an absolute embarrassment that UW is the last of the Big Ten schools to put through a basic domestic partner policy." That is shameful.

I am embarrased that my home state is even considering an amendment like this one. That's not the Wisconsin I know and love.

I do know that, regardless of my sexual orientation, I WILL NOT call Wisconsin my home if it passes this amendment. I can't. Why not? Because I want to live in a place that values fairness for gay people.

 
At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Around the same time, state Rep. Mark Gundrum (a lead sponsor of the civil unions and marriage ban) told the Associated Press, "I'm not looking to tailor our budgeting policy to make sure we retain left-wing social activists."

...

He's [Carpick] taking with him a research portfolio that has won $3.4 million in grants from ... branches of the U.S. military ...

Gundrum surely shows himself to be an ass, no?

 
At 9:35 AM, Blogger Communitygal said...

Keith said:

Does Rob Carpick have a partner with need for access to benefits? Or who would like to change career (e.g. start his own business or go back to school), but cannot without leaving his current job and bennies?

So you want stories on this? Ours isn't dramatic, but it is slightly more compelling than a partner who wants the option to change careers or go back to school: my partner worked for a biotech, until late 2004, when the company shut down--it was bought and operations moved overseas. Because it was a complete shut down, as opposed to a lay off but the company continuing to exist, she had no COBRA rights--so even if, in her state of unemployment, we had the spare cash to pay for health care coverage continuation, that wasn't an option. She went for only a month without health insurance, because thankfully by the end of 2004 we were able to convince my employer's health insurance carrier to provide DP coverage. (It took us months of work to make this happen.) Because the job market for people with her skills was so tight, she didn't get a new job until 2006. So she was on my insurance for a year. If it hadn't been for our DP benefits, she would have been unemployed, uninsured, and if serious injured or ill, a burden on the taxpayers.

 
At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Keith said...

Todd: Thanks for the link about Carlos. Like Communitygal's story, it really emphasizes how were are talking about real families with real struggles and aspirations that are made difficult by the State.

With that in mind, I clarify my comment about "poor choice of words."...

It is NOT that I think that living "in a place that values fairness for gay people" isn't important. It is!

It's just that the folks who are pushing for the amendment, and more importantly the UNDECIDED folks have a tendency to think that we are all just UPPITY ACTIVISTS. Witness Gundrum's stupid comment!

A chef and a physicist trying to make a life for themselves are hardly "left-wing activists."

But to read the press, it almost sounds like Rob Carpick quit simply to make a moral point. That's the sort of thing that activists do!

The story I would have written would have been about Carlos wanting to open his own restaurant. He and Rob need to leave Wisconsin behind, and take Rob's grant money with them.

Not to make a point.

But to keep their family secure, and to meet their capitalist bliss.

So, yes, fairness is important.

But in the court of public opinion, fairness ain't worth as much as plain old family values.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

A Fair Wisconsin Votes No
Add this banner to your website