The Sketchy – But Revealing – UW-Whitewater Dormitory Stories 

The big UW-Whitewater story last week wasn’t about a dormitory, but about a lawsuit against former Chancellor Telfer and current Athletic Director Amy Edmonds

The dormitory stories are at best evidence of administrative incompetence, at worst evidence of a manipulated story (albeit ham-handedly).  They also, ironically, offer a dark motivation for the repeated actions of UW-Whitewater officials concerning sexual assault reporting. 

Background.  On Sunday evening, 8.21, the Journal Sentinel published a story about how UW-Whitewater dorm limbo could crimp recruitment. I posted on the story the next day, noting that even by the story’s own terms, the key issue wasn’t a dorm, but the influx of out-of-state students from Illinois. SeeDorm-Construction Isn’t the Big Story.

Five days later, on Friday evening, the Journal posted a follow-up to the dormitory story.  SeeUW-Whitewater dorm back on track.

Turns out, the Journal story was stale even before the first installment on 8.21:

Gov. Scott Walker signed the final contract to hire an architect/engineering firm for the UW-Whitewater residence hall the same day the project was singled out by the regents during their [August 18th] meeting in Madison. The project was working its way through the pipeline in a normal progression, according to Steve Michels, communications director for the state Department of Administration….

UW officials weren’t notified that the governor had signed the contract until Tuesday [8.23], the day after a story about the project delay appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

(In fact, the story appeared online on 8.21, but either way the dorm had been approved before reporter Herzog published a word of her story.)

A few observations:

Convenient, coincidental. How convenient it must have been, on the same day that news broke of a lawsuit against UW-Whitewater, that an unrelated  (and actually resolved) issue was available to divert attention from a more important matter.

The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin on 8.18 – university officials surely knew of it before reporter Karen Herzog’s story appeared online or in print.

Incompetent. Honest to goodness, could Herzog not have called to ask the status of the dorm before writing her first story? That first story makes no mention of any attempt to call any state officials. 

The story seems to rely completely and totally on the account of Jeff Arnold, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs at UW-Whitewater

Either Herzog was negligent to omit reference of a call to the state, was negligent not to call the state, or was a dupe in a UW-Whitewater effort to push a non-issue (dorm already approved) over an ongoing, serious one (federal lawsuits and federal Title IX investigations). 

Ineffectual. Since the dorm had already been approved, what does that say about the Vice Chancellor Arnold’s competence or influence that supposedly (1) he didn’t know and (2) nobody bothered to tell him promptly?

Ineffectual, Part 2. All litigation is uncertain. I’ve no idea how either the lawsuit or Title IX administrative claims will develop.

I do know that both stories are now national ones,  and that local efforts to shift the subject are futile (both because the stories have spread too far and because the university’s Media Relations staff are incapable of effectively spinning these accounts against an accurate telling in reply).

Motivation.  Whether Arnold’s fuss over a dorm that had already been approved was from his own incompetence or as a public relations diversion, it’s revealing in a deeper way.

Astonishingly, in the first story, reporter Herzog unintentionally supplies a motivation for the university’s actions to ignore or shove aside those who spoke of sexual assaults on campus: the university was under competitive, financial pressure to recruit out-of-state students.  

Here, from Herzog’s first story:

Since 2009, the school has doubled admissions applications and enrollment of Illinois students. Illinois residents made up 9% of the freshman class in 2009; now they are about 16% of the freshman class, with the largest number coming from McHenry and Lake counties.

Wisconsin resident enrollment is holding steady, according to school officials.

Not having enough housing may work against recruiting efforts in Illinois.

“The lack of housing is constraining our growth,” Arnold said. “It’s our feeling we’re losing students because of our inability to provide housing. Our freshman classes have been capped due to our housing.”

If Arnold thinks that lack of housing will constrain growth, imagine what repeated stories of sexual assualt on campus would do to those same recruitment efforts.

The pressure and push for out-of state-students, from 2009 to 2014, coincides with the clear majority of Richard Telfer’s tenure as chancellor.

Herzog’s first story, one that that Arnold seems to have spoon-fed to her, offers a dark, specific, numerical motivation to suppress assault reporting. 

One could have surmised as much without the story, to be sure, but if the story should be a public-relations inspiration, it’s an especially poor one. 

Expressing public concern over recruiting at the same time students and a former employee are filing complaints about mishandled sexual assault cases, unjust termination, and retaliation is particularly dense. 

More to come. 

Long Miles Ahead

I posted yesterday on the federal lawsuit filed against former Chancellor Richard Telfer and current Athletic Director Amy Edmonds.  SeeFormer Coach Fader Files Federal Lawsuit Against UW-Whitewater Officials.

One should not expect a quick resolution to the many issues the lawsuit raises, of mistreatment of honest employees & disregard for assault survivors. On the contrary, in a matter like this there are likely to be tactics of  (1) silence, (2) changing the subject,  (3) lying, (4) blaming terminated employees and assault survivors, and (5) self-serving but unethical insistence that injury to a few served a higher institutional purpose.

We’re nowhere near the end of all this. A federal lawsuit, and a federal investigation into Title IX handling of sexual assault complaints, is a consequence of, but not a certain cure for, the grievances asserted.

There is much yet ahead. 

Former Coach Fader Files Federal Lawsuit Against UW-Whitewater Officials

At Channel 3000, investigative reporter Adam Schrager reports on a federal lawsuit that former Coach Timothy Fader has filed against UW-Whitewater officials, in their individual capacities. (I had promised readers that I would continue to follow this story, and will continue to do so as the case unfolds.)

Both current Athletic Director Amy Edmonds and former Chancellor Richard Telfer are named defendants:

The lawsuit asserts that Fader was not renewed as the school’s wrestling coach in the summer of 2014 because he immediately reported an alleged sexual assault committed by one of his recruits directly to Whitewater police and not to his supervisors on campus, per university policy. After that, Fader alleges an official at a college in Minnesota called Edmonds for a job reference but was told that she could not “tell him the whole story,” creating “even more mystery and (implying) additional but unreported misconduct on Fader’s part,” according to the lawsuit.

Fader also makes the claim that there are no records of an earlier sexual assault he had reported to university officials. UW-Whitewater is facing two Title IX complaints filed with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Education in the last two years. Title IX legislation was passed by Congress in 1972 to prohibit discrimination by gender in federally-funded education programs.

See, Former UW-Whitewater wrestling coach files lawsuit : AD, former chancellor named as defendants @ Channel 3000.

See, additionally, prior posts about Coach Fader and UW-Whitewater officials’ conduct.

More to come.

Below is an embedded copy of the federal complaint:


Download (PDF, 6.78MB)

Tenure

33cscreenshotPost 10 in a weekly series.

The UW System Board of Regents recently adopted a tenure policy, about which much has been said statewide. How it will change day-to-day prospects for faculty I’ve no idea. The UW System changes from March 10th are only part of a process in which local campuses will have their own tenure policies reviewed at the board level. (UW-Madison adopted its own tenure policies in November, for example.)

This is, no doubt, an important topic on campus, but I am uncertain how much these changes have occupied residents not connected to campus. I’d guess Whitewater (the whole city, adding in surrounding towns) is too fragmented for there to be a common view. That’s true of many topics – we’ve passed the point of being one politically or even culturally unified place (if ever we were). There’s still a lingering desire to think and speak about Whitewater as one place, but that’s really only true as one geographical place. That’s not because the university isn’t relatively large; it’s because residents aren’t sufficiently alike to see and view the issue the same way, with the same intensity. Attention and interests differ significantly.

A webcast of the meeting is online, along with supporting written materials.

THE EDUCATION POST: Tuesdays @ 10 AM, here on FREE WHITEWATER.

A Theory About the Diverging Futures of the Whitewater Schools and UW-Whitewater

33cscreenshotPost 7 in a weekly series.

Before I begin today’s post, I’ll mention that there is now an announcement at the Whitewater Unified School District’s webpage about academic success at one of our schools despite economic hardship. It’s a prominent mention, and that’s a good decision – we should lead with what we have truly done. For more on this topic, see Whitewater’s True and Worthy Success.

For today, it’s a working thesis of sorts, that came to me after a conversation with an education policymaker in Madison. It goes like this. While there are concerns about funding education at both the public school K12 and university levels, these programs would face markedly different futures if spending cuts continue.

Although local school districts must by law offer a minimum core of courses, and by law a core of the same courses as other school districts, that’s not true at UW System schools, where one could by restructuring treat the UW System (or much of it) as a single entity, and allocate previously-considered vital subjects between parts of the System. Over time, UW System schools would look less like separate, comprehensive universities and more like unique branches of a larger tree.

That’s not possible for K12 education. No one could offer science in Whitewater, with the expectation that students would take language arts in Fort Atkinson, and calculus in Jefferson.

One could, by contrast, divide subjects between System schools (far more than is true today).

My point is not that this would be desirable, but that it would be possible. It would mean that our comprehensive universities would be less comprehensive, so to speak. (In fact, the risks to a school like UW-Whitewater – and our city – might be considerable.) Cuts within (public schools) and cuts within, but presented as across (branches of a university system), would have a different character in description and impact.

In one case labor would (mostly notably) face layoffs, in the other wage stagnation.

We are not yet at the point of divergent futures, within a common, low-funding environment. We could be on our way, though, by the end of the decade.

I don’t know; I’m persuaded after my conversation that it’s at least one possible shape of things to come.

THE EDUCATION POST: Tuesdays @ 10 AM, here on FREE WHITEWATER.

12 Points on the Claims of Racial Incidents at UW-Whitewater

I posted yesterday about a statement from UW-Whitewater’s Chancellor Kopper about allegations of racial incidents on our campus.  Kopper later walked back one of her concerns, about two students appearing in blackface in a photo (they claim they were just showing the results of a mud-pack facial).  SeeThe Claims of Ongoing Incidents on Campus (Updates).

A few remarks:

  1.  I think Chancellor Kopper wanted to do right by students who came to her with multiple grievances, not merely concerns about one photograph.
  2. I’ve embedded a clip from TMJ4.  Kopper was right to go on television; the story is a mixed outcome, but out front is better than out back.
  3.  Kopper must see that pulling back on her claim about the photo will be used – of course – to undermine concerns of many students over multiple incidents.
  4. On cue, Sen. Nass and Chief of Staff Mikalsen have seized on Kopper’s retraction of claims about the photo as evidence of her poor judgment.  By mid-afternoon yesterday, they had already contacted every media friend they have with a press release ridiculing an “over-reaction of Chancellor Beverly Kopper and other UW-Whitewater administrators without first checking the facts of the situation is a stark example of how political correctness has warped the mindset of highly educated university administrators. Frankly, these are the people responsible for educating our sons and daughters, but they seem incapable of applying reason or common sense.”  Sen. Nass and Mr. Mikalsen were born for press releases like this.
  5. Did Kopper over-react?  I don’t think so.  Her statement was about more than one episode.
  6. What process did Kopper use to determine the credibility of those in the photograph?
  7. Did Chancellor Kopper receive communications either from System officials or anyone on their behalf asking her to retract her claim about the photograph?
  8. Does anyone think that the UW System as now constituted would allow a chancellor to speak on these incidents independent of the veto of System VP Jim Villa (or those to whom he is attentive)?  If he wanted a particular determination, who doubts that he would get his way?
  9.  Sen. Nass thinks that Kopper used poor judgment when she saw the photo as racist, but somehow he accepts her judgment later that it wasn’t.  What, if anything, does Sen. Nass know about how she made her determination initially and subsequently?  Other than her statements, on what does Sen. Nass rely when assessing – himself, directly – the photograph?  Did he talk to anyone involved?
  10. The UW System is more centralized than ever.  Kopper cannot rely on local notables, or the staff her predecessor put together, to manage easily in that environment.  I’ve been critical of Sara Kuhl, and here’s another reason why: unless one intends to achieve nothing, Ms. Kuhl can’t get Chancellor Kopper through.  Beverly Kopper’s initial statement was sincere, but it doesn’t say much to say that it should – and could – have been crafted skillfully to inoculate against any individual error, while preserving the comprehensive meaning.  Look how easily Sen. Nass latched onto it, and once having latched onto a part, was able to push out a press release of his own.
  11. Unlike a politician or a blogger, UW-Whitewater’s chancellor is more constrained in commentary.  Others can go round after round, but an organizational hierarchy makes that more difficult for a local campus official.
  12. Chancellor Kopper’s success is not – needless to say – this blogger’s responsibility.  If she does what her predecessor did, after all, the school will go on.  If she follows that path, however, she will preside over a campus in comparative decline.  Say nothing except what’s already been said (no problems, all is well, etc.) and nothing will be achieved.  (Telfer left UW-Whitewater with huge liabilities that will grow more evident in the next year or two.)  That’s bad for Whitewater (and so of concern to the many of us who care about Whitewater).  The System, however, has other schools, and less need to worry over the fate of the one in our town.

At UW-Whitewater, Far More Championship Rings Than Actual Athletes & Coaches

I wrote yesterday of Beverly Kopper’s remark that Richard Telfer’s only weakness was not having enough rings for all his championships.  Needless to say, Richard Telfer had no championships at UW-Whitewater: he wasn’t a coach or athlete.  When I first read Kopper’s remark months ago, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that non-athletes were – literally – building ring collections.

What a disappointment it is to read a Gannett Media investigative report that reveals that our local campus has spent over one-hundred thousand dollars on far more championship rings than the total of all her championship athletes and coaches.   See, from 12.11.15,  UW school pays $112,000 for sports rings @ Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team.

Reporter Keegan Kyle reveals that over two years, UW-Whitewater ordered 376 rings, but had only 230 rostered athletes on those teams.  Even accounting for understandably deserving coaches of those teams, that’s far too many rings.  (Irony of ironies, the only program that ordered fewer rings than rostered athletes was then-Coach Fader’s national runner-up program in 2014: just 4 rings for 25 on the roster.  Honest to goodness, Fader did the right thing in that instance, too.)

American schools are the envy – rightly – of all the world.

They are the envy of the world because they have high standards for achievement, properly accounted to those who have, in fact, achieved.

There’s something both sad and unjustified about Richard Telfer, then-chancellor of a Division III school composed of scholar-athletes, receiving (or UW-Whitewater doling out) championship rings for non-competitors. That some others may do this is an unsatisfying excuse: there’s no good reason to emulate the poor practices of others.

It’s not a violation of NCAA rules, but then it’s embarrassing in a more fundamental way: it’s a misunderstanding about the unique and precious accomplishments of athletes on the playing field, and the coaches who guide them there.

That’s something the former chancellor and I have in common, actually – neither one of us are national championship athletes, and so neither of us deserves a championship ring, let alone many.

Rings should be for players and coaches. The rest of us should be contented supporting those programs, and enjoying their successes, without receiving so singular a symbol of achievement.

The Right Decision: Wisconsin Regents Support Free Speech

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin has become the latest university system to officially affirm the right to free speech and academic freedom for all students amid concerns that academia is trying to protect students from being offended by classroom lectures and discussions.

The system’s Board of Regents voted 16 to 2 on Friday to adopt a resolution stating that the university should not shield people from ideas or opinions they find unwelcome or offensive.

“These are not just pretty words we are going to put in a brass plaque,” said a regent, José Delgado. “You’ve got to be able to listen hard, even if it hurts.”

Civil rights advocates are concerned that universities are trying to limit free speech to protect students from feeling offended. Civil liberties supporters have also raised concerns over the use of “trigger warnings” to alert students about uncomfortable course content. On some campuses, groups have demonstrated against or canceled appearances by contentious speakers.

Via Wisconsin Regents Back Free Speech @ The New York Times.