Daily Bread for 4.7.22: The Explanation(s) for the UW-Whitewater Chancellor’s Resignation

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will see scattered rain and snow showers with a high of 40.  Sunrise is 6:24 AM and sunset 7:28 PM for 13h 03m 50s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 33.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Landmarks Commission meets at 6 PM, the Common Council meets at 6:30 PM, and the Whitewater Fire Department also meets at 6:30 PM

On this day in 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Yamato, one of the two largest ever constructed, is sunk by United States Navy aircraft during Operation Ten-Go.

One saw on April 4th, in an announcement to the UW-Whitewater community, that Interim Chancellor Jim Henderson had resigned:

Dear Colleagues:

One of my three goals for my time as interim chancellor has been to help this campus hire the best chancellor possible who will be here for the long term.  Over the past few days it has become clear to me that I cannot make progress on that goal.  Given that, I feel that it is in both the best interest of UW-Whitewater and me personally that I resign my position as interim chancellor, and I have submitted my resignation effective at the end of the day today.

I have greatly enjoyed my time with you. I so admire all of you and what you are accomplishing for the students at both the Whitewater and Rock County campuses.  I wish you the best going forward and thank you all for the incredible support that you’ve given me over the past 9 months.

With deep appreciation,
Jim Henderson

See from FREE WHITEWATER on April 5th, UW-Whitewater’s Chronic Administrative Turmoil.

Official statements, and Henderson’s remarks about his resignation reported afterward, suggest that Henderson had more than one reason for his abrupt departure. That’s common; people sometimes leave a position for more than one reason.

What strikes me as curious is that there’s been a shift in reporting away from Henderson’s own stated, general reason for his departure to a singular one. A singular motivation strikes me as unlikely.

A review of recent reporting appears below —

 Henderson’s statement to the campus. Under a fair reading of Henderson’s explanation, he expressly links his departure to difficulties in helping to find “the best chancellor possible who will be here for the long term.  Over the past few days it has become clear to me that I cannot make progress on that goal.”

Initial Reporting. Kelly Meyerhofer’s initial reporting at the State Journal from 4.5.22 on Henderson’s departure notes both the abruptness of the resignation and his concern about finding a replacement:

Jim Henderson, who took over as leader of the 11,500-student university last July, said in a statement that one of his goals as interim chancellor was to help hire the best chancellor for the long-term success of UW-Whitewater.

“Over the past few days it has become clear to me that I cannot make progress on that goal,” he said.

See Interim UW-Whitewater chancellor resigns in ‘unexpected’ move

 Meyerhofer’s 4.6.22 Subsequent Reporting. One day later, Meyerhofer followed her first story with a second: UW-Whitewater chancellor’s resignation linked to free speech survey:

UW-Whitewater’s interim chancellor resigned earlier this week because the University of Wisconsin System moved forward with a survey that will ask students about free speech rights despite his and other chancellors’ objections

Jim Henderson, who assumed the helm of the Whitewater campus last summer, tendered his resignation Monday saying in a statement he couldn’t effectively recruit a permanent chancellor for a search that hadn’t yet begun.

However, in an interview Tuesday with the Wisconsin State Journal, he elaborated on his departure and emphasized that a major reason for his decision was UW System leadership’s handling of the free speech survey.


The free speech survey will be sent to undergraduates on all campuses Thursday and must be completed by May 6. Questions will assess students’ knowledge about the First Amendment, how much they value free speech, whether they see problems with a lack of diverse viewpoints, whether they censor themselves, and whether they have ever been sanctioned or punished for exercising their free speech rights.

The Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, a unit of the System, is administering the survey. The work is funded by UW-Stout’s Menard Center for Public Policy and Service, which began in 2017 with a donation from the conservative Charles Koch Foundation.

Meyerhofer reports on how Interim System President Mike Falbo explained his (Falbo’s) reversal to allow the survey:

Michael Falbo, who took over as interim System president last month, said he met with chancellors a few weeks ago to discuss the survey. Chancellors raised concerns, leading Falbo to decide the System would not participate in the survey.

However, Falbo said in a statement to the State Journal that his stance changed last week after Menard Center director Tim Shiell emailed him saying the chancellors’ concerns are based on incomplete and perhaps mistaken information.

But Henderson describes Falbo’s rationale for reversal differently:

Henderson said he worried about students experiencing survey fatigue this spring because of two others already in the works, one of which is required for an upcoming accreditation visit and another that will ask about mental health initiatives. He also said chancellors were told the survey had to be conducted this spring because external funding was contingent on that timeline, which was something chancellors questioned.

“First Amendment rights are vital to the UW-Whitewater community, and they have demonstrated that they are able to assure that a variety of voices are heard on campus in a respectful way, so we didn’t view this as crucial to serving our students,” he said. “We should be able to determine the prioritization of surveys administered on our campuses.”

Henderson also said Falbo, in explaining the reversal of his decision to chancellors, focused on the political fallout of not doing the survey — not on Shiell’s arguments [UW-Stout Prof. Timothy Shiell, survey architect] for moving forward with the project, as Falbo told the State Journal.

It’s possible, but improbable, that Henderson is misquoting what Falbo said. Under Henderson’s account, Falbo introduced political considerations into his explanation for reversal. Falbo either mentioned politics or he didn’t. It’s more likely that Falbo either carelessly or candidly admitted a political calculus for sending the survey than that Henderson fabricated Falbo’s words and abruptly resigned afterward.

There is no account anywhere that suggests Henderson is either dishonest or intemperate. On the contrary, it’s notable that, in the many conversations over Henderson’s tenure in which someone has mentioned him to me, every person to whom I have spoken or written has thought well of him.

(Obvious point: this libertarian would not be opposed to an academic free-speech survey, so long as it was sent at the right opportunity and had no political agenda.)

 Reporting at WPR. After her first story, other reporters spoke with or recounted Henderson’s resignation. At Wisconsin Public Radio, Rich Kremer reports that Former UW-Whitewater chancellor says resignation due to lack of support from UW System administration (‘Jim Henderson says he wouldn’t encourage anyone to apply for chancellorship in UW System at this point’). 

In an interview Tuesday with Wisconsin Public Radio, Henderson said he was breaking his silence to make sure people know his departure has nothing to do with UW-Whitewater.

“UW-Whitewater is a first-rate comprehensive (university) that serves students exceedingly well,” Henderson said. “The faculty, they’re dedicated to the students, and I want to make sure that everyone understands that. I think it’s a wonderful university.”

Henderson said he resigned because he felt there was a lack of support from UW System leadership. Because of that, Henderson said, he could not encourage other higher education leaders he knows to apply for the UW-Whitewater chancellorship.

“I wouldn’t encourage anyone to apply for a chancellorship in the UW System at this point,” Henderson said. “Because I felt like we had established a level of collaboration and trust between the chancellors and the leadership that was not honored.”

Henderson wouldn’t say what specific issue or disagreement with UW System administrators broke that trust.

 Reporting at the Wisconsin ExaminerHenry Redman adds detail in Proposed UW student survey on campus free speech leads to resignation of UW-Whitewater chancellor

Faculty and administrators have said they’re worried the survey may be used by Republicans in the state Legislature for political attacks against the state’s higher education system and that they object to how UW System leadership has managed the survey’s rollout.

According to reports from the Wisconsin State Journal and the Chronicle for Higher Education, interim UW System President Michael Falbo had initially declined to hold the survey following pushback from chancellors but backtracked later. Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville) was involved in the process of pushing the survey forward, according to the Chronicle report.

The reporting from Meyerhofer and Redman (with Redman citing Megan Zahneis at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s A Free-Speech Survey in Wisconsin Sparked Concerns. So a Chancellor Quit. ‘A Dark Day for Whitewater’) focuses on concerns about the survey.

In this WPR interview, however, Henderson does not attribute his departure merely to the free-speech survey. On the contrary, his interview explanation is consistent with a broad concern about governance of local campuses. Meyerhofer is right to report that Henderson’s departure may be linked to a free speech survey. The survey is manifestly part of Henerson’s concerns, but someone who resigns so suddenly probably had more on his mind than one disagreement on policy with Interim System President Mike Falbo.

There’s sure to be more to come.

California man discovers 7-foot-long snake behind sofa:

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