Students living in the University of Wisconsin residence hall Witte B have united to support housefellow Matt Morin, who faces charges of violating University Housing regulations and endangering the safety of his residents.
By signing petitions, writing letters to Morin’s boss and arranging to accompany Morin to his final appeal at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, residents said they hope the university will hear their concerns and allow their house fellow to retain his position.
“As a floor, everyone is really upset about this,” said UW freshman Sara Ecker. “We couldn’t ask for a better housefellow.”
According to Morin’s letter of dismissal, he disobeyed housing policies when he lent his key to friends staying in his room while he attended a review session for one of his classes.
Morin, who is working for the third year as a housefellow in Witte, said prior to this incident his record has been clear of violations, and his residents have given him positive reviews.
“Prior to this, I’d never been spoken to about … contract or policy violations,” Morin said.
The decision to terminate his job, Morin added, seemed an excessive punishment for a common crime.
“There are a number of other actions [University Housing] could have taken, like a verbal or written warning or placing me on contract probation,” Morin said. “At finals time when residents really need me, why would they take these extreme measures against me?”
University Housing director Paul Evans, when contacted, said he was unable to comment on individual staff cases.
In the dismissal letter, however, housing officials underlined the potential dangers of lending a key to a non-resident and giving that person access to the residence hall. Morin also reported that a housing official informed him residents and housefellows who loan keys out are always placed on probation or terminated.
Residents of Witte B expressed dismay at the impending removal of their housefellow.
“Quite frankly, I think it’s absolutely absurd,” said freshman Nick Fox. “I know it’s a violation of our safety, but it happens all the time with both housefellows and residents. This time it just happened to be reported.”
Though residents agreed punitive action should be taken against Morin, many felt the proposed punishment was too severe.
“[University Housing]‘s action is way out of proportion for what was done,” Fox said. “I could see a formal warning, something less extreme than what they’re doing.”
Sophomore Dave Kaland also said the penalty should be less harsh.
“Sure, he should be punished for breaking the rules, but this sort of thing happens a lot and he shouldn’t be fired over it,” Kaland said.
Ecker said she was concerned the university might not listen her concerns or those of her peers.
“We feel powerless, because we’re the ones affected, and it seems like no one cares,” Ecker explained. “We’re the ones writing letters to keep him here.”
Morin suggested factors beyond the loaning of the key might be at work in the decision to fire him. He cited two occasions when his housing boss spoke to him about certain viewpoints he had expressed.
At a Student Services Finance Committee meeting this semester, Morin said he spoke out in favor of practicing fiscal responsibility when deciding the budget of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Campus Center.
“My boss told me I shouldn’t associated myself as a housefellow when expressing those opinions,” Morin said.
SSFC chair Roman Patzner, who retains tapes of all the meetings, said University Housing never contacted him to verify the comments Morin made before taking disciplinary action.
Additionally, Morin said his boss spoke to him about setting up a congressional debate between Tammy Baldwin and Ron Greer, in which Greer agreed to participate while Baldwin sent a representative. His boss was concerned that the university might be seen as an advocate of Greer’s opinions, Morin claimed.
“It was clear to me that I was being told to watch my mouth as a representative of the university,” Morin said. “Several other housefellows have approached me, and said there’s no job security any more.”
Patzner questioned whether removing Morin from his position would be the best course of action.
“Whose interests is the university looking out for?” Patzner said. “Certainly not the residents.”