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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Barrows: ‘I’m not going away’

[media-credit name=’BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]barrows-bf[/media-credit]For almost a year, Paul Barrows has been near the forefront of a tense political relationship between the University of Wisconsin and the state Legislature. To his detractors, the Barrows case has symbolized the university's inability — perceived or actual — to dismiss an unwanted employee. To Barrows, however, his case is more of a precautionary tale, with the core issues being fairness, justice and due process. April 14, the UW Academic Staff Appeals Committee deemed disciplinary action taken against Barrows unfounded, and a final ruling on the committee's recommendation is due from Provost Patrick Farrell by June 5. Recently, Barrows sat down with The Badger Herald to discuss the case, which for him, he said, has been "pure hell." This is the last of a three-part series.

After all that has occurred in the past two years, one might expect Paul Barrows to hold a deep-seated resentment against the University of Wisconsin.

According to Barrows, however, the exact opposite holds true.


"Believe it or not, I still love this institution," Barrows said. "I still have my season's football tickets; I went to every game. I have my season's basketball tickets. I have a lot of friends here, and I've gotten a lot of support on this campus — not just from people of color, but from across the board."

So what does this mean for Barrows' future, as he moves closer and closer to clearing his name?

It means he's not going anywhere.

"I think the administration, what they're hoping, that they can just put me over in a corner and that somehow, someway I'll just go away," Barrows said. "But I'm not going away. I'm here, I'm standing tall, and I'm determined. I'm even more determined than I've ever been to stay the course and to see this all the way through, to clear my reputation and to get justice."

Instead, Barrows hopes once the university processes its Academic Staff Appeals Committee's upcoming recommendation, he will be restored to a higher-ranking, and higher-paying, position.

"I have a right to stay here and I have a lot to offer," Barrows said. "And so I'm not making any plans to go anywhere else."

What does Barrows want?

In addition to his obvious desire to clear his name and restore his reputation, Barrows also has expressed a strong interest in restoring some of the money lost in his demotion from vice chancellor of student affairs.

Although some may scoff at the notion of a $72,881 salary being too small, a pay cut of nearly $120,000 is not an easy adjustment for most people to make. On top of that, Barrows feels he is "grossly underutilized" in his present position.

"Individuals who have rights to a backup appointment are supposed to be appointed at a level commensurate with their skills and ability," Barrows said. "The $120,000 pay cut was designed to be punitive. It violated the letter and spirit of academic staff policies and procedures."

Moreover, Barrows said, his demotion is so significant that it is two levels below any other position he's ever had at the university. When former UW Chancellor Donna Shalala appointed him 17 years ago, Barrows said, it was at a position two levels higher than the one he is in now.

"Quite frankly, this university could use some of my talents, and diversity isn't the only area where I have distinguished myself on this campus," he said. "I would not have been promoted to vice chancellor of student affairs if I wasn't here and serving all students on this campus and working with all faculty and staff in a partnership."

Unfortunately for Barrows, however, it seems extremely unlikely he will ever get his former position back; the student affairs division doesn't even exist anymore.

Asked what role he would like to be restored to, Barrows referenced a position Chancellor John Wiley assigned to him in June 20, 2005, when he initially returned from his Nov. 4, 2004, leave of absence.

The position was to be a new consulting position for a Milwaukee diversity program, which would have granted Barrows a $150,000 salary. That appointment lasted for all of three days, however, as Barrows was again placed on leave June 23, when Wiley referenced "additional reports of improper conduct."

That $150,000 figure is what Barrows said he is seeking from the university, and what he said was promised to him from UW administrators in April 2005, when he declined that same salary when Hunter College in New York offered him a vice president position.

"I had worked with [Vice Chancellor for Administration] Darrell Bazzell and with John Wiley in a firm commitment with me to give me a position at that level at a salary of $150,000," Barrows said. "That's what I feel would be fair and reasonable."

While Barrows argues his current position is a disservice to state taxpayers, as his skills are underutilized, Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, argues the opposite.

Suder is among a group of Republican legislators frequently critical of both UW and Barrows, and said he continues to believe Barrows should have been fired from the university long ago.

"I don't think he has served taxpayers well and I, frankly, don't buy his argument with regard to his talent," Suder said. "I think he has caused the UW irreparable harm by his actions."

Why should students care, and what can be learned?

Listening to Paul Barrows recount his story of the past two years, one thing becomes strikingly clear: no one has profited from the controversy, and there are no winners.

His case has been long, drawn out and complicated. It has precipitated change in UW System policies, and it has restructured the UW-Madison administration.

Asked why his story should matter to the typical UW student, and students can learn from it, Barrows stressed the value of standing up to one's critics, and staying in touch with one's self.

"Fighting up against the Big Red Machine is a major undertaking," he said. "But if you're right and you're persistent, I don't care who you're battling against; you can prove them to be wrong."

He also stressed the importance of due process, and it is clear in his case he feels people rushed to judgment, and did not afford him a trial before being found guilty in the public mind.

"Take a step back, and give people an opportunity to tell their story so that you can hear both sides," he pleaded. "Be careful in terms of rushing to judgment, and don't always believe everything you hear, see or read."

And on its most practical level, he said, students should care because it could happen to any one of them.

"God forbid that any student would ever have to go through what I've gone through," he said. "[But] if they can get away with what they've done to me, then they can certainly get away with doing that to you. I don't care whether you're student, staff, faculty or whatever."

UW Communications declined any comment regarding Barrows.

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