Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Berquam aims to keep her job

[media-credit name=’SUNDEEP MALLADI/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]DeanofStudents_SM[/media-credit]Interim Dean of Students Lori Berquam said Thursday the current recruitment and retention rates of minority students at the University of Wisconsin is a "crisis."

The statement came during the second of three student forums to help UW officials decide on a permanent dean, and was in response to a line of questioning from UW senior and MultiCultural Student Coalition member Jennifer Knox.

According to Berquam, UW's student-retention rate is a problem, and she spent time addressing the specific concern of the retention of minority students.


"A student can leave here and never be touched by anyone," Berquam said. "They can leave here and never have a conversation with anyone about why they're leaving."

That admission wasn't enough for Knox, however, who said she prefers Northwestern University's Timothy Gordon, who is black, over Berquam, who has held the position on an interim basis since the summer of 2005.

"If [Berquam] were chosen, I'd be disappointed," Knox said. "I was here at [Gordon's] session, and I thought that we [saw] a very strong candidate who had a lot of fresh ideas."

Despite the criticism, Berquam spoke with great familiarity of UW, where she has spent almost 12 years of her career in higher education.

"I have a strong passion for [being dean]," Berquam said. "I believe in students; I believe in this experience."

Other UW students who attended the forum voiced concerns about campus safety, student-retention rates and shared-governance opportunities.

Berquam said the opportunity for students to contribute in decision-making at the administrative level is one of the things that make UW special.

"When you look across the nation, shared governance is unique to here," Berquam said. "We are empowering our students to have some fantastic experiences — we're able to offer students a variety of different experiences and opportunities."

Berquam said she also recently asked for a security summit to address campus safety issues.

"I think we're evolving to being a big city, but we still like to think of ourselves as a small town," Berquam said.

According to Berquam, UW needs to re-evaluate how safety issues are dealt with, and begin a different type of dialogue. Although she has initiated discussions with Madison and campus police, she said there is more work to be done.

Recent UW graduate Mike Manuel, who helped screen dean of students candidates, said discussion is a great start but is not enough. Manuel said an elaborate plan could be written for anything, citing the long-range diversity initiative Plan 2008, but said if nobody is held accountable for the plan, "it won't amount to much more than words."

Gordon, who is currently associate dean of student services and registration at Northwestern University, spoke with students in a similar forum last Thursday. The third candidate, Rutgers' Brian Rose, is scheduled to speak in Madison Monday.

UW sophomore Stella Luong said Gordon set a high bar in his forum last week. She said Berquam did well in fielding student questions but said she was looking for more "tangible, proactive" goals.

Berquam acknowledged more action could always be taken, but said that action stems from dialogue.

"I think dialogue is one step, and then you have to move beyond that to formulate action," she said. "I think [dialogue] involves students. I think that involves staff, and it involves faculty."

Beyond the discussions she has initiated surrounding campus issues, Berquam said she has a great passion for her work.

"I really do try to lead with my heart, and I try to be attentive to being real with people," Berquam said. "I want you to be real when you leave here."

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