Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


After being kicked out of office for smoking, disabled professor struggles to work

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Judith Ladinsky watched helplessly as two movers packed the contents of her cluttered office into boxes and moved them down the hall.

It was 8 a.m. on a Friday in the middle of September and the public health professor was being evicted from her office.


She had avoided disciplinary action for nearly four years, but now time was up and University of Wisconsin Provost Pat Farrell, as well as the UW Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, had denied Ladinsky’s requests for an appeal to keep her office.

In January 2005, then-Chancellor John Wiley approved the CFRR’s decision to take away Ladinsky’s office privileges after investigations by the committee, as well as the provost’s office, found a pattern of continued smoking in the Medical Sciences Center office dating back to 1992.

“I’m not happy about that,” Ladinsky said Wednesday after two months of being officeless. “I didn’t feel that they could arbitrarily use a five-year-old decision. … I have not smoked here in five years.”

Now three years later, her punishment for about 12 years of continuous infractions was actually happening.

Howard Schweber, CFRR chair, said the committee received a letter from Ladinsky but added, “There is no mechanism for coming back on the same claim a couple years later just because time has passed.”

Ladinsky would be allowed a filing cabinet and the prearranged use of a conference room when needed to meet with students or prepare for classes.

The trouble with the arrangement, however, is the cabinet and conference room are in different hallways of the building, and Ladinsky is disabled.

Students help her carry her materials to and from class, and while the trek from her current office location to her car would be considered convenient compared to most people’s parking situations, it is a slow and tenuous task for Ladinsky.

“I think they should let me have my office back,” Ladinsky said. “It’s difficult for a faculty member to function without an office.”

Since September, Ladinsky, who is a professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the Medical School, said her job has been difficult for her.

She said she has not been able to teach her class as well as she would like because she has had a hard time finding her materials. She and her student aide have spent hours going through the boxes searching for materials in the last couple of months, which is not easy in her physical condition.

“Everything is now in the basement of MSC,” Ladinsky said. “I now have to go down into the basement of MSC and find them. It’s very, very difficult.”

According to Ladinsky, she does not even use the filing cabinet or the conference room because the nature of dealing with medical students’ needs prevents her from accurately scheduling meetings. To add to her stress, Ladinsky said UW is pressuring her to get her things out of the basement.

But she has not found a place to put everything and expects it to be expensive when she does.

UW enacted a smoke free policy for all campus buildings in the spring of 1991, and the first complaint of smoke pollution was filed against Ladinsky in December 1992.

More complaints were filed by her colleagues in 1993, and no records exist of any more incidents until 1999, according to the findings of history professor David McDonald, who was chosen to investigate Ladinsky in December 2003.

McDonald told The Badger Herald he talked to everyone involved in the case who would speak to him about it and said the witnesses he talked to were convinced Ladinsky had smoked in the building several times. He added Ladinsky’s contention that she did not know she could not smoke during nights and weekends is unlikely.

“You can’t be on this campus since 1990 and not know about the university’s smoking ban,” McDonald said.

From 1999 to 2003, there are several incidents of complaints filed against Ladinsky for smoking and records of letters being sent to Ladinsky informing her of UW’s smoking policy and warning her smoking in a state building violated state law.

However, despite the documentary evidence, Ladinsky still maintains she did not know smoking was not allowed on nights and weekends until the disciplinary action was first referred to the provost and the CFRR in 2003. She claims she thought the ban only applied to “normal working hours.”

Though the situation seemed bleak, as of now, Ladinsky’s lawyer is in negotiations with the university to get the issue resolved. And Ladinsky also has allies.

UW political science professor Jim Donnelly, who was the chair of the CFRR when it originally decided Ladinsky’s fate in 2004, is helping her present her argument. Donnelly said he would not comment so he does not interfere with the negotiations but added “the continuing validity of the CFRR is one of the points” they are arguing.

Farrell declined to comment on the situation.

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