Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Visions of a better year for UW

If ever a school needed a year to end, it was the University of Wisconsin System in 2005. In what will surely go down as one of the most trying and difficult years in school annals, UW became a personal punching bag for the media, lawmakers and others throughout the state as one sordid scandal after another erupted in headlines throughout the year.

For those who weren't here or those who would just like to take a stroll down the heavily tarnished memory lane, let's recap the damage:

In June, former UW-Madison Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Paul Barrows returned briefly to campus, only to leave again days later amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with a student and subordinates. What transpired in the following months was the story of the summer: Barrows was demoted, an investigation was completed and Chancellor John Wiley was scolded by UW System President Kevin Reilly for his handling of the matter.


Then came news that UW-Madison housed not one, not two, but three professors convicted of felonies on its payroll. One of the three, Lewis Keith Cohen, even returned, remarkably, to campus to fill a position in Van Hise Hall while on work release from jail. He was just like any other worker in the building — save for his fondness of sending nude photos and rendezvousing in a Subway restaurant with a 14-year-old boy.

But it didn't end there for UW. In the fallout from the Barrows controversy, the school was chastised for its practice of granting certain employees "backup" appointments, a practice nearly unheard of in the private sector. The regents benched the backup policy in November.

And, as the year came to a close, we learned that UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison ban resident assistants from leading private Bible studies in their dorm rooms — to the chagrin of free-speech advocates around the state.

All of that doesn't even include a Whitewater dean accused of using university funds to pay for personal vacations. In any other year, that might have been the top scandal. But not in 2005.

No, 2005 was in a league of its own — in every way a bad dream filled with bad decisions and wretched behavior.

But 2006 is a new year. With that in mind, let's look at a wish list of New Year's resolutions for various figures associated with the university:

John Wiley: Resolve to show some decisiveness. Something was rotten in the halls of Bascom last year, but Mr. Wiley sat around and twiddled his thumbs while a firestorm of outrage slowly descended upon the ivory towers. Given the scope of his error, Mr. Wiley was lucky to escape with merely a casual "reprimand" from Mr. Reilly.

Should another huge scandal erupt — and, for the sake of his job, Mr. Wiley better hope it doesn't — the chancellor must deal with it openly and proactively. Want the people of Wisconsin to better understand and sympathize with UW? Then at least let us know how it operates.

Paul Barrows: Resolve to go away. He can keep his job in the Provost's Office — doing whatever it is that his job actually entails — but, please, no more appeals and no more whining about being punished unfairly. What Mr. Barrows does not realize — or more likely, wishes to not consider — is that the greatest harm from the controversy has not been inflicted upon himself but upon the university. Sure, Mr. Barrows is now paid less in his backup job, but UW lost an entire $1 million in funding at the hands of a vindictive Legislature.

Yet, as misguided as that cut was, UW should consider itself lucky to have escaped without further retribution. But the university is not out of the woods yet. And a big part of its ability to recapture the hearts and minds of Wisconsinites (or just change the feelings of broad indignation back to general apathy — let's be realistic here) lies with Mr. Barrows. If he stops complaining about being reprimanded and accepts that he acted in a grossly inappropriate manner, then UW can repair its image.

In fact, given the extent of his misconduct, Mr. Barrows should consider himself quite lucky to still have his backup job. Since he serves the university as a limited-appointment employee at the chancellor's pleasure, Mr. Barrows could be demoted for almost no reason at all.

And he certainly did more than that.

Luoluo Hong: Resolve to be less reactionary. When it comes to matters of sexual harassment, the former dean of students seems to live vicariously — when she saw Mr. Barrows harass other women, Ms. Hong herself felt violated. It's a rather strange way of thinking, but perhaps it is the preferred mode of reasoning on the ultra-PC planet on which Ms. Hong lives.

Ms. Hong played an interesting role in the Barrows scandal. She could have been hailed as a hero for outing the shady character who was the former vice chancellor for student affairs, yet her blatant distaste for due process left her legacy at UW a decided mixed bag. For the sake of her new employer, Arizona State University, let's hoping she becomes a little more reasonable and careful when she discovers something she doesn't like. As it is, Ms. Hong's skin is so thin it's a wonder she has not yet burned to a crisp in the hot Arizona sun.

Scott Suder: Resolve to sample a new variety of haterade for a while. This resolution comes with two very important qualifiers. One, I realize Mr. Suder is a state representative from Abbotsford, not a UW employee. But Mr. Suder was perpetually joined at the hip to the university last year, when rarely a week went by without the assemblyman assailing UW on something. Barrows? A disgrace. Bible ban? Embarrassing. Corrective legislative action? Pending.

Two, in no way does this indicate I am critical of the stances and tactics Mr. Suder has employed in the last year. Sure, some have accused Mr. Suder of grandstanding, and indeed he did display a proclivity toward hyperbolic press releases and sound bytes. But the bottom line was that Mr. Suder was absolutely right in asserting the ridiculousness of UW's policies and the need for drastic changes. And the man is good at what he does.

Still, here's hoping that Mr. Suder is afforded the opportunity to direct his ire toward a different state agency in 2006. There are several worthy targets that could use a big dose of the Suder vitriol. The Department of Administration and Travelgate, perhaps, Scott?

Ryan Masse ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and economics.

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