A statement to the campus community from Chancellor John D. Wiley

June 24, 2005

UW-Madison colleagues:

During the past two weeks, the university has received a torrent of criticism related to the circumstances regarding Dr. Paul Barrows' stepping down in November as vice chancellor for student affairs and his subsequent leave. I understand how demoralizing this highly publicized issue must be for all of you, especially during a time of great importance to the university's future.

I want to shed more light on the facts of this matter. Today we are in the process of publicly releasing more information about Dr. Barrows' leave, as well as factual reports about state employee benefits, employee rights, due process and other policies that more fully explain the context by which leave decisions are made. These should be familiar to you as members of the university community.

I believe that all rules regarding usage of state employee leave were followed, but we will thoroughly review records and address any inconsistencies that are identified.

Within the campus community, I believe we need a further airing of what happened last fall and how we got to where we are today. When the information came to us regarding Dr. Barrows' inappropriate relationship with a graduate student, I did my best to manage the urgent need to correct the situation by removing him from a position of authority and supervision within student affairs. At the same time, we needed to address much longer-term issues regarding morale, climate and administrative structure within the student affairs division. In hindsight, neither of the challenges has been fully resolved, and I'm not sure that any one solution could have helped us overcome the damage.

I strongly stand behind my decision to grant an extended leave of absence to Dr. Barrows. Putting him on administrative leave, which was an option, would have ultimately been more costly to the university than requiring him to use his own earned and accrued leave. I also made it clear to Dr. Barrows that finding other employment was his best alternative. We agreed to a set of parameters regarding leave usage, including the approval of sick leave that is physician-verified. From that point on, I expected Dr. Barrows to demonstrate personal responsibility in following the parameters, and I saw no need to micromanage.

I realize that the circumstances of this leave are very difficult for the public to understand or accept, but this was an unusual personnel matter in which the greater good of the university needed to be carefully balanced with an employee's contractual and constitutional rights. These rights may be the most underappreciated in this overall discussion. We received, for example, a request from state legislators to fire Dr. Barrows immediately, a move that would not be, on any level, legally defensible. Dr. Barrows was removed from a high-level position at my discretion, but remains in an academic staff back-up position that he retains under his contract. He cannot be terminated from that position without cause.

Information has come forth during the past week about additional reports of misconduct that, if true, contradict information given to me by Dr. Barrows at the time his leave was granted. The university will investigate this information to determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate, up to and including dismissal. I am confident that our disciplinary rules will work to ensure due process for Dr. Barrows as we work toward a complete accounting of the facts.

I realize that the university's public image and reputation have been hit hard by this and other recent media accounts. But I want to emphasize that we are following, and will continue to follow, the policies that govern this university. We welcome suggestions on how we can operate better, and, ultimately, we will return our full attention to the work that makes this a world-class university.

Sincerely,
John Wiley