Saturday, August 20, 2005

Smirking Arrogance: Late-Stage Corruption Disease

From Lakeshore Laments, an outstanding blog:

"...In an Aug. 11 letter to UW System President Kevin Reilly, the legislators voiced their disapproval and demanded to know how many professors, instructors or teaching assistants in the UW System have been convicted of a felony, the nature of the crime and whether it led to university disciplinary action.

Reilly said he would instruct the UW Board of Regents to review the handling of the three professors, but he said compiling a list of felons in the UW system would prove costly.

“To generate such information would require an extensive and costly review of public records, including individual personnel files,” Reilly wrote in response, saying the cost would be “prohibitive” but that he would be pleased to consult with the legislators about how he could be responsive.

Not satisfied with Reilly’s response, the legislators on Friday called for an official audit of the UW System that would answer their questions.

“Many taxpayers, students, and parents are deeply concerned about the UW’s policy of allowing convicted felons to maintain their employment within the UW despite their criminal backgrounds and they also deserve to know exactly how many serious felons are being employed by the UW,” the legislators said in a letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

The legislators added that they were shocked that Reilly had “refused” their request, saying, “We find his unwillingness to complete such a review extremely unfortunate.”

The committee’s co-chairs welcomed the request from Reps. Scott Suder of Abbotsford; Jeff Wood of Chippewa Falls; Terry Musser of Black River Falls; Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc; Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake; Robin Vos of Racine; Samantha Kerkman of Burlington; Mark Pettis of Hertel; and state Sen. Robert Cowles of Green Bay.

They have already asked the UW System to provide detailed information about the backup appointments guaranteed to many university employees. Co-chair Sen. Carol Roessler (R-Oshkosh) said the committee would take up the request at its next meeting.

But Regents President David Walsh called the legislators’ request “humorous.”

“Do you know what it would take to go through every state’s court record-keeping systems?” Walsh said. “It’s humorous to me.”


David Walsh is a member of the Wisconsin Bar, and he should know that Wisconsin's C-CAP system is online; the system provides conviction information. Simply enter "John Doe" and a birthdate (optional) and you'll get "John Doe"'s records, if any. It's my bet that he, or his paralegal, has used the system on many occasions.

But if Walsh misses a little detail like C-CAP, I don't care. That's not our concern.

Our concern is that the President of the UW Board of Regents could have said that 'searching criminal-conviction records [on UW employees'] is "humorous."

President Walsh displays an arrogance that is beyond comprehension. That arrogance, echoed in another form by Chancellor Reilly's "no-can-do" (read: "no-WILL-do") response to the Legislators, simply affirms what Charlie Sykes has been hinting about for the last several weeks: the UW Administration is displaying all the signs of Corruption Disease.

Corruption Disease generally begins when an institution becomes successful AND there are no well-placed "loyal dissenters" who ask questions. It progresses because the diseased institution promotes its own sycophants to more responsible positions. It becomes entrenched when loyal dissenters are marginalized, or ejected. Final stages of Corruption Disease are marked by institutional arrogance; the leaders mock and belittle those who question the institution, or the leadership.

Hubris is another name for the disease.

It happens in private industry (Enron comes to mind;) in Government (anyone recall Nixon?), and in churches (sadly, the pedophile problems of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.)

President Walsh's remarks tell us that the UW's Corruption Disease may be entering its final stages. The problem is that the UW, unlike Enron, or Nixon, or a certain Archbishop, cannot simply be eradicated as a whole. The UW must be reformed. That will be difficult, to say the least.

And it will decidedly NOT be "humorous."

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