Lawsuit over failing grade at UW-Stevens Point dismissed

A Portage County judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a UW-Stevens Point professor from a student trying to get her grade changed to an A.

Professor Patricia Dyjak was sued by 59-year-old Donna Kikkert over her Advanced Creative Writing Poetry course. According to Kikkert, some of the materials for the course focused on “lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest and frequent swearing.” Kikkert expressed her discomfort with the material, and claimed she was given a failing grade because of that.

In her complaint, Kikkert also alleged that Dyjak had exposed her breasts to the class while showing a back-shoulder tattoo.

Kikkert took these complaints to Dyjak’s superiors, and she believed her failing grade was Dyjak’s form of retaliation. Kikkert also asked the court to order the suspension or firing of Dyjak.

Dyjak’s state attorney requested the case be dismissed in mid-April, as no actual crime had been committed. That request was granted on May 23rd according to online court records. In a response to Kikkert, Dyjak wrote that she did intentionally find materials to speak to to her LGBT students.


UW Madison center to be named for Tommy Thompson

Rep. Vos WRN photo

A new UW-Madison center will be named for former Governor Tommy Thompson. Governor Scott Walker joined Republican legislative leaders to announce the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership.

“We will continue our efforts to have longterm, bipartisan solutions that bring the best in academia together with the best in government to find longterm solutions that continue to move Wisconsin forward,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

Walker called it a fitting tribute to a Wisconsin legend. “Someone who will continue to have an impact, not just in the public policy world in terms of his direct impact, but now through this new center we’ll have the ability to pass that on to future generations,” Walker said.

“Just as he did during his time as governor, the Tommy G. Thompson Center is going to be committed to bringing people together, to discuss and develop policies that will improve public and political leadership, and the practices of American government,” said UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

Blank added that the Thompson will embody three principles that Thompson – a staunch supporter of the UW System – expressed throughout his career. “First, a belief in the value of objective, nonpartisan, professional research used to inform public policy. Second, a belief that public universities, and in particular their faculty, have a central role to play in discussions and in public life. And thirdly, a belief in the ‘Wisconsin Idea.’ The idea that the university has a fundamental duty to ensure that the discoveries and the knowledge that happen on campus are spread across the state, and even beyond.”

“We know that in today’s world, far too often it seems like there’s only one point of view on college campuses, so our job here is to make sure that we continue the effort to have maximum free speech on campus,” said Vos. “Hopefully it will be able to offset some of the liberal thinking.” Funding for the Thompson center is contained in a budget provision to be considered by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. It commits $3 million in state funding over the two-year budget cycle. Some Democrats are already voicing skepticism on the need for it.

Senator Nass warns against bailing out UW-Oshkosh Foundation

Senator Steve Nass

A state Senator and frequent critic of the University of Wisconsin System says any effort to bailout the debts of the troubled UW-Oshkosh Foundation could damage efforts to rebuild trust between lawmakers and university officials.

The warning follows reports that the state Justice Department is negotiating a settlement with creditors as a result of the UW’s lawsuit against two former Oshkosh campus officials, who were accused of illegally funneling tax money to a private foundation. The state filed the lawsuit in January against Former Oshkosh chancellor Richard Wells and business officer Thomas Sonnleitner.

In a letter to System President Ray Cross, Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) warns against any such a deal using public funds to pay off the private foundation’s debts. “President Cross, you need to keep your commitment that the public won’t be forced to fund the inappropriate decisions of two campus administrators and the failed oversight of the System,” Nass wrote. “Further, any effort by the UW System to ram through a bailout in the late stages of the state budget process would certainly cast a new light on the public relations campaign that was launched by the UW System on this matter in mid-January.”

In a statement, Board of Regents Audit Committee Chair Michael Grebe said DOJ is working to determine if a settlement can be reached, but stressed that no agreement has been reached yet. “We are being extremely cautious down this path, and if an agreement had been reached, we would have shared this information with the general public. We will continue to be transparent and forthcoming if there is information to share,” Grebe said.

Democrats push for tuition-free technical college

Members of the Joint Finance Committee meet at the Capitol. (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Wisconsin technical college students would have had a tuition-free education, under a proposal Democrats unsuccessfully tried to get added to the state budget.

Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee argued the plan, which carried a $555 million price tag over the next biennium, would have been an effective way to address a shortage of skilled workers in the state and help provide a boost to the economy. “If we want to give everybody in communities all over the state the opportunity to make their life better, then this is part of the way we do it,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton).

Republicans on the panel criticized the plan as not really being free though, and argued that those seeking a higher degree should be invested in the process. Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) noted that he attended a two year college by working several jobs, and argued that the Democrats’ plan makes it easier for people to delay adulthood. “You need to have some buy-in into your education,” he argued. “It is your education.”

The Republican-controlled panel did vote to reject a tuition freeze for tech colleges that Governor Scott Walker had proposed in his budget. Co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) said they believe the system is already a good bargain, so the freeze is not needed at this time.