Statement by Chancellor John D. Wiley regarding Dr. Paul Barrows
June 23, 2005
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has come under intense public scrutiny for decisions made in November 2004 regarding Dr. Paul Barrows, vice chancellor for student affairs, involving his leave of absence from that position and circumstances surrounding his leave. I acknowledge and deeply regret the impact this matter has had on many people. I personally wish to thank Regents President David Walsh for his public statements of support as we work through a number of difficult issues.
A significant factor in Dr. Barrows' leave of absence was a relationship, which had just then been reported to me, between Dr. Barrows and an adult graduate student. Dr. Barrows acknowledged the relationship and contended that it was fully consensual and not a violation of any law or university policy. While I concurred that it was not, under all of the circumstances known to me, a violation of any law or university policy, it was at the very minimum a serious failure of judgment for a vice chancellor. I informed him that the very fact of the acknowledged relationship-no matter what its status-had irreparably damaged his ability to continue as vice chancellor. At the same time, Dr. Barrows revealed personal and family circumstances to me that supported the need for a medical leave. Rather than place him on paid administrative leave while I dealt with the consequences of his behavior, I told him he would need to use his own earned vacation and accrued sick leave, and that his best option would be to seek alternative employment.
When we announced Dr. Barrows' leave, I chose not to disclose the issue of the relationship based on the advice of many of those involved, but most importantly on the fervent wishes of the individual with whom Dr. Barrows had the relationship. In hindsight, I would make the same decision today.
I understand, but respectfully disagree with, those who are calling for the immediate termination of Dr. Barrows without due process. It is important to note that the university must follow very specific rules regarding the protection of an employee's rights.
I am responsible for decisions regarding Dr. Barrows' leave of absence. They include the terms and conditions of the leave; the adequacy of the reasons justifying the leave; the things he could and could not be expected to do competently during the leave; the employment circumstances to which he could expect to return, if he returned, following the leave; and the likely costs to the university and state of doing otherwise. I sought additional information and advice in making these decisions, and I feel strongly that they were appropriate under state law. However, we will thoroughly review records and address any inconsistencies, if they exist.
My decision to allow Dr. Barrows to step down from his vice chancellorship and take leave was based, in part, on Dr. Barrows' repeated and vehement claims that the relationship was an isolated incident, and there were no other situations that would outline a pattern of impropriety. While many allegations were made during the time of Dr. Barrows' resignation, we did not have any specific evidence to act upon these allegations and again, I trusted Dr. Barrows' characterization of this as an isolated incident. In the last 48 hours, we have received additional reports of improper conduct that, if true, are inconsistent with the responses Dr. Barrows provided in November.
The proposed limited consultant position will not take effect due to my lost confidence in Dr. Barrows' ability to effectively carry out the associated duties. As a result, we are required to place him in his indefinite backup position, established as senior administrative program specialist, in the Office of the Provost, at a salary of $72,881.
Also effective today, we will begin to investigate the information to determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate, up to and including dismissal. Dr. Barrows will be placed on administrative leave with pay for the duration of the investigation. It is important to note that all state employees have Constitutional rights to due process, which allow an accused person to remain in an employment situation until charges are investigated. During this leave, Dr. Barrows will have no university responsibilities and should not be on campus.
NOTE TO REPORTERS, EDITORS: The following appointment letter was sent today to Paul Barrows by John Wiley
June 23, 2005
Dr. Paul W. Barrows
500 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706
As you know, we anticipated you beginning the Consultant Limited Appointment on June 23, 2005. Before providing the appointment letter and formally implementing the employment change, I lost confidence in your ability to effectively carry out the duties associated with the Consultant position. As a result, I write to inform you that, effective immediately, I am ending your limited appointment as Vice Chancellor and am placing you in your academic staff back-up position beginning June 24, 2005.
In Chancellor David Ward's November 24, 1997, letter to you, he stated "should you assume full-time service in the backup appointment, a position and duties appropriate to your background and experience, with a salary commensurate to that position, will be identified at that time." As also stated in that letter, your back-up appointment is an indefinite academic staff position in the Provost's Office.
Your initial responsibility in this position will be to develop transfer agreements with technical colleges. Provost Spear will assign additional responsibilities as needed. Your title will be Senior Administrative Program Specialist, at a salary of $72,881.
I must also inform you that during the last 24 hours I have received information that, if true, is inconsistent with answers you have given me regarding your conduct. Therefore, I will begin an investigation to determine whether disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, is appropriate. Effective immediately, I am placing you on administrative leave with pay for the duration of the investigation. During this leave you will have no university responsibilities and should not be on campus.
John D. Wiley