Saturday, January 19, 2019

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh airs dirty laundry as it fends off former official's discrimination allegation

The former head of enrollment management at UW Oshkosh was recently hired into a similar role at Cabrini University.
By Miles Maguire

UW Oshkosh has won the initial round in a legal battle with its former chief of student recruitment, but to do so it had to air some dirty laundry, including allegations that the onetime head of enrollment management had “distributed pictures of his genitals over the internet to members of the Fox Valley community.”

On Dec. 10 the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development determined there was no probable cause to pursue a discrimination complaint filed by Brandon B.A. Miller. Miller, the former associate vice chancellor for enrollment management at UW Oshkosh, was fired in January 2018.

Miller argued that he had been denied a promotion because of his race, color and sex and that he was fired because of these factors, his homosexuality and his reporting of discrimination.

But Gregory Straub, chief of the Civil Rights Section for the workforce agency, disagreed. He said Miller had never formally applied for the promotion that he wanted, which means UWO “could not have discriminated against him when it hired” someone else.

“The available facts demonstrate [UW Oshkosh] probably terminated Miller’s employment for rudeness and unsatisfactory performance,” Straub said. “There are no facts to suggest Miller’s race, color, sex or sexual orientation motivated his termination.”

Miller’s attorney, Peter J. Culp, disputes this finding and has filed a request for a hearing.

The university declined to comment for this story. Miller referred questions to his attorney, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Culp apparently seeks to present evidence of discriminatory comments allegedly made by Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and by Cheryl Green, the school’s vice chancellor of student affairs who was recently named interim chancellor at UW Whitewater.

Legal papers filed in the case paint an uncomfortable picture of the school’s senior levels of administration, with allegations of insubordination, dereliction of duty, racially charged comments and harsh interpersonal interactions. Here are some examples included in the documents:
  • In a “bizarre incident” from January 2017, Miller flew to Phoenix on university business but did not attend scheduled meetings or answer his phone. When UWO found out, the school “notified his emergency contact and requested police entry into his hotel room where his possessions were seen, but he was not,” said Jennifer Sloan Lattis, the deputy general counsel for the University of Wisconsin System. “The situation was embarrassing to UWO,” she said. But Miller “never gave any explanation for why he failed to attend the meeting or where he had been,” Lattis wrote in the university’s formal response to the discrimination allegations.
  • In December 2017 Miller and Green, a black woman who was hired into a job that Miller had wanted, were both working at an event where senior administrators serve a “night breakfast” to students who are up late studying for finals. “Following the event, [Miller] told another staff member that Dr. Green was a racist, that she had spoken only to black students and had given more food to black students,” Lattis said. Green disputed all of these contentions and reported she was “hurt and upset to be slandered in this fashion,” Lattis said.
  • Green, who had direct supervision over Miller, alleged that he regularly skipped staff meetings and missed deadlines for completing reports. Miller denied these accusations and pointed to a glowing written evaluation of his work performance that was signed by the school’s chancellor. Miller accused Green of raising last-minute concerns to try to interfere with his travel plans for an overseas vacation trip.
Both sides traded accusations of mistreatment of women in top administrative posts. For example Miller was accused of being “verbally abusive” toward two assistant chancellors. During a meeting, one of these officials, who was in charge of marketing, “began to cry” and the other, who was the head of information technology,  “was visibly shaking,” Lattis said.

Miller fired back, accusing the chancellor of “shouting profanities” at one of these officials during a different meeting and “cussing at” another woman, who was then an associate vice chancellor. This person, Miller said, “was shaken and crying. She had to go home for the day.”

All three of these women have since left UW Oshkosh.

In his original filing, which was made in March, Miller alleged that Chancellor Leavitt had discouraged him from applying for the top student affairs position on racial grounds. “I need to hire a black woman for that role,” Miller quoted Leavitt as saying.

In the university’s response, Lattis said, “Chancellor Leavitt may have remarked that he was pleased with the diversity of the finalist pool, but he does not recall saying that he wanted to hire a black woman.”

According to Lattis, Miller “did not deny having sent out pictures of his genitals and said only, ‘So what happens next?’” when confronted by his boss.

Lattis added, “Dr. Green told him that this was very serious misbehavior for someone of his position in the community, but the UWO did not pursue the matter.”

Miller began a new job last month as vice president for enrollment management at Cabrini University, a Catholic institution in Radnor, Pennsylvania.

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