Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Problem that is Provost Paul DeLuca

Let me tell you, it's an incredible experience to chair a university committee for multiple years, work very hard to serve at the request of your university, produce a thoughtful report with that committee, and then have the Provost of your institution attack it in the media without ever bothering to even speak with you about it.

Welcome to UW-Madison and the passive-aggressive machinations of Provost Paul DeLuca.

UW-Madison has serious problems when it comes to state relations and this Provost has a lot to do with that.  Time and again he has treated the Wisconsin public, its reporters, and its legislators as if they aren't smart enough to merit straight talk about hard issues.  Instead he smirks, waves his hands, and says he doesn't know what all the fuss is about. He dismisses any critique of the university as uninformed, offers "explanations" without any factual basis, and looks away when anyone asks a hard question.

I've witnessed this time and again over the past several years-- through debates over his efforts to instigate the restructuring of the Graduate School, the separation of UW-Madison from UW-System, the Human Resources Design debacle, and most recently as he's attempted to cover his tracks while advancing an enrollment management agenda initiated when Biddy Martin was chancellor, all the while pretending to be simply responding to new demographics. In the most recent example, instead of raising concerns in a professional manner with a university committee on admissions practices with whom he apparently disagrees-- for example by seeking a meeting with its members or the chair (me) --he dismisses the committee's latest report in the media as "narrow and short-sighted" and then blatantly spins the press about the reasons for changing enrollment patterns (see below for more examples).   Just Monday he sat idly by as the same report was presented in Faculty Senate and said nothing.  This is how he treats his faculty.

The evidence is clear.  The words and actions of Provost Paul DeLuca Jr. reveal a lack of commitment to and respect for shared governance, a disturbing paternalism when it comes to racial/ethnic students and the working class (see below for more), and an outright smug elitism when it comes to answering important questions.  He is harming the institution, tarnishing our reputation for sifting and winnowing, and it's long past time for him to move on.


Want to know more about DeLuca?

Check out what DeLuca said to the Wisconsin State Journal about the reason for the sharp uptick in international student enrollment at UW-Madison in fall 2012.

Here is my letter to the WSJ in response:

Dear Editor,

I appreciate your coverage of the recent report issued by the UW-Madison Committee on Undergraduate Recruitment, Admissions, and Financial Aid. But I am mystified by comments made by Provost Paul DeLuca in response.  He reports that the growth in the percent of admitted international students who decided to enroll in UW-Madison this past fall (the “yield rate”) was “unexpected” and there was “no purposefulness to it.”  This statement sharply contrasts with the explicit goals and travels of former Chancellor Biddy Martin, who sought to increase enrollment of international students, and flies in the face of publicly available data.  

This document shows that in 2012, UW-Madison experienced a 4% growth in the rate of applications among international students, and matched that with a one-year increase of 53% in the acceptance rate of those students, jumping from 26.9 to 41.3% between 2011-2012 (the average increase in the acceptance rate over the prior 5 years was 34%). Even if the applicant pool was somehow much more qualified, this decision to accept more international students undoubtedly contributed to the higher representation of them on campus. In addition, 30.6% of those students accepted the offer of admission and enrolled—at a rate that DeLuca found surprising, presumably because the rate in 2011 was 20.5%.  However, the average yield over the prior five years was 30.2%-- almost exactly the yield in the single year 2012! The only way the Provost could have been genuinely surprised by the outcome is if his enrollment management team used just one year of data rather than a longer-term trend to do their planning.  Given their expertise, this seems highly unlikely.

Most troubling, Provost DeLuca made these same statements last fall when asking the UW System Board of Regents to raise the cap on non-resident enrollment, a request that was initiated because of this “surprising” turn of events.  Given our commitment to seeking and reporting the truth at this great research university, these repeated assertions are disconcerting.  The UW can decide its future and its enrollment, but the Wisconsin public deserves transparency and accuracy in reporting about how outcomes are achieved.

After reading all of the stats, you deserve a break so check out these photos from Paul's most recent trip to China!

Then, take a look at what we recommended regarding ending reciprocity for Minnesota students at UW-Madison, and next consider his response.

Notice that DeLuca expresses concern that ending reciprocity would mean only wealthy MN students could apply to Madison, conveniently overlooking the data in our report that indicates that the students from MN are much wealthier than Wisconsin residents to begin with. Table 2 shows that the average family income of a MN student at UW-Madison is $105,000, compared to $80,000 of WI residents at UW-Madison.  In other words, the reciprocity agreement is regressive.

Second, with regard to the concept of ending reciprocity at the flagship, DeLuca says ""Every now and then, someone makes a suggestion like that," DeLuca said. "That's a very narrow, short-sided perspective."  First of all, the phrase is "short-sighted." Second, this proposal hasn't been made before-- this isn't about ending reciprocity for the entire state-- it's about exempting ONE campus--Madison.  Wisconsin is highly unusual in including it's only flagship in such an agreement.  The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has never analyzed the costs of keeping it in-- those costs, Deluca fails to note, add up to $40-50 million a year for Madison.  This is a new idea and not a short-sighted one, all about the long-term ability of Madison to serve the state residents.

And, incredibly, the Provost manages to equate Milwaukee and "diversity" with "students who aren't prepared to succeed" and in the ultimate display of hubris, says it is "immoral" to bring them to Madison.  To be clear-- we recommended that the city of Milwaukee's residents have greater opportunities to attend UW-Madison.  We did not suggest they come unprepared.  But DeLuca lept immediately from Milwaukee to "diversity" to under-preparation.  Amazingly, he suggested that our committee didn't discuss academic preparation needed to succeed at Madison-- again, outright false-- it's mentioned throughout the report-- over and over again.  But DeLuca thinks in terms of test scores, not extraordinary performance, not uncommon life circumstances, and when he sees "color" he thinks "under-prepared." That is really something. Is it any wonder that during his period of "leadership" the percent of students of color on campus has declined, organizations working to improve campus climate have felt entirely unsupported by the university, and morale among faculty and staff of color is reportedly at a low point?

Finally, please note again that this Provost has representation on our committee, saw the report in advance, and yet never raised any questions about the data or the proposals.  Of course, not til the reporters called.