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UW-Oshkosh Faculty Are Supporting Their Current Chancellor

The Assembly Majority leader Says Lawsuit Against University’s Former Chancellor Doesn’t Reflect Badly On System As A Whole

Dane County court house
Cathy Stanley-Erickson (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The president of the Faculty Senate at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is voicing support for the school’s current chancellor.

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt is being credited with exposing the illegal transfer of school money into a private foundation. The state Department of Justice is suing former Chancellor Richard Wells and a former Vice Chancellor, Thomas Sonnleitner for allegedly illegally transferring $11 million in university money to the UW-Oshkosh Foundation, a private nonprofit.

Wells left the school in 2014. Sonnleitner left in 2016.

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Karl Loewenstein, president of the UW-Oshkosh Faculty Senate, said his colleagues are concerned and curious about the accusations. Loewenstein credits current Leavitt for exposing the transfers.

Loewenstein, an associate professor of history, said, “out of all of this I appreciate the ethical behavior of our new chancellor.”

“When this circumstance came to light he quickly worked with (the) system to clarify and fix the problem,” Loewenstein said.

The suit alleges the defendants transferred the money to help fund five development projects including a hotel, sports complex, alumni center and two biodigesters.

The fallout from the state’s civil suit against two former UW-Oshkosh officials likely won’t impact the University System as a whole during this year’s budget writing process, said State Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna.

On Wednesday, Steineke, along with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Rep. John Nygren. R-Marinette, released a statement calling the situation “alarming.” But he doubts it will reflect badly on the system during the budget process.

Steineke said, “this situation seems to be isolated. The system president, Ray Cross, is on top of it. He’s been looking at the other universities to make sure similar things aren’t happening elsewhere and they’re pretty confident they’re not.”

Wells and Sonnleitner have 45 days to respond to the case which was filed Wednesday in Dane County.