How I got kicked out of Minnesota State-Mankato

The simple fact is the university twisted procedures to fit its needs at the time, namely throwing me onto the street.

As I mentioned in part one of this story, I was elected student body president at Minnesota State-Mankato, a university with a long record of corruption.

I knew things wouldn’t change overnight, and as it was my last year at the university, I quickly rolled up my sleeves. From small but hindering projects like opposing a new residence hall plan that is drafted to force students to trudge through snow and across busy streets just to eat, to major things like advocating for a tuition cap, which cut into President Richard Davenport’s “strategic” slush funds, I did not know that I would only have the summer.

Advocating for the tuition cap went against the university’s wishes, and I quickly received word that I was being “watched,” and that my records were being delved into. I later learned last summer that they found something on my record, something that I have since learned was used to kick out students before me who questioned academic policies.

To give some background information, I was one of about a thousand students put on academic probation almost two years ago due to a retroactive policy that recalculated “satisfactory academic progress.” My overall grade point average has remained above 2.0, and my progress shouldn’t affect my status if not calculated retroactively. 

Every attorney I have shown the policy to has said that if a retroactive policy negatively affects you, it could be tried in court, as it takes away due process.

But that didn’t happen because the university advisers told us, to their own belief, too, that our probations were just formalities, and we would be allowed through the system. In November, I had to break an academic contract and received an e-mail from the assistant vice president of academic affairs, the one responsible for the policy, and he assured me that if my problem was just completion rate, I would effectively be allowed to continue. I was frequently told by university officials not to worry.

After last spring semester I received notice that I was suspended from Mankato State University until summer 2006. This notice is actually something that students in my situation received every semester, but it was always a formality, and we were always allowed to register for courses because of our given situation. I was used to seeing this sort of e-mail.

But delays started happening.

I decided to investigate what the delays were about. I wondered if it was paperwork, the assistant vice president being mad I opposed some of his policies, or something else completely.

I met with President Davenport and he directed the assistant vice president to work on my situation. But that didn’t happen.

So I met with Vice President for Academic Affairs Scott Olson. To my shock, he knew my situation quite well and said, “Maybe if you just let Rob (my vice president) take over for a semester or two, maybe then you can work on your classes.” He also made references to my faith by telling me that, “Maybe now is a good time in your life to do mission work.” I tried repeatedly to talk about my academic situation specifically, as that was all I intended to meet with him about, and I was blown up at for bringing that up as the main point of discussion instead of discussing my job with the student association. All of these comments and his additional pressuring to quit my position, which is unrelated to my academics, were inappropriate for an administrator to discuss with a student when the intent of my meeting with him was just to discuss my personal academic situation.

At that point I became scared. My classes and academic career were more important to me than this job with student government, but I didn’t react to the offer given to me, as I did not want to sell out those who voted for me and worked on my campaign. And with my prior knowledge to some of the university’s actions, I knew I couldn’t trust this kind of an offer.

When I formally appealed the decision to suspend me until summer 2006, I was notified that not only was my appeal denied, but my suspension was extended until fall 2006. This made me sick to my stomach, as I found out that the intent was to halt my education so I couldn’t run for re-election, something I never wanted or intended to do anyway. I have written documentation showing these two dates of suspension.

A special meeting of our senate was called and I spoke to them during open forum about my situation. The senate asked the assistant vice president of academic affairs to come to the next meeting to explain the academic policies and procedures in question.

I sat in the room during the presentation and was appalled that most of the procedures presented by him were completely verbal and not written anywhere before. It conflicted with the e-mails he had written to me that I had stored away. He testified to students a different policy than what he instructed to me when I went through it. He even claimed the policy was implemented a semester before it was. The data he presented showed that the number of suspensions had not gone up since the retroactive policy, but the number of probations had.

The simple fact is the university twisted the procedure to fit their needs at the time. I told a few administrators that since I was employed on campus, they were literally kicking me out onto to the street. I literally had no money for food while I was looking for a new job. University employees, who knew about my situation and the fact that I was trying to stand up to their corrupt bosses came to my apartment bringing me food. I got a job working the graveyard shift at a plastics factory to make ends meet. Standing for 10 hours at a time inhaling toxins was not what I had envisioned to do with the semester.

A few weeks ago I was on campus, and I ran into Vice President Olson. He snidely asked me in front of my friends if I found a job yet. After I told him I had, he quickly walked away from the conversation.

When you are in an environment that will not accept different opinions to come forth, those in charge will become used to destroying those who question them. This is the main and most important reason why we have the First Amendment. I am positive that if a university like Minnesota State-Mankato is willing to kick a student to the gutter, that it can happen elsewhere. Speak up now against injustice at your university, before this attitude comes there as well.

Adam Weigold was the Mankato State Student Association president. Please send comments to [email protected]