Wis. university chancellor resigns amid criticism

MADISON, Wis. (AP) âÄî A central Wisconsin university chancellor announced her resignation Thursday after a series of conflicts with students and donors and questions about how she handled a traffic accident. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Chancellor Linda Bunnell said she is stepping down May 31. The 66-year-old has since 2004 led the school of 9,100 students known for its environmental programs. Her problems grew in February after she hit an unoccupied parked car with her state vehicle and was ticketed for leaving the scene of an accident. She acknowledged to The Associated Press last week that she purchased three alcoholic drinks in the two hours before the crash. She said she was not impaired and had consumed only one of the beverages âÄî an explanation that raised eyebrows. Directors of the university’s fundraising arm also were angry that Bunnell fired the school’s chief fundraiser last fall without consulting them. Some of them complained she was spending too much on travel and entertainment expenses. The Student Senate, meanwhile, voted 15-0 for a resolution expressing no-confidence in her leadership following the car accident. Student leaders said they had butted heads with Bunnell over several issues for months. Bunnell announced her resignation in an e-mail to the campus community but did not address her reasons for stepping down. She said she was proud of achievements such as increasing diversity among students, implementing a campus master plan for physical growth and expanding some academic programs. Bunnell was in meetings in Madison on Thursday and not immediately available for comment, spokesman Stephen Ward said. Asked why she resigned, he said, “When somebody makes a decision like that, it comes from their heart. I wouldn’t presume to speak directly for what’s in her heart.” UW System President Kevin Reilly said in a statement he accepted Bunnell’s resignation and acknowledged the divisions on campus and in the community. He promised to work with students, faculty, staff and community leaders to “sustain the university’s solid academic reputation and its positive community impact.” Reilly said UW-Stevens Point Provost Mark Nook would serve as interim chancellor starting June 1. Reilly spokesman David Giroux would not say whether Bunnell had been asked to resign by Reilly or members of the Board of Regents. Reilly and Bunnell had a meeting on Wednesday. Kirk Cychosz, vice president of the student government, called her resignation “the right thing to do.” “Not only did you have the lavish lifestyle she was living, you had a damaged fundraising ability and just the environment she created at UW-SP was horrible. When you add all those things in, it wasn’t a winning situation for her,” he said. “UW-SP as a whole is a phenomenal place to go to school and we can’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch.” Bunnell said she would return to academic consulting in Denver. She came to UW-Stevens Point after working as an executive for the College Board and as chancellor of University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.