Intimidation and fear at Mankato State

The administration has created a culture of retaliation against students and professors.

Whether it’s someone saying Bush or Clinton sucks, or criticizing a city official obsessed with banning smoking, we all take for granted our constitutional ability to openly oppose a public figure’s decision and actions. What happens in a University environment when blatant abuses of power by University officials across the country goes unreported?

Case in point: The current administration at Minnesota State Mankato have been going to every extent possible to create an environment where nobody within the University can question them. Since RichardDavenport has taken office, a deep and repeating history of the administration simply “disposing” of any faculty, staff, or student who actually can exchange or act against administration’s decisions has been taking place. This history at Minnesota State Mankato has hit local news at times. Whether it was professor John Roberts, who was fired for insubordination for questioning the administration on actions that ruined their nationally renowned aviation program, to the attempted censorship of KMSU radio for reporting financial aid problems that may have been mistakes the university had made, Minnesota State Mankato has attacked those who question it. Beyond the public spotlight, this is much more frequent.

I’ve met fantastic professors who were given bad performance reviews for questioning things. A bad performance review is the easy way to terminate a nontenured professor without proof. In one case, a professor questioned repeatedly why the college was not using available resources to schedule more sections of a class that was delaying the graduation dates of hundreds of students because of it’s limited offering, he pointed out the resources being put into other “special” projects that were not benefiting students that could be used for this. This professor questioned many other things that were not student-friendly throughout the University. Not only was this professor terminated, but the University took actions to work to prevent him from being employed at other universities. Even though this professor does not give easy grades, I have not been able to find any students out of the hundreds he has taught who do not think he is a terrific teacher.

In another case, a professor questioned her departments use of student fee money allocated for a student group being used for faculty only events and items. She was also removed.

Even a University vice president was removed for frequently being on the record against President Davenport. It leaked to me that an administrator made it clear to their subordinates that it could happen to them, too.

I’ve talked to students who questioned whether staffing selections in health science courses could damage many students abilities to get licensed by the state, who have been bluntly told that they are risking their academic career by going over the University’s heads and asking the questions to the State Department of Health.  There was a qualified professor to teach the courses in question on staff, but a nationwide search was done anyway. After the search failed, an adjunct was still staffed for the class over the professor who was already on staff. According to the students I talked to, the students enrolled in these classes are unknowingly putting their licensure at risk. Whether it will cause problems for these student’s careers or not, the University officials should not be threatening students for asking.

Even seemingly small things: two former students, Leif Knutson and Mike Ritter, who decided to parody the riot in Mankato and create T-shirts with a modified Minnesota State Mankato logo, something that was clearly in their legal rights to do. They were threatened with lawsuits. Regardless of the fact that Minnesota State Mankato has a pretty generic torch logo whose copyright could be disputed, the right to parody has been pretty well tested at the Supreme Court.

I could literally go on for pages with all of the “shutdowns” that have occurred at Mankato in recent years. From staff, faculty, and students, all have been threatened at all levels of administration. This history presented a problem for me when I was elected student body president at Minnesota State Mankato. Unlike most who usually run for a position like this, I sincerely wanted to work to change the corrupt nature at the university I attended, and I was on the record for it. Minnesota State Mankato was not happy when I performed an upset and beat both opponents, who were too busy making promises they couldn’t keep, with the largest turnout of votes ever seen in recent history at a Minnesota State University. They also were not happy when I joined with student body presidents at other Universities and advocated a tuition cap, which was achieved, that effectively cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from Minnesota State Mankato’s slush funds.

So immediately over the course of the summer after I got elected, administrators took steps to actually remove me as a student, which they successfully did.  More on how that happened when part two of this story is printed.

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