Foundation secrecy will affect UWO reputation

Recently, the Advance-Titan received court documents revealing that the University has been redirecting funds away from the UW Oshkosh Foundation, potentially harming its reputation and fundraising capacity.

Affidavits from chairman of the Foundation Timothy Mulloy, board member Gene Drecktah and executrix of Kenneth J. Grieb Jessica King have so far been received by the Advance-Titan.

The court documents have revealed that the University has been interfering with gifts and pledges, falsely telling people that the Foundation is liquidating and having several administration members saying that the Foundation is dissolving.

As students learned about this newfound scandal, they disagreed with the actions that Leavitt and the University have been taking.

UWO senior Jake Smasal said redirecting the donations doesn’t make sense if the Foundation is still functioning.

“If you have a perfectly good foundation already, then why create a new one and lie about whether the old one is liquidating or direct donors to donate to other foundations that may not be as straightforward in the mission?” Smasal said.

UWO freshman Ellie Wanous said it’s not right that Leavitt is telling people to direct their donations to the Titan Alumni Foundation or the University of Wisconsin Foundation in Madison.

“It’s just interesting he’d choose a place that supports UW Madison,” Wanous said. “Like does that say that our school’s not good enough? What makes Madison better?”

UWO senior Jessica Weister said it is concerning and it could affect how incoming freshmen view the campus.

“I think it sounds a little suspicious almost,” Weister said. “I don’t think it helps the reputation of the school.”

UWO senior Meghan Lamers said the situation is ridiculous since students probably don’t know about it.

“I didn’t even know about that so that’s not good,” Lamers said. “I think that’s crazy and that shows that something needs to be changed about the situation.”

UWO junior Allie Hollman said unless redirecting donations would benefit UWO, then these actions shouldn’t be made.

“If it doesn’t benefit Oshkosh I feel like obviously that’s not very beneficial to us as students when we’re paying to go here,” Hollman said. “We’re putting our trust in the higher up people that they will make the right decisions with our money, and if it’s not being made good then that’s kind of unsettling.”

These first reactions from students show that the University is only going to hurt their reputation through these actions.

Hollman said the false information about the Foundation being in liquidation will not benefit the school or the students.

“I think lying is never the right option even if they are doing something with the money,” Hollman said. “I think they should tell the truth about it because getting caught in a lie doesn’t help or benefit anybody.”

In response to the affidavits that have already been received, students said that they could see more people coming forward.

Weister said once people see that someone has already come forward, more of them will follow.

“Especially since someone already did,” Weister said. “It kind of usually flows that way. Once somebody comes out then more people come out.”

Hollman said she agrees that now that the ball is rolling, more people are bound to come forward and talk about their experience with the University and their donations.

“Usually it’s hard to be the first person but if others have already started then others are probably likely to as well,” Hollman said. “So, tell the truth and come out.”

Although the effects of this are unknown, students have some ideas on how people will react as this story is spread around.

Lamers said students who apply for scholarships may be hesitant to apply in the future.

“Less people I’m sure would apply if they knew there weren’t as many funds,” Lamers said. “There’s not as much incentive to and as someone who applies for them that’s frustrating.”

However, Hollman said this scandal could affect enrollment only if students applying for college pay attention to what is happening.

“If it were like me applying when I applied however many years ago, I probably wouldn’t know about it unless like my mom told me,” Hollman said. “It wouldn’t be that relevant. But I guess it depends on the person.”

Although the response from students could be varied, the reputation of UWO and potentially the Foundation could be negatively affected.

Lamers said as this scandal comes out, it could bring some negative opinions about the University along with other issues.

“That’s obviously not good media for the University,” Lamers said. “And with funds getting cut on top of it too.”

Hollman said news stories and bad press are likely to come out of this and affect both the Foundation and the University.

“I definitely think it could impact the image of the Foundation for sure, and I feel like just [be]cause it’s primarily focused on the Foundation, it will still have an impact on UW Oshkosh as a whole,” Hollman said.
Although the information on this scandal is just coming out, it’s evident that students are not agreeing with the actions being taken.

The University needs to think about the students before redirecting valued donors away from UWO.