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Bill Gleason

Researcher, teacher

Those pesky wackos are back again ... Finally time to do the right thing?

In a seemingly endless stream, pesky wackos roll off the line at a bottling plant ... 

Source: Flickr

[The University of Minnesota's]  senior director of communications sent out an internal message that read in part, "I looked her up [Dr. Judy Stone] and can't tell if she's a wacko or not…. I get nervous about anyone who would pay any attention to Carl."  [link]

"Carl" is Dr. Carl Elliott, Pathetic. 

Wacko - anyone who does not agree with the University of Minnesota administration's official position

University of Minnesota Communications Handbook 


Earlier posts on the Markingson case have appeared on the Community Voices site:

Send in the wackos ...


Markingson Case: Has the Gordian Knot puzzle
been solved at the University of Minnesota?


Recent Developments

Although the Faculty Senate at the University of Minnesota voted overwhelmingly for an outside, independent, investigation of the Markingson case, it appears that an attempt to ignore what went wrong in the case is in progress.

President Kaler said in a recent interview with the Minnesota Daily:

I’m a big believer in shared governance, and so I’m willing to take the advice of the Senate and the panel. ... I think they will find that our review processes are robust and that we do, in fact, protect patients in clinical trials, but there’s been concern raised in how we do that, and so our goal is to air out clearly and very publicly what we do and have a panel of external experts validate that and be sure we are doing this absolutely as well as can be done.

It’s certainly resulted as a consequence of a lot of repetitive publicity about the Markingson case, but it’s not a review of the Markingson case; it’s a review of what we are doing now and what we’re going to do moving forward.

"it's not a review of the Markingson case"

"It's certainly resulted as a consequence of a lot of repetitive publicity about the Markingson case, but it's not a review of the Markingson case."

These remarks seem more than a little defensive. And the direction in which they lead do not seem much different from the one we've seen out of the University of Minnesota administration since the inception of the Markingson case. 


And so it should be no surprise that these wackos who have been generating a lot of repetitive publicity about the Markingson case are back whining and writing more letters, this one requesting that a promised outside investigation be done right.

The nerve of these wackos ...

Lemmens Follow Up Letter Senate Dec 11 2013 by MarkingsonCase

Time to do the right thing? 

 Da Mayor: "Doctor, always do the right thing."


The time is always right to do the right thing.   Martin Luther King

Do the right thing, even when it is hard.  Joel Osteeen

Do the right thing because it is right. W. Clement Stone

Sometimes it is better to lose, and do the right thing... Tony Blair

Leaders are people who do the right thing. Warren Bennis

In plain Texas talk: It's do the right thing. Ross Perot

You do the right thing, even if it makes you feel bad. The purpose of life is not to be happy but to be worthy of happiness. Tracy Kidder

 Or, as Mark Yudof said in his inaugural address as president of the University of Minnesota:

"Simply stated, it is imperative that we continue to embrace our land-grant roots if we are to thrive."

"The need for integrity permeates every aspect of the University. The education mission of the University must be taken seriously--not just the way to get state funding."

"Administrators should tell the truth, keep their word, implement what they promise, and not dissemble. My point is plain enough: Without integrity, the phrase higher education is an oxymoron."

"When making decisions, I view shared governance and consultation with constituent groups as only fair because of the enormous stake they have in the University. Without fairness there is no legitimacy and no buy in to the institutional vision." 


Mark Yudof handled a horrible scandal in the athletic department with grace and dignity,  with no excuses and no dissembling. I have been very disappointed with the University of Minnesota administration since his presidency. Yudof fired people (the athletic director as well as coaches and support staff) and had Tonya Moten Brown essentially take over the athletic department. And his humility was not false.

The time for stonewalling has passed. Trying to dodge the issues inherent in the Markingson case is a fool's game. A university without integrity is not really a university. Bread and circuses do not a great university make, nor idle chatter about the infamous third greatest public research university in the world.

Time to walk the talk, President Kaler.  Otherwise,  disappointed  University of Minnesota alums will have to take a hike from their alma mater.  In the Twin Cities alone there are plenty of places for higher education philanthropy besides the University of Minnesota - Augsburg and Macalester colleges being two examples. Note that at these two schools the student debt at graduation is lower than that at the public University of Minnesota, to our everlasting disgrace.  I hope not.

One might whine that Mac is a school for the rich, a terrible and untrue argument, but such a charge ridiculous on its face for Augsburg College with its much more modest endowment. When Auggie, as it is familiarly known,  got donor money of questionable provenance, they gave it back. This is what doing the right thing means.  And the education available at Auggie is hardly for chumps. An Auggie, Peter Agre, recently won a Nobel Prize in chemistry. Nice ROI on that, I'd say. Kudos, Auggie, a Minnesota school that makes me proud. Macalester is also in this category as well as many other fine Minnesota  small liberal arts colleges, or SLACs to use au courant higher ed jargon.

Our recent University of Minnesota debt-saddled alums and their parents are none too happy with the performance of our university. Nor are our state legislators who are heartsick and bewildered by the fact that we are one of the leaders in the country - for student debt. Perhaps the plan is to salvage our position with sports dollars? I understand that Louie Nanne has been charged with raising two hundred million dollars for our athletics program. Under the present circumstances of crushing debt for our students, this is pathetic.

And of course if one desires to contribute money for medical research, there is always the Mayo. What's been going on at Fairview-University hospital lately does not exactly inspire warm and fuzzy feelings in the hearts of the populace. People will vote on the University's performance with their feet and their checkbooks. This goes also for the people in the state legislature.

If the University wants to see private philanthropic support, perhaps they should give us something to be proud of? Manufactured hash tags like #umnproud will not suffice.

Is it finally time to do the right thing in the Markingson matter?

More evasion will only serve to further erode our reputation in the real world. Out there where recent University of Minnesota administrations apparently would prefer not to go.

A Cover-up Culture at the U of M? Denial as Administrative Policy?

Link to Video

KMSP-TV has been punching above its weight lately. First they did a story on the Markingson case that I commented on earlier on Community Voices. See: "Send in the Wackos..."   Their latest effort in the Investigators series is quite good and thought provoking. Long time newsies will recognize the narrator for this piece, the excellent Trish Van Pilsum.

This new piece is titled "U Insider" where insider is being used in the same way that it is used in the phrase "insider trading." I'd encourage those interested to watch the video - link given above - or at the same location the case is outlined in text form. I've also put up most of the report on my blog The Periodic Table with highlighting of the very best parts...

So what's the short version? (source of all quotations)

1. A university employee was allegedly harrassed into taking a supervisor on an illegal mule deer hunt on a reservation in  South Dakota. She was cited, admitted guilt, and paid a fine. 

The Standing Rock Reservation is in South Dakota -- 430 miles from the Twin Cities campus, and U officials -- like the vice president of university services -- would very much like to play up that distance.

"I really don't have any comment about something that happened off university property or off university time," Vice President of University Services Pam Wheelock told Fox 9.

Louden pleaded guilty to the two citations. Off campus? Sure -- but very much a universtiy issue because according to an anonymous complaint filed with the U, Louden repeatedly harassed one of her subordinates to take her on the hunting trip in the first place, calling him dozens of times until he relented. He ended up paying a $250 fine for aiding and abetting the illegal hunt. 

Professor David Schultz, a nationally recognized expert on business ethics at Hamline University, had this to say:

That seems perfectly inappropriate.  "This is using your position of authority for purposes of getting something from your subordinates that seems completely illegitimate."

Au contraire?

The U says its own internal investigation found no evidence of harassment. They wouldn't say if they checked Louden's phone records -- something they wouldn't turn over to the Fox 9 Investigators, citing privacy.

"That's all the comment I have," Wheelock said. "It was investigated and closed without discipline."

The U also wouldn't tell Fox 9 if they reviewed the poaching criminal file. The Fox 9 Investigators obtained it through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

2. A University of Minnesota supervisor apparently rigged bids for a contractor friend.

What appears to be tiny, toy people scurrying atop a cold, windy roof on the U's East Bank are real bidders taking part in a process that is supposed to be a level playing field. No one company should have an edge in order to protect the taxpayer.

"Certainly, it sends up the red flags," Schultz said.

Yet, anonymous facilities management workers complained that Louden rigged the system, eliminating the competition for a roofing company owned by a guy she's known for a long time. The business is Skyline Building Envelope Consultants, mostly roofing consultants. The man is Rod Schalesky.

An internal investigation by the university dismissed the complaint after Louden insisted their relationship was purely professional, but the U's own investigation failed to note the following things revealed in e-mails obtained by the Fox 9 Investigators:

Unfortunately for that claim, e-mail records obtained by the KMPSP investigators revealed that:

1. Schalesky said he would drop proposals at Louden's home for her to review -- a practice that other consultants for several companies in the same business say is unheard of.

2. When Schalesky moved from his home and office, Louden told him in an e-mail, "If you need something, let me know."

3. Twice before, Schalesky's company was to present competitive bids on large products, and he discussed his bids with Louden. This, according to U policy, is supposed to be a confidential process.

4. The university paid Skyline's liability insurance so the company would work on a U project.

U officials say Skyline's work was still a bargain, but the e-mails show that the finance folks -- even Beth Louden's boss, Mike Berthelsen -- didn't like it. Still, the insurance got paid and Skyline got the job.

"I don't believe that violates any policy," Wheelock said repeatedly when asked whether such payments were appropriate.

The university apparently dismissed a complaint that the bidding was organized to favor the bidding by the company Skyline owned by Loudon's friend Schalesky:

but according to e-mails, it appears she and her staff did just that.

Instead of considering the inspection of several buildings as one big project, which would have to be put out for bid, she told them to break up the inspections building by building. That kept prices low enough that Skyline would be given the work without bidding for it.

A pile of purchase orders show Skyline pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past 5 years.

So why would UofM supervisor Louden try to give Skyline/Schalesky the edge?

A few years back, the Loudens wanted to join a class-action lawsuit against the company that made the old shingles on her house, but before she could, she needed an inspector to sign off that her shingles were bad. A former inspector for Skyline did just that.

Yet, when asked how much Louden paid for that inspection, Schalesky told Fox 9, "There was no inspection."

Schalesky owns Skyline, and at first, he denied his company helped Louden with her lawsuit; however, when Fox 9 told him his former inspector had spoken with reporters, Schalesky said, "He went out there and picked up a sample of the shingles that had fallen off the roof."

The former Inspector said there was more to it than that, and settlement documents appear to confirm it. He says he took three samples from the roof and took photographs before filling out paperwork. Fox 9 checked to see what was actually required for the settlement -- photos and a sample from the roof.

The inspector said he didn't get paid for what he described as a $200 to $300 job. Why? Schalesky told him Louden was a good customer. Schalesky does not dispute it was done as a favor to Louden.

But according to Professor Schulz:

"There is no such thing as a small favor."

3. Have "favors" been done by University of Minnesota employees at the Loudon residence?

Favors? The U's investigation checked out complaints that Louden had employees working on her home or property. She denied it. That was good enough for the U auditors -- but Fox 9 spoke with neighbors who say they've seen university vehicles coming and going from Louden's house during the day.

4. Complaints were made about unnecessary spending

One of the complaints about her said she spent what she wanted on things like food for meetings and gatherings. Two years of food receipts show the department spent $12,299 on food bought from local business for routine meetings -- most involving Louden or her workers. By way of comparison, the University of Wisconsin's facilities department didn't spend a dime because budgets are just too tight.

According to a memo written by Louden, she and 9 others planned to head to Las Vegas for what's billed as the largest trade show for custodial supplies in North America.  

Conference officials say the average size of groups attending was just 5, and none of the Big 10 universities the Fox 9 Investigators checked with -- Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, Illinois, or Michigan -- sent anyone to Vegas this year. Wheelock didn't know the U planned on sending people until Fox 9 told her.

So there you have it...

Nothing to see here, move along?

This situation certainly reminds me of the way the U of M has handled the Markingson case. But of course the death of a clinical trials patient is a much more serious matter. 

But as an indicator of the institutional culture at the U, this case speaks volumes. The discrepancy between words and actions is obvious. Most of us can recognize why the situation described above is wrong and have witnessed similar behavior in our own lives. To the lay person the Markingson case may at first seem complicated and beyond comprehension, because who is to decide when doctors disagree?

This is but one more example of why an outside investigation of the Markingson case is necessary. 

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