New steps to address hostile and intimidating behavior

The message below is from Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Provost Karl Scholz

For the past several years, our university has worked to prevent and address hostile and intimidating behavior through a new set of policies and trainings.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported recently on a serious case of hostile and intimidating behavior involving a College of Engineering faculty member. The situation came to light after the 2016 suicide of a graduate student in his research group. After an investigation that documented the problematic behavior, the faculty member was suspended for two years.

Our campus continues to take steps to address this specific incident and any others like it. As this situation shows, we must do even more to ensure a coordinated, consistent approach to hostile and intimidating behavior.

As a result, we are taking the following actions:

Increased communication regarding resources to report concerns: We will increase communication efforts to ensure that all campus community members are informed of campus policies prohibiting hostile and intimidating behavior, and that people know where and how to report such behavior so that it can be addressed in a timely fashion. We have begun important conversations with graduate students, in particular, to help us identify needed services.  Existing resources include staff in the Graduate School, Student Affairs, the Ombuds Office, and school/college deans’ offices.

Central oversight of reporting: We will put in place a system and process similar to what we’ve done to improve our response to reports of sexual harassment and misconduct. It will allow us to better track this conduct and to more systematically address concerns and be sure that people know where to turn for help. This builds on new guidelines that clarify the options for reporting this behavior.

In this specific case, the College of Engineering is also taking additional actions which Dean Robertson is sharing with faculty, staff and students.

Going forward, we call upon each member of the campus community to be a partner in identifying, addressing and confronting incidents of hostile and intimidating behavior. For too long in academia, these types of interactions have existed in the shadows or been discounted as “just the way it is.”  The problem is exacerbated when a power imbalance (such as advisor/student, or supervisor/employee) exists.

Let us be clear: hostile and intimidating behavior is unacceptable. We all deserve an environment where we’re treated with respect. Each and every one of us on campus has a responsibility to help confront hostile and intimidating behavior.

To learn more and view campus resources, visit