Chancellor asked campus dean to step down
By Nicole Krueger
Jim Perry announced his retirement Feb. 4, ending 18 years of service at UW-Fox.
However, as documents and stories surfaced, it became apparent his departure was not necessarily by choice.
“I was given the option of retiring or returning to the faculty as a tenured professor,” Perry said.
Marv van Kekerix, UW Colleges interim chancellor, told Perry he could not remain dean.
“I believe the interim chancellor jumped to conclusions, made a mistake, and caved into pressures he was not accustomed to dealing with,” Perry said.
A story with twists, turns, and differing opinions developed from rumors of Perry’s misconduct weeks earlier. Perry, his wife and another faculty member accompanied 12 students on a study abroad trip to Namibia, Africa.
According to an article in the Post-Crescent, four female students were mugged Jan. 17, which led to Namibian police involvement. The victims had to get a change of credit cards, hotel rooms and new passports.
This incident led to dispute between Perry, assistant professor Tammy Ladwig and Ladwig’s son, Adam.
Joy, Perry’s wife and senior lecturer of biology, gave an account of the dispute the night of the mugging.
“When we returned to the hotel, most students were gathered in the hotel lobby and bar. [Two students] obviously upset came running to tell us to see Dr. Ladwig immediately.
“We sprinted up the stairway and found [Ladwig] in her room at her laptop. She told us about the mugging and that two of the ‘muggees’ and one other student were at the police station.
“Dean Perry did ask her why she wasn’t at the police station also. She said she was trying to get in contact with the study abroad director in Madison,” Joy said.
Joy also attempted to establish connection via email or Skype with the program director, but was drawn to noise coming from the lobby.
“I heard screams and yelling and ran downstairs to find the ‘incident’,” Joy said.
Ladwig provided her side of what happened during the dispute.
“[Perry] started yelling at the students and saying very inappropriate things to them. I kept saying ‘no, no, no, no, you have no idea what these kids have just been through in the last two hours’ and that’s when he said ‘I’m your boss, you will not undermine me’,” Ladwig said.
Adam, a UW-Fox student and a trip participant also became involved.
“We confronted him because he didn’t like how [the students] handled the mugging situation. He came down in a fit of rage and got in a student’s face and pointed a finger at her and told her to shut up and listen to him and said she was acting like she was 12.”
During the argument, Perry allegedly grabbed Ladwig.
“He grabbed my mom by the arm and started dragging her to the side. Me and the only other male student on the trip stepped in to stop it,” Adam said.
Perry, however, tells a different story.
“I took her by the arm, saying that I wanted to speak with her privately,” Perry said.
Perry stated that he could not avoid involvement in the incident.
“The night of the mugging, I felt a significant error in judgment had taken place, and was concerned about students being without a trip leader in a Namibian police station.
“Then one of the students burst into my room, alcoholic beverage in hand, and made several crazy accusations after hearing misinformation from another student,” Perry said.
Adam felt Perry had another motive for getting involved.
“I think he’s kind of power-hungry. He kind of likes to control how things are. I think he felt he wasn’t in control so then he felt he needed to get mad.
“[Joy Perry’s] explanation of the whole situation was, ‘you’ve got to understand that Jim gets mad’,” Adam said.
More than 200 documents surfaced from the trip, including an e-mail Ladwig sent to Tim Urbonya, director of Continuing Education and Outreach Services for the UW Colleges.
In the e-mail, she stated, “I believe that Jim is a physical threat to the safety and well being of these students.”
Brianna Scheffner, a former UW-Fox student, wrote in an e-mail, “He was screaming his head off at us, like swearing and getting right up into our faces, throwing a fit. You could tell he almost wanted to start swinging. He was raising his arms and everything.”
Despite the incident in Africa, Perry tries to remember the positive aspects of the trip.
“What most fail to note is that this was an outstanding experience for the students. While the focus has been on a single difficult evening out of 21 [days], all participants had amazing experiences in a fantastically beautiful nation.”
Perry, students and faculty participated in public service projects, such as building classrooms, teaching an afterschool program and expanding a school garden in Namibia.
“No study abroad trip is without problems and we were all upset by the mugging,” Perry said.
Ladwig wants to move past everything as well.
“I just wish it would stop. I wish it would go away,” Ladwig said.
Andrew Keogh, interim campus executive officer and dean, gave his opinion on whether the incident behind Perry’s retirement affected the decision to choose associate professor Martin Rudd as UW-Fox’s next dean.
“I can’t see any direct relationship between Dean Perry and his leadership style, his history here and the recommendations that were made to the chancellor for dean candidates,” Keogh said.
The interim chancellor announced Rudd’s appointment Oct. 4.
Rudd succeeds Perry and will officially begin his duties Jan. 1.
According to an article from the UW-Fox website, Cross is “very pleased to be able to appoint an experienced teacher and administrator to lead this important campus. Martin Rudd knows the campus and the community well.”