The Problem that is Provost Paul DeLuca

May 10, 2013 | Blog

Let me tell you, it’s an incredible experience to chair a university committee for multiple years, work very hard to serve at the request of your university, produce a thoughtful report with that committee, and then have the Provost of your institution attack it in the media without ever bothering to even speak with you about it.

Welcome to UW-Madison and the passive-aggressive machinations of Provost Paul DeLuca.

UW-Madison has serious problems when it comes to state relations and this Provost has a lot to do with that.  Time and again he has treated the Wisconsin public, its reporters, and its legislators as if they aren’t smart enough to merit straight talk about hard issues.  Instead he smirks, waves his hands, and says he doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. He dismisses any critique of the university as uninformed, offers “explanations” without any factual basis, and looks away when anyone asks a hard question.

I’ve witnessed this time and again over the past several years– through debates over his efforts to instigate the restructuring of the Graduate School, the separation of UW-Madison from UW-System, the Human Resources Design debacle, and most recently as he’s attempted to cover his tracks while advancing an enrollment management agenda initiated when Biddy Martin was chancellor, all the while pretending to be simply responding to new demographics. In the most recent example, instead of raising concerns in a professional manner with a university committee on admissions practices with whom he apparently disagrees– for example by seeking a meeting with its members or the chair (me) –he dismisses the committee’s latest report in the media as “narrow and short-sighted” and then blatantly spins the press about the reasons for changing enrollment patterns (see below for more examples).   Just Monday he sat idly by as the same report was presented in Faculty Senate and said nothing.  This is how he treats his faculty.

The evidence is clear.  The words and actions of Provost Paul DeLuca Jr. reveal a lack of commitment to and respect for shared governance, a disturbing paternalism when it comes to racial/ethnic students and the working class (see below for more), and an outright smug elitism when it comes to answering important questions.  He is harming the institution, tarnishing our reputation for sifting and winnowing, and it’s long past time for him to move on.

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Want to know more about DeLuca?

Check out what DeLuca said to the Wisconsin State Journal about the reason for the sharp uptick in international student enrollment at UW-Madison in fall 2012.

Here is my letter to the WSJ in response:

Dear Editor,

I appreciate your coverage of the recent report issued by the UW-Madison Committee on Undergraduate Recruitment, Admissions, and Financial Aid. But I am mystified by comments made by Provost Paul DeLuca in response.  He reports that the growth in the percent of admitted international students who decided to enroll in UW-Madison this past fall (the “yield rate”) was “unexpected” and there was “no purposefulness to it.”  This statement sharply contrasts with the explicit goals and travels of former Chancellor Biddy Martin, who sought to increase enrollment of international students, and flies in the face of publicly available data.  

This document shows that in 2012, UW-Madison experienced a 4% growth in the rate of applications among international students, and matched that with a one-year increase of 53% in the acceptance rate of those students, jumping from 26.9 to 41.3% between 2011-2012 (the average increase in the acceptance rate over the prior 5 years was 34%). Even if the applicant pool was somehow much more qualified, this decision to accept more international students undoubtedly contributed to the higher representation of them on campus. In addition, 30.6% of those students accepted the offer of admission and enrolled—at a rate that DeLuca found surprising, presumably because the rate in 2011 was 20.5%.  However, the average yield over the prior five years was 30.2%– almost exactly the yield in the single year 2012! The only way the Provost could have been genuinely surprised by the outcome is if his enrollment management team used just one year of data rather than a longer-term trend to do their planning.  Given their expertise, this seems highly unlikely.

Most troubling, Provost DeLuca made these same statements last fall when asking the UW System Board of Regents to raise the cap on non-resident enrollment, a request that was initiated because of this “surprising” turn of events.  Given our commitment to seeking and reporting the truth at this great research university, these repeated assertions are disconcerting.  The UW can decide its future and its enrollment, but the Wisconsin public deserves transparency and accuracy in reporting about how outcomes are achieved.

After reading all of the stats, you deserve a break so check out these photos from Paul’s most recent trip to China!

Then, take a look at what we recommended regarding ending reciprocity for Minnesota students at UW-Madison, and next consider his response.

Notice that DeLuca expresses concern that ending reciprocity would mean only wealthy MN students could apply to Madison, conveniently overlooking the data in our report that indicates that the students from MN are much wealthier than Wisconsin residents to begin with. Table 2 shows that the average family income of a MN student at UW-Madison is $105,000, compared to $80,000 of WI residents at UW-Madison.  In other words, the reciprocity agreement is regressive.

Second, with regard to the concept of ending reciprocity at the flagship, DeLuca says “”Every now and then, someone makes a suggestion like that,” DeLuca said. “That’s a very narrow, short-sided perspective.”  First of all, the phrase is “short-sighted.” Second, this proposal hasn’t been made before– this isn’t about ending reciprocity for the entire state– it’s about exempting ONE campus–Madison.  Wisconsin is highly unusual in including it’s only flagship in such an agreement.  The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has never analyzed the costs of keeping it in– those costs, Deluca fails to note, add up to $40-50 million a year for Madison.  This is a new idea and not a short-sighted one, all about the long-term ability of Madison to serve the state residents.

And, incredibly, the Provost manages to equate Milwaukee and “diversity” with “students who aren’t prepared to succeed” and in the ultimate display of hubris, says it is “immoral” to bring them to Madison.  To be clear– we recommended that the city of Milwaukee’s residents have greater opportunities to attend UW-Madison.  We did not suggest they come unprepared.  But DeLuca lept immediately from Milwaukee to “diversity” to under-preparation.  Amazingly, he suggested that our committee didn’t discuss academic preparation needed to succeed at Madison– again, outright false– it’s mentioned throughout the report– over and over again.  But DeLuca thinks in terms of test scores, not extraordinary performance, not uncommon life circumstances, and when he sees “color” he thinks “under-prepared.” That is really something. Is it any wonder that during his period of “leadership” the percent of students of color on campus has declined, organizations working to improve campus climate have felt entirely unsupported by the university, and morale among faculty and staff of color is reportedly at a low point?

Finally, please note again that this Provost has representation on our committee, saw the report in advance, and yet never raised any questions about the data or the proposals.  Of course, not til the reporters called.

19 Comments

  1. Reply

    Anonymous

    May 10, 2013

    Provost DeLuca has been a real problem for a long, long while however, this kind of behavior is nothing short of astonishing. At this Great State University of Wisconsin, we pride ourselves with having basically invented the idea of shared governance; with such a legacy, it should come as a shock to hear administrators treat their governing partners in such a manner. By neglecting to engage the members and chair of CURAFA, the Provost is signaling that their work and policy recommendations are not only unwelcome, but that administration will do _nothing_ with it.

    Further, in my experience with the Provost, he has been nothing short of stand-offish and offensive. I find the proof of his leadership to be in the pudding: when Biddy was hired, DeLuca wasn't considered for the job. When Biddy left, DeLuca wasn't tapped to helm the Flagship until a new chancellor could be found, instead we brought one out from the mothballs, and yet again, with the process that hired Blank, DeLuca wasn't considered. Provosts, as chief academic officers of a university, should be the chancellor/president in waiting, and able to step up to the plate should there be a break in executive leadership. I think our campus has been telling DeLuca for a long time that it's time to move on, but he's firmly planted. Further, that he hasn't moved from his seat as Provost should also say something. Why hasn't he looked elsewhere for an executive position? Maybe because he has a reputation? He can't bear to give up summer evenings on the terrace? It's a real disgrace to this institution.

    Finally, that we have a Provost whose default orientation toward the largest city in this state is one that is clearly grounded in a deficit-racist model is appalling. Anyone, anyone (!) who looks to Milwaukee, our center of racial and ethnic diversity, and scoffs at the idea that we make moves to enroll more of their high school graduates instead of recruiting the rich White kids the next state over should have his priorities and orientation toward our state and its citizens examined. This latest point of evidence is, I fear, just another data point leading to the conclusion that DeLuca may indeed harbor some not-so-progressive views about people who don't look like him.

  2. Reply

    Anonymous

    May 10, 2013

    Paul DeLuca,

    You better check yo'self before you wreck yo'self.

    Sincerely,
    Milwaukee Public School
    AND
    UW-Madison Alumni

  3. Reply

    Anonymous

    May 20, 2013

    Regarding the committee, I wish we could get more information. Sounds like the only information we have is about enrollment at UW Madison. But it'd be wonderful if we had data from the point of view of graduating seniors, where do they go? Kinda sounds like you are assuming that since many of them did not come to Madison they may have not gotten involved in any higher education. Could be but it'd be best to know if they went to technical school, a private school, another campus, out of state, etc. I am an alumnus of this institution and for various reasons I think I would have been better off going somewhere else. I'd like to see more choices than UW Madison for Wisconsin residents. Madison does not teach everything and it does not teach things in the best way, regardless of that flagship designation. I think you are correct in pointing out issues that should be looked at but let us not box lower income students into having only one single higher ed choice if at all possible. I'd vote for more reciprocity agreements, not less.

    • Reply

      Sara Goldrick-Rab

      May 31, 2013

      Hi,

      It would be a mistake to read the report as asserting that Madison is the only destination worth going to. We do not think that at all. As a Madison committee, we are simply grappling with approaches to ensuring that the costs of attending Madison remain affordable and that the university serves its mission of educating Wisconsin residents. This requires dealing with enrollment distributions. We do not assume that if students do not come to Madison they do not go to college at all; however, we can tell that family income is playing a strong role in shaping their odds of attending Madison and that runs counter to the narrative that access is based on merit. Low-income students stand the greatest chances of graduating from college when they attend well-resourced institutions, but right now they are concentrated in those with the least resources in the state.

      Creating more reciprocity agreements will not help low-income students because they overwhelmingly wish to remain in-state and nearer to home, and it will mean more foregone revenue from UW-Madison which lowers the overall amount of aid. But it sounds like you would potentially support a fully-funded system of public higher education where everyone could attend for free in the state of their choice-- and I would support that too. Indeed, that would definitely benefit students from low-income families.

    • Reply

      Anonymous

      May 31, 2013

      Could you define what you mean by access based on merit, seeing as the scare quotation marks around credentials in the post below seem to indicate that you do not believe GPA or standardized test scores are an indicator of merit. Also, could you provide a source for the belief that low-income students overwhelming desire to remain in-state and nearer to home? And, if these claims were true, wouldn't the latter indicate that these students are drawn to institutions closer to their home than UW-Madison, especially given that the UW system offers many high-quality universities throughout the state? As a relative outsider, the information provided seems speculative and inherently contradictory. Also, the decision not to attend UW-Madison could reflect the greater trend in the United States which has many questioning the value of a liberal arts education--and not just those who are from low- and middle-income families or areas.

    • Reply

      Sara Goldrick-Rab

      May 31, 2013

      I responded to this above.

  4. Reply

    Anonymous

    May 29, 2013

    Could you elaborate on how the committee came to the conclusion that students from Minnesota would drop by the rate you propose?

    • Reply

      Sara Goldrick-Rab

      May 31, 2013

      Yes, extrapolating from several recent studies of the price sensitivity of out-of-state students. If anything, it seems to be a liberal estimate of the decline-- given their high average family income, MN students may tolerate the price increase and/or be replaced by other MN students who can.

    • Reply

      Anonymous

      May 31, 2013

      Could you provide a source of the studies or way to access them rather than just stating they exist and were extrapolated from?

    • Reply

      Sara Goldrick-Rab

      May 31, 2013

      See my response below, happy to send you the full lit review.

  5. Reply

    Anonymous

    May 29, 2013

    Great questions. First, we don't assume that students only want to attend madison - not at all. The issue is that we know many WI residents do want to attend Madison and keeping that affordable means generating revenue from elsewhere. The fact is that there is a surplus of demand from out of state students other than MN (and even from MN) and studies of price sensitivity among such students suggests that while enrollment of MN students would drop if reciprocity ended (we used several recent studies to estimate by how much) that enrollment could be easily offset by letting in more students from other states to take their place. There is little contribution from having 12% of the student body from a non WI state so this isn't a loss.

    Sara

  6. Reply

    Anonymous

    May 30, 2013

    On a related note, why was there no comparison of the credentials of the students from Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (and for that matter, out of state students)? The committee only briefly mentions the widely-held belief that Minnesota students generally have higher GPAs/standardized test scores and, without providing any data, states that it believes that claim to be without merit. I know that many members of the committee believe these are poor indicators of success (with some legitimacy with regards to the latter) but regardless this information should be so readily accessible as to merit presentation. As an outside observer I see no reason to omit this information unless, of course, the committee believed it would undermine their argument and intentionally chose to leave it out of the report. As a nearly life-long resident of Wisconsin and Minnesota I believe both states benefit tremendously from reciprocity at their flagship campuses. Anecdotally I knew of many fellow Minnesota students that chose to attend UW over other flagship schools (UNC, UVA, Michigan, etc.) because of the lower cost. I myself transferred from an "elite" east coast liberal arts college because I believed the relative cost of a Wisconsin education made it by far the superior choice--if it weren't for reciprocity I likely would've attended elsewhere. I would also be willing to bet that many of the top performers at UMN-Twin Cities are Wisconsin residents. As two states of modest population, I believe this was a great showing of solidarity that is beneficial to both sides.

    • Reply

      Sara Goldrick-Rab

      May 31, 2013

      That data is available on the UW-Madison website and was examined. The "credentials" of those MN students are not significantly stronger than those of WI residents, and even if they were that's not reason to keep reciprocity, since we have a large pool of similarly qualified applicants from other states who do not qualify for the reduced tuition. The information is not "omitted" and deliberately "left out"-- it is immaterial to the question.

      As to your belief that both states benefit, that may be true--though metrics would be helpful-- but the point is that what's good for the state as a WHOLE might hurt individual institutions, which comes at greater costs to the whole.

      We can't make policy based on anecdotal evidence, especially in tough fiscal times.

    • Reply

      Anonymous

      May 31, 2013

      Again the ambiguity of the terms is disturbing and to me represent poor scholarship. What is the definition of "significantly stronger"? The use of "significantly" would indicate that the evidence shows that the "credentials" (as you term them) are in fact stronger and that you don't agree with these metrics does not justify their omission. This whole report seems premised on the idea that Wisconsin as a state does not benefit from having a good cultural exchange with Minnesota (we are both modestly-sized states and I would highly contest this). Also, the evidence that was provided about students remaining in the state is misleading, as changing in-state status is a tremendously difficult process. And as far as anecdotal evidence, I at least identified it as spurious information--something that neither the report nor your follow up on this blog have done.

    • Reply

      Sara Goldrick-Rab

      May 31, 2013

      Dead anonymous,

      Happy to provide all of this info, since counter to your assertions I have all of it, but doing it via the blog is difficult. Send me an email at UW or give me your name here and my team (which includes 2 UW economists) will get you details.

      Sara

    • Reply

      Anonymous

      May 31, 2013

      Why would it be difficult and why I should I be privy to this information and not your general reading population?

    • Reply

      Sara Goldrick-Rab

      May 31, 2013

      Anonymous,

      It seems your agenda is to attack me rather than to obtain answers to your good questions. Why is it difficult to provide the info here? Because I have to provide data and calculations that underlie the report plus a bunch of links to literature and pdf pages and I can't do that in the comments. Sure, I *could* write up a whole new blog on this but frankly I don't have the time at the moment and the general audience isn't asking for it. Instead, I can simply email you the material-- far faster and you're the one asking.

      But perhaps you don't want to say who you are-- instead you want to simply denigrate my scholarship anon? How cowardly and convenient. Give me your info and I'll respond to your questions, it's as easy as that. I'm allowing anonymous posting not to facilitate trolling but rather because the sign-in mechanism wasn't working on Blogger for several folks recently. I'm confident enough to speak publicly using my own name-- why aren't you?

    • Reply

      Anonymous

      June 1, 2013

      I choose to be an anonymous poster because the focus should be on the argument, not the arguer. I apologize if anything I've written has seemed like trolling, but I don't see how asking for clarification of ambiguous terms is trolling. I would say calling me "cowardly" for doing so is far more akin to trolling than anything I've posted. I also don't see how providing potentially legitimate counter-points while asking for evidence that you claim to have is trolling. If you and the committee are as confident in the information as it seems, wouldn't this be a relatively simple task that would lend legitimacy to the controversial proposals? If you don't have the time maybe ask someone else on the committee to write a reference post somewhere else? This information shouldn't be restricted and if you are as interested in transparency if you claim, it should be readily accessible to all interested parties.

  7. Reply

    Anonymous

    June 1, 2013

    And lastly I'm not trying to denigrate your scholarship and apologize for making that comment. I'm saying I don't think it's good form to propose such a drastic change and then limit access to the information that would justify it. As I said before I've lived almost my entire life in Minnesota and Wisconsin and have attended both UW-Madison and UMN-Twin Cities. My (again, anecdotal) belief as a resident of this area is that both sides have benefitted from the arrangement. I could not have attended UW-Madison as an out-of-state student but do live in Wisconsin as a result of attending the university. If it truly is better that people like me not attend the university, I'd at least like to know what evidence there is for that.


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