A second Black dean at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is raising questions about whether his race played a role in a campus audit of his spending.
Dr. Howard Ross, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences, said he asked university officials if he and the school’s other Black dean, Dr. Lee Jones, were singled out for audits because of their race.
Ross said he has yet to hear a response. But UW-Whitewater Chancellor Martha Saunders told The Associated Press last week race had nothing to do with either audit.
Ross’ remarks come as his colleague Jones is asking a Dane County judge to block the university from releasing an audit scrutinizing his spending.
Jones, dean of graduate studies at UW-Whitewater, argues in the lawsuit that releasing the report will harm the university’s diversity efforts. But state lawyers told a judge there is no reason to suppress the record.
Jones’ lawyer, David Lasker, said he doubts it is a coincidence that the only two Black deans have been the subject of such scrutiny.
“It’s a fact that only two of the deans on the Whitewater campus have been audited and both of them are African-American,” he said. “We’re not sure what the explanation might be for that. It doesn’t make any sense to us.”
Ross said he does not know if race played a role in the audits, but he has yet to hear a satisfactory response to that question.
“My feelings about it was, and I’ve made this known to the campus, is that it was unprofessionally done and was highly irregular,” Ross said of the audit conducted earlier this year. “The way that it was done in terms of searching bags, going through computers was intrusive. All of that I thought was a little bit over the top.”
Saunders, who took over as chancellor at the school of 10,500 students in August, said the audit of Ross is a routine follow-up of one completed of his college’s spending in 2002.
“It is just an unfortunate piece of timing that this follow-up has coincided with (the audit of Jones),” Saunders said.
UW-Whitewater spokeswoman Sara Kuhl said the university does departmental audits on a routine basis. She said they are an uncomfortable process to go through but are necessary to safeguard tax dollars. Kuhl praised the work of Ross, who has been at the school 13 years, but said “it’s a little disheartening to hear the insinuations that are being made.”
UW-Whitewater’s campus auditor, Indra Mohabir-Engstrand, said last week she was still working on the Ross audit and did not have a report available. She said audits are completely colorblind, and had responded to Ross’ concerns earlier this year.
“What I tried to explain to him … I myself am a minority and I wanted to do the best job I can in a professional manner to ensure that those coming behind me are judged by their qualifications and their experience only,” she said.
Mohabir-Engstrand said she was simply following standard auditing procedures to verify assets and had done nothing inappropriate.
Ross said he and Jones are the only two Black deans in the UW System after the departure earlier this year of Dr. Carol Blackshire-Belay at UW-Green Bay.
— Associated Press
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