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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

 2:56 PM 

UWO says it took corrective action against prof who urged students to sign recall papers

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells says the school took corrective action last month against a professor who asked students to sign recall petitions against GOP Sen. Randy Hopper.

Audio surfaced today from the Republican Party of Wisconsin featuring Prof. Stephen Richards addressing his students March 7 with two circulators in his class and saying they would be outside the room if they wanted to sign the papers.

Hopper called on Richards to resign, while the state GOP called his actions "egregious professional misconduct."

On the tape, Richards explains the effort to recall lawmakers and suggests students use their campus addresses instead of those for their parents.

He also says, "I’m not asking you to do it, you're not required to do this, it's a free country, you can sign it or not sign it." He says he would prefer to have people do it outside the classroom so "it's not like I'm watching who's signing and who's not signing."

Richards also criticizes Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining changes and says there will eventually be a recall against the guv as well. He also incorrectly says police officers and firefighters were not exempt from the changes.

Wells put out a statement this afternoon after the audio surfaced that the school investigated concerns from students a couple of days after the March 7 lecture, concluding an investigation by April 1 and implemented corrective action, and has since contacted students who were initially concerned about the comments. Wells said the students reported classroom conditions have improved and there were not additional complaints.

Wells said it is inappropriate when educators "let their personal political opinions interfere with classroom teaching."

"Unfortunately, at times, there are isolated incidents, which we fully investigate, and, where appropriate, take corrective action," Wells said. "We regret that the poor judgment of one person can have a negative impact on an entire university community."

In addition to calling on Richards to resign, Hopper asked Wells to investigate how many other professors campaigned on state time.

He also said the professor's actions were one of "the many irregularities that occurred during the recall petition collection process" that he hoped the Government Accountability Board would investigate.

"Parents and students expect their tuition to go to education, not to have their children or themselves lied to by a figure of authority who has the ability to make or break their academic future," Hopper said. "There is no room in our educational institutions to substitute preaching for teaching.

UPDATE: 4:17 p.m. This state GOP release includes a transcript of the tape.
-- By JR Ross

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