Chancellor issues statement after arrest of suspect in death of Hussain Alnahdi

 

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MEMO TO: Students, faculty and staff

DATE: Jan. 13, 2017

SUBJECT: Apprehension of suspect in death of Hussain Saeed Alnahdi

The Dunn Country District Attorney’s office has charged a 27-year-old Minnesota man, Cullen M. Osburn, with felony murder and battery in the Oct. 30 attack that killed UW-Stout student Hussain Saeed Alnahdi.

The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram newspaper reported the arrest and charges this morning. Details are available here.

I want to thank the Menomonie Police Department and Chief Erik Atkinson for tirelessly pursuing the leads that resulted in this arrest. I know that Chief Atkinson and his officers took this case very personally, and they should be commended for pursuing this investigation to this stage.

I also want to thank retired UW-Stout Police Chief Lisa Walter and interim Police Chief Jason Spetz for working very closely with Menomonie police during the investigation.

Finally, I want to thank Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf for her work in charging this suspect and offer whatever assistance she may need to ensure justice prevails in this case.

I hope this arrest brings some measure of peace and comfort to Hussain’s family in Saudi Arabia. They have gone through a living nightmare, and our hearts and prayers continue to go out to them. I also hope that Hussain’s roommates and many friends on campus also feel a sense of closure and relief with the arrest.

The death of Hussain on Oct. 31 from injuries he sustained in downtown Menomonie has affected everyone on campus, especially our international and minority students who expressed concern for their safety.

At the same time, I have witnessed many people reaching out to these concerned students to assure them that they live and study in a safe environment. I hope these efforts to help all students feel safe on campus and in the community continues.

I also think it is worth mentioning that the criminal complaint issued in this case said the suspect “was adamant that the altercation was not a result of anybody’s race.”

Finally, I also want to thank everyone who contacted the Menomonie Police Department with information about the attack, as well as those who contributed to the reward fund administered by the Community Foundation of Dunn County and those who have contributed to the memorial fund established by the Stout University Foundation. Your efforts are truly appreciated.

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Statement on governor’s State of State speech

Chancellor Bob Meyer issued the following statement after Gov. Scott Walker’s State of the State speech Tuesday, Jan. 10:

Like the governor, I too am concerned about ensuring that everyone who wants a college education has the means to obtain one. I will be interested in hearing the details about the governor’s proposal to cut tuition costs.

I certainly hope, however, that the governor plans to both fully fund his plan to cut tuition and to restore at least part of the budget cut we received in 2015-17. We are still working our way through that cut, which amounted to $5.3 million a year, without reducing educational quality. It’s been a very challenging task.

Another critical need is state support for salary increases for our employees. In the last six years, UW employees have received 1 percent pay increases in only two years, while university employees in other states have received, on average, increases between 1.4 percent and 2.3 percent each year. Our faculty salaries are now 21 percent behind those in our peer group, and we are experiencing record turnover rates.

I believe we have reached a critical period in the history of the UW System. We hope to work with the governor and the Legislature to ensure a bright future for UW-Stout and the entire UW System.

Ready to kick off a new year Tuesday, Jan. 17

Opening Day

Faculty and staff attend the Opening Day presentations in August. Opening day for the second semester will be Tuesday, Jan. 17, with Chancellor Bob Meyer’s address at 8:40 a.m.

Welcome to 2017!

I hope everyone had an opportunity to recharge over the holidays and spend time with family and friends. I know I enjoyed some time away from campus after what was a pretty challenging (and fulfilling) year. Now it’s on to 2017 and the start of a new semester.

I will be making my opening address at 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. I certainly hope you can attend. I will touch on some of the accomplishments of 2016 and lay out what I perceive to be the challenges and opportunities ahead in 2017. If you can’t attend, the address can be viewed here live.

My address will be followed by the ever-popular You Said…We Did presentation organized by the Planning, Assessment, Research and Quality office. And yes, there will be some high jinks!

I also hope you attend as many of the professional development sessions as possible the next two weeks. A lot of time and energy went into listening to your needs to host sessions that will help you with your career and life. Details are available here.

More blogs ahead

I intend to use this blog as often as I can to keep campus apprised of important developments and news items, both on campus and in Madison. I was quite surprised to learn that the blog was viewed almost 29,000 times in 2016 by more than 21,000 people.

The blog obviously has turned into quite a useful way for me to connect with campus and our external audience, and I will continue to use it as much as possible.

State budget cycle begins

Most people know that 2017 will be a budget year for us; Gov. Scott Walker will introduce his 2017-19 state budget proposal in early to mid-February, and then legislators will spend the next four months debating and reshaping the document. We intend to work hard to ensure that our voice is heard during those debates.

Speaking of the Legislature, I wanted to point out a significant development: Five of the 10 Republicans on the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee are from western Wisconsin, including state Rep, Rob Stafsholt, who replaced John Murtha as the Assembly member who represents UW-Stout. The other four are Reps. Shannon Zimmerman from Hudson, Rob Summerfield from Bloomer, Warren Petryk from Eleva and Romaine Quinn from Rice Lake.

Democrat Rep. Dana Wachs from Eau Claire also is a member.

Sen. Sheila Harsdorf continues to chair the Senate Higher Education Committee. This is a welcome development for UW-Stout and western Wisconsin because we will have a significant voice on higher education issues that pass through those committees.

I hope 2017 is a great year for you and your family. By working together, we can make it a great year for UW-Stout as well.

Campus Climate Survey to be sent out Jan. 17

Faculty and staff will receive an invitation Tuesday, Jan. 17, via email from parq@uwstout.edu to participate in the Campus Climate Survey, which will provide important information about our climate. Survey results will be reviewed by the Strategic Planning Group, Diversity Bridge Team and other groups to determine if any actions are needed to improve the environment for working, living and learning at UW-Stout.

Some actions taken based on the 2014 survey include purchase of LifeMatters, which provides confidential professional assistance to all UW-Stout faculty and staff; creation of an ambassador position to champion the use of Intercultural Development Inventory on campus; and updates to the process for hiring and promotions.

The survey was first administered in spring 2011 as part of a UW System project; the instrument was developed by a consultant, Sue Rankin. A shorter follow-up survey was conducted in spring 2014. The 2017 survey is a revised version of the 2014 survey, and I encourage all of you to participate.

Commencement efforts appreciated; goodbye to Chief Walter and to 2016; save the date, Jan. 17

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A very wintry but satisfying commencement day

Every commencement ceremony is special to me, but the fall 2016 exercise will stand out and not just because it brought our 125th anniversary celebration essentially to a close. It will be noteworthy because of the hardships many in the audience had to endure simply to get to Johnson Fieldhouse through a heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures.

With ominous forecasts of snow earlier in the week, we had several discussions to determine whether we would continue with our ceremonies. We had to balance travel safety with the high desire to recognize our 697 students for reaching a major milestone. We decided to hold commencement as scheduled with myriad warnings about the impending weather conditions, and we offered the option to watch a livestream of the ceremonies.

I’m grateful the snow stopped in time for our very dedicated Physical Plant crews to get our sidewalks, parking lots and other facilities cleared before guests arrived. Local road crews also did a fantastic job making it possible for people to drive to Menomonie safely, if a bit slower than usual. I’d like to thank our Physical Plant personnel and everyone who was involved in planning and executing commencement for all their hard work and long hours. You made me proud to work alongside you every day.

I concentrated my commencement speech on the tremendous compassion and empathy for others I witnessed on campus and in the community after the Oct. 31 death of student Hussain Saeed Alnahdi. I drew parallels between this degree of compassion and the compassionate way our founder, James Huff Stout, lived his life. More on the speech and commencement is available here. I also recommend our UW-Stout Facebook page for a video and many more pictures from commencement.

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Senior projects on display at School of Art and Design show

A highlight of commencement week is always the School of Art and Design Senior Shows on the Friday evening before the Saturday ceremonies. The public event in the Applied Arts building features capstone accomplishments of graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts students.

Hundreds of people generally attend, and I always am impressed by the creative achievements of the students displaying projects in graphic, interactive, interior, industrial and entertainment design, as well as studio artwork including sculpture, metals and printmaking. The exhibits were scattered throughout Applied Arts, with a throng of parents and the public taking it all in with delight.

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Best wishes in retirement, Chief Walter

Talk about bittersweet. I attended a retirement reception Friday afternoon for our campus police chief, Lisa Walter, who is leaving after 23 years. Her last day is Jan. 6.

I have come to depend on Lisa for well-reasoned advice on many topics, and she has worked extremely hard throughout her career to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. Managing a campus police department has become increasingly complex over the years, and Lisa has worked diligently to keep our department at the forefront of innovative policing techniques and practices.

The reception was bittersweet because although we will miss her experience, training and good judgment, I’m happy she’ll have more time for family and to pursue outside activities, including Special Olympics.

To her credit Lisa has succeeded with developing a team that will be able to function at high levels in her absence. Well done, Chief Walter. Thank you for your tireless, selfless and extraordinary service.

Please attend our ‘You Said…We Did’ presentation

I hope everyone on campus will be able to attend our annual “You Said…We Did” presentation from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. Information will be presented on actions that already are underway, or are ready to be taken, based on the feedback we received from campus at the fall Engagement Sessions.

These actions are intended to help us achieve our FOCUS 2020 goals. We also will take this opportunity to recognize individuals and teams who helped make these accomplishments possible. There will be fun, laughter and celebration as well.

We value your feedback in helping achieve the goals of our planning process. More information about January Professional Development is available here.

Happy holidays and thanks for a great 2016

This is my final blog for 2016, and I want to end it with my best wishes for students, faculty and staff, alumni and other stakeholders to have a very happy holiday season and a great new year. My family and I will be taking some time away from campus to reconnect and to regroup for 2017.

I hope that you also have the opportunity to recharge. Our 125th anniversary year has been exciting and challenging. Thanks to everyone for their good work and good cheer and for being the best group of colleagues a chancellor could wish for.

Pay request is good move; December ‘whirlwind’ continues

Regents put pay increases on front burner

A spate of news has come out recently about salaries in the University of Wisconsin System, spurred by the commendable action Thursday by the Board of Regents to formally request that Gov. Walker and the Legislature appropriate sufficient funding in 2017-19 to support the equivalent of 2 percent pay increases in two consecutive fiscal years, beginning July 1, 2017.

While this is a request, I can assure you that I will advocate strongly with our legislative delegation for the pay plan. It is one of my top priorities for the 2017-19 budget. UW System President Ray Cross asked each chancellor for a statement on compensation to give to the regents. My statement said:

“As UW-Stout’s Chancellor I would like to emphasize the importance of the compensation request that UW System has submitted. It is with great pride that I regard UW-Stout as a ‘high performer.’ We strive to meet the needs of employers, and consequently our graduates enjoy an outstanding employment rate that consistently exceeds 97 percent.

“Our success is directly related to the quality of our staff and their efforts to shape our programs in a way that is responsive to employer needs. That success is at risk, however, given multiple years of flat or regressive budgets and pay plans. In 1995 our faculty were at 95 percent of their peers with respect to compensation; today it’s 79 percent.

“Across the UW System we are not as competitive with respect to compensation, and it has resulted in key staff leaving for opportunities outside of Wisconsin. A better compensation package is critical toward keeping the quality of our staff and programming at high levels. In doing so we can continue to excel at meeting the needs of our students and employers.”

I will keep the campus informed about our efforts to advocate for increased compensation for our employees, as well as stable funding for our budget.

A busy (and fun) time of year

The month of December, I have found, tends to be a whirlwind for a chancellor. There are so many places to be that it’s hard to keep track of them all. But I enjoy the invitations and the chance to experience all that this campus has to offer. Here is a sampling of my stops last week:

Everyone was smiles Wednesday at the annual Chancellor’s Holiday Reception in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. It’s important to take as much time as possible during the holiday season to visit with those who are most important to you. For three decades now, starting with my time as a student, I have considered the faculty, staff and students at UW-Stout as important people in my life. My wife, Debbie, and I appreciated and enjoyed spending Wednesday afternoon catching up with old friends and meeting new ones at the reception.

Debbie’s head and mine were spinning a little Friday evening when we left the Stout Game Expo in the Great Hall. More than two dozen games and interactive experiences made by more than 100 students were on display. They included an array of platforms and formats: PC games, board games, virtual reality experiences, a hand-made arcade cabinet, an escape room and a preview of a transmedia project that combines the work of game designers, sculptors, animators, cinema students, industrial designers and comics artists. Like I said, our heads were spinning a little bit because of the tremendous creativity and expertise that was on display.

Debbie and I then headed over to the concert Friday night put on by the UW-Stout Chamber Choir, Symphonic Singers and the Devil Tones Acapella ensemble.

Jerry Hui, director of choral activities, noted at the outset that our founder, James Huff Stout, was known for his innovative and experimental approach to education in the late 1800s. Jerry said he adopted that experimental mindset when he chose music for the concert, titled A Sound Experiment. In fact on one selection the performers surrounded the audience so the sound came from all angles. In the program notes, Jerry said: “Each piece serves to demonstrate how composers seek innovation in creating music for choir…”

We enjoyed the performance immensely.

I was honored to participate in a ceremony Saturday afternoon honoring former men’s basketball coach Dwain “Dewey” Mintz when the court in Johnson Fieldhouse was named in his honor. Dewey’s teams had 385 wins over 27 years at UW-Stout, including three league champions. He was NAIA District 14 Coach of the Year in 1966 and 1973 and was NAIA Area IV Coach of the Year in 1969. He retired in 1989.

There were plenty of testimonials from former players and coaches about what a tremendous influence Dewey was in their lives and the effect his teachings continue to have.

The naming of the floor is part of a fundraising effort to refurbish Johnson Fieldhouse, including facility branding, creating and expanding the Blue Devil suites and a new scorer’s table.

Please help our students celebrate at commencement

Saturday is UW-Stout’s graduation, and I would like to personally invite every faculty and staff member on campus to help me congratulate the students who will be receiving their diplomas. Graduation Day is a momentous event in our students’ lives, and it is important that as many UW-Stout representatives as possible attend the ceremonies to send these students off in grand style. More details about commencement are available here.

University history book is out; ’tis season for special events

University’s history chronicled in a new book

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I’m so happy to report that the definitive history book of UW-Stout’s first 125 years is now available for purchase. “An Idea Comes of Age: UW-Stout, 1891-2016” was written by Jerome Poling, assistant director of University Communications, and it tells the university’s story, how we grew into a special mission campus that remained true to the ideals of James Huff Stout and gives us fresh perspectives about the leaders who have shaped UW-Stout into the innovative campus it is today.

The book also looks at how the campus has grown over the years, how the campus culture has evolved, and what student life was like then and now.

For many of us, UW-Stout is an integral part of our lives. This book will help each of us understand how the campus evolved so we can better prepare for our next 125 years.

The hardcover version of the book, with nearly 140 historic photographs, is $29.99. Place your order through publisher Thomson-Shore and the Seattle Book Club. A limited number of first edition copies are available.

Hmong New Year celebration a great event

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I was able to celebrate the new year a little early on Saturday by attending the 10th annual Hmong New Year event in the Multipurpose Room of the Sports and Fitness Center. I always look forward to this event, which typically falls on the first Saturday of December.

The celebration includes Hmong traditional dancing, instrumental performances and singing, as well as handmade, colorful garments and Hmong food. The event honors Hmong ancestors and spirits while welcoming the new year.

My wife, Debbie, and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the event, which is hosted by the Hmong Stout Student Organization and supported by the Stout Student Association, Residence Hall Association and Multicultural Student Services.

Band concert strikes the perfect holiday chord

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There’s nothing like holiday music performed with artistry and enthusiasm to get you in the mood to celebrate this special season. My spirits certainly were lifted Sunday after Debbie and I attended the winter concert by the Symphonic Band in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center.

The performance showcased the many talented students in the band and truly captured the spirit of the holiday season. It was a fantastic and enjoyable way to spend our Sunday afternoon.

The band is directed by Associate Professor Aaron M. Durst, who does a great job selecting just the right music for the season, including “Snowflakes Dancing,” which brought to mind what the first snowfall Saturday night sounded like. Hearing “Sleigh Ride” at the end of the concert never, ever gets old.

I was especially impressed by the Tower Saxophone Quartet that played two selections. The quartet is made up of Josh Bergman, of Reedsburg; Christian Gauvin, of Appleton; Elizabeth Jacobson, of Eden Prairie, Minn.; and Ellen Plumb, of St. Paul.

Debbie and I are looking forward to the UW-Stout Choral Concert at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Tickets are $5. I highly recommend that you consider attending this worthwhile event.

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Hosting students from Saudi Arabia makes Thanksgiving special

My wife, Debbie, and I had the great privilege of hosting several of our students from Saudi Arabia for Thanksgiving dinner. We had a chance to honor Hussain Saeed Alnahdi and celebrate his life while learning a bit more about each other.

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We had a map of Saudi Arabia on hand, and our guests signed in on it and told us a bit about their hometowns, families, programs they are enrolled in and future plans.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend our Thanksgiving. UW-Stout’s students from Saudi Arabia, as well as our other international students, are a tremendous blessing to us. They enrich our campus and the lives of our staff and students.

Thanksgiving was an appropriate time to host these students as we could express our gratitude to them for being part of our campus community and for generously sharing information about their backgrounds and culture.

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We were joined by Lou Mougenburg, a retired faculty member who spent time teaching in Saudi Arabia. He brought some amazing acorn squash and baked yams to the event.

Not present at this feast but critical to it were Nancy Schofield, Kirsten Berkemer and Jeanne and Rich Rothaupt. They prepared a variety dishes and desserts that were enjoyed by everyone in attendance.