The following is a statement from UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt
In January 2017, the Board of Regents and UW System asked the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue civil legal action against two former administrators who are being sued for improper financial transactions that occurred between 2010-2014 related to five real estate projects—the downtown Oshkosh Best Western Waterfront Hotel and Oshkosh Sports Complex, two biodigesters and the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center—financed by the UW Oshkosh Foundation.
Since that time, the UWO Foundation—an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit entity—has been working with the UW System Board of Regents and the DOJ to find a way to keep these projects, along with the Foundation itself, stable and intact for the benefit of the University. Uncertainty remains as the banks involved in Foundation financing seek restitution on their investments in these projects. Also, the UWO Foundation has begun the process of selling the Chancellor’s Residence on Congress St., requiring my wife and I to relocate to a new home.
Additionally, we learned on August 17 the UWO Foundation filed a reorganization petition under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law. After months of extensive effort by the Board of Regents, UW System and the Department of Justice to secure the future of these investments for UWO, the parties were unable to reach a settlement and the Foundation ultimately chose this action.
Our institution must find ways to continue to fundraise for the benefit and support of our students as the UW Oshkosh Foundation resolves its current challenges. Our top priority remains the security and stability of funds that drive access to education.
As for the future of the real estate projects we hold dear, we remain in limbo. We have built a national reputation for the innovative and academic use of biodigesters, creating a training program that brings students from across the country. We’ve enjoyed a new engagement tool for UW Oshkosh with the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center, bringing thousands of visitors to our campus every year. Losing any one of these facilities would be a blow to our campus community.
Through this, my primary focus is on an invigorated commitment to ethical behavior throughout the institution. I am working to create a culture where we question processes and anyone can safely and confidently raise concerns and be heard.
Even with these challenges still in the forefront, UW Oshkosh is moving forward. We are a strong university that changes the lives of our students and improves the quality of life for our state. This situation hasn’t defined us nor has it slowed us down. As we prepare for a new academic year, UW Oshkosh is thriving and will approach this year with enthusiasm. We have increased enrollment in our first-year class, we have a new strategic plan being operationalized throughout the campus, we have a new Honors College and Sustainability Institute now in operation, we are finishing renovations to Fletcher residence hall and our Reeve Memorial Union. We have so much to be proud of and so much to offer.
As we continue to weather the impact from this situation, I appreciate the outpouring of support. Our community, our alumni, our partners and friends have been tremendously generous and caring throughout this past year and the students, faculty and staff of UWO are thankful.
What is the magnitude of the financial shortfall? How large are the loans outstanding against each real estate project?
Who currently owns the real estate?
Has it been put up for sale?
What is the appraised value?
Please explain what really happened. I will not contribute funds in the future unless this situation is explained and mistakes are clearly determined. I have been in the financial markets for 40 years , the explanation is weak and does not explain mistakes or assign guilt.
Fresh outside board assignments should be the first step.
Thank you for your summary of these events. I hope that this unfortunate turn of events will not have a lasting impact on the UWO reputation and its ability to attract students who value our programs. I came to the university when we labored to be rid of the UW Zero reputation due to drinking problems that drew people from around the state, and which were really not reflective of our student body. We do not need another such set-back..
Chancellor Leavitt, I know that this mess is not of your making. But, now you have the real opportunity to shine and clean up this tawdry affair. I hope that this can be resolved equitably, but I have a fear that this litigation is going to expand exponentially as the creditors attempt to find deep pockets to make them whole. Bankruptcy will not make the creditors whole, but unfortunately, the Board of Regents and the UW system with the system extensive reserves, may ultimately be a big target for the creditors.
I have been following this problem from afar, through the press and official statements from the Board of Regents and your offices. Frankly, there appears to be a lot of blame to be shared by both sides. I feel a sense of shame, not pride, of the University that I have supported for more than 50 years and my degree that I have valued so dearly.
Finally, I regret that you and your wife will suffer the inconvenience and financial loss that you will incur from the forced sale of the home that you were promised as part of your hiring contract. I hope that the Board of Regents will be able to compensate you in some way for this loss.
Chancellor Leavitt: Thank you for succinctly informing the University community about civil legal actions, UW Oshkosh Foundation and UW Oshkosh. As an alumni (1973), my son is a UWO senior and as a Foundation and UW Oshkosh contributor, continuing interactive communication is appreciated and essential.
Iam concerned about the status of the many student schlorships that are at the foundation. Are they truly safe ?
Thank you for keeping us informed.
Thank you Chancellor Leavitt for keeping us as informed as is possible – as I’m sure that the pending legal actions restrict/reduce communication. Your steadfastness to the keeping of high morals is certainly reassuring. This is a tough situation; however, with strong leadership that sets fine examples UWO will weather this storm and hopefully come out stronger.
My best wishes to you, your family and UWO.