Disappointment. Confusion. Sadness. And, in some corners, anger.
That is the reaction on the UW-Milwaukee campus to the surprise resignation of Chancellor Michael Lovell. It is not that he resigned that is bothering some students as much as the fact that he left for a rival school located in Milwaukee – Marquette University.
“I think that it is an indictment of our university as an organization to say that someone would want to transfer to an organization within the same city,” Noah Wing, 22, a UWM Senior majoring in human resources, said.
Some students interviewed on Wednesday – shortly after Lovell officially announced the switch at a press conference across town at Marquette University – expressed even more pointed emotions (although a few said they didn’t think the chancellor’s leaving would affect them much and one didn’t even know he was quitting).
Students raised concern that Lovell’s departure could jeopardize important expansion projects on campus and several said they are troubled the resignation reinforces a perception that UW-Milwaukee is an inferior institution compared to others – a perception most rejected and said was starting to change with the choice of a UWM alum as Microsoft CEO and the Panthers’ NCAA berth.
However, others – including some faculty and other staff – praised Lovell’s accomplishments, downplayed any rivalry or effect from his resignation, and said they didn’t begrudge his choice to leave. He was a good chancellor, they said. Even the students who are angry about the chancellor’s leaving also tended to praise his work at UWM.
“I think in many ways he (Lovell) has been a positive force,” said Michael Newman, an associate professor in the Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies Department. “He has contributed to the university’s expansion. He has been involved in building projects, in keeping undergraduate life on campus and in more active ways. In supporting the university’s expansion, in its research mission, he’s probably been a positive force. We’re building a new building on campus that’s the first one in 20 years, something his predecessors hadn’t done. I know he’s been involved in creating more undergraduate campus culture, something that I feel is good for the university.”
However, among the study body, emotions were running hotter.
UW-Milwaukee junior Warren Enstrom has been fired up since the news of Lovell’s departure from UWM hit news sites on late Tuesday night. He didn’t mince words.
“I hate that everyone is eulogizing this jerk,” he said. “How nice could he have been if he was willing to leave after two years for a bigger paycheck and a school across town? This is (expletive). I love how he talks about ‘our’ future. He’s not in our future.”
In his statements at Marquette (Lovell did not have press availability on the UWM campus), and in an email to the UWM campus, the outgoing chancellor repeatedly stressed that his decision was not personal to UWM. Rather, he said he was happy at UWM but felt a religious calling to lead Marquette, a Jesuit university, because of his devout Catholic faith. Lovell repeatedly stressed that he had felt a “calling” to integrate his religious beliefs with his professional career.
However, some students weren’t feeling very charitable. Alex Simpkin, 20, a junior majoring in criminal justice at UWM, also used an expletive when asked his reaction.
“It’s (expletive),” he said. “It bothers me that we’re the second-rate institution.” However Simpkin indicated that he didn’t buy into that belief himself. “It’s just very clear which is the more favored institution when it should be the other way around. I do not feel inferior to Marquette, an institution that is for-profit and faith based has other intentions than the education of their students.”
Simpkin said he was so angry about the situation that he was glad to be asked his opinion.
Some students also cited Lovell’s accomplishments, though, and said they felt his resignation was a loss.
“Well, I remember the first time I ever met the chancellor, it was during Fall Welcome,” said Mike Sportiello, UWM freshman.
“I’m definitely sad to see him go. I think that just as he is the man UWM needed. I think he is just the man that Marquette needs, which is why it’s hard to be mad at Marquette. He’s the man all universities need, I think. He’s a great guy, he really believes in Milwaukee, he’s a chancellor of the students, which I think is one of the most important qualities.”
However, some on campus repeatedly raised an assumption that Lovell was making the move for a bigger salary (his paycheck at Marquette has not yet been confirmed, so it’s not clear whether he is making more money).
“I think it’s smart,” said Elena Garcia-Oliveros, an associate lecturer in Spanish and Portuguese. “He’ll make more money at Marquette.”
She said, though, that Lovell’s leaving follows a trend: “UWM has had trouble retaining people.” However, she didn’t think his resignation would affect UWM much.
Joe Caruso, a senior majoring in music education, said he thought religion could be a part of Lovell’s decision but also believed that the decision was most likely money driven.
“From the sounds of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went somewhere else just as fast as he left UWM,” he said.
He felt the switch would increase the UWM-Marquette rivalry.
However, Newman, the associate professor, said he didn’t think Marquette and UWM are “rivals or competitors in that way.” He said comparing the two universities was “apples and oranges.”
Newman said it’s hard to say whether Lovell’s leaving will hurt campus without knowing who his successor will be and whether that person will continue the initiatives Lovell started.
“I know that my colleagues and other faculty on campus like him a lot, they think he’s been good for the campus. And they’re sorry that he is leaving.”
Colin Daly, the assistant director to First Year Student Success, has worked specifically with the New Student Orientation and Peer Mentoring programs for the past three years. Daly said hearing about Chancellor Lovell’s decision to leave UWM for Marquette left him in disbelief.
“I didn’t want it to be true, you know how some things get confused.”
Daly says the news brought him to remember a time he and and 32 student orientation leaders spent with the chancellor back in October.
“My favorite memory about Chancellor Lovell was when he invited our Orientation Leader staff to his house for dinner. He really recognized the intensive work that we did with a brand new overnight program. He opened his home to us, he was extremely cordial, he was extremely grateful, he was so thankful.”
Daly leaves the chancellor this message: “You could tell he loved the students, and he loved being here. I believe it was a hard choice for him to leave. So, I definitely wish him all the best and I hope he finds what he was looking for professionally.”
He says he is excited to see who will be with UWM in the future.
However, the students were far more negative in response. Enstrom, 21, a music composition major, says, “I think it’s mostly embarrassing for the UW-System as a whole, not to mention the city of Milwaukee.”
As for how it makes UW-Milwaukee look, he added, “How pitiful is it that we couldn’t even keep our own university president in line? How pitiful is it that he was able to be bought out by a private university in this very city?”
Enstrom said, though, that he believes Chancellor Lovell is a good person despite this news. “I’d actually see him around campus. Going to events. Doing things. Meeting students. He was very dedicated to being accessible.”
Wing explained how, to him, this seems to be another example of Marquette being regarded as a better school. “I think this is a direct example of Marquette being regarded more highly than UWM, and the idea that they are a more prestigious university.”
Wing also felt that Lovell’s leaving is very embarrassing for the university. “Not only does UWM have trouble retaining students, they have trouble retaining chancellors and professors. I do not like the idea that I have invested so much time and money into something when it seems that no one is willing to do the same.”
He also raised concerned that Lovell was leaving at “an inappropriate time… with the amount of change going on at UWM with all the new building projects, right now I think it is inappropriate, they are very serious undertakings for the university. Any turmoil at the top could be detrimental to the university and the funding of a quality educational experience.
However, not everyone cared as much.
Olivia Weis, 21, a junior at UWM studying art and design, said she didn’t even know the chancellor was leaving.
“I really don’t know a lot about the chancellor,” Weis said. She said that his leaving is going to be a big change for our school but she was happy for him, that he got this opportunity.
“This doesn’t really affect me,” Weis said.
Student Jason Beilke, a Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies major, said he was simply confused why Lovell would feel the need to leave UWM for Marquette.
“I just wonder why he is leaving,” he said. “What is wrong with UWM? Why would he feel like he would need to go somewhere else?”
He also speculated that Lovell was doing it for the money, saying, “He probably sees it as a better financial opportunity” but added of Lovell’s statements that he was doing it for religious reasons that “if he felt like he was called, it is hard to argue with that.”
Fifth year UWM senior Aaron Cranfill knows a bit about Wisconsin universities. The New Berlin native began college life at Marquette University, and later became a Panther after a two-year stint at UW-Green Bay in between.
The Finance major criticized the manner in which Lovell left.
“I feel like it is kind of demeaning to UWM for him to leave right away to a cross-town rival.”
Knowing both universities intimately, Cranfill speculated on Lovell’s reasons for leaving.
“He is a devout Catholic and I think that plays a role and I can respect that but I think, I mean, realistically, the only difference is the Big East in terms of athletics. UWM is a larger school and a state school so maybe he has a little more, not autonomy, but he doesn’t have a Wisconsin board to report to [at Marquette].
Like many students, Cranfill has suffered a sort-of jilted-lover syndrome following the news.
“It makes it feel like Marquette is that much better than UWM that he had to go there. I’m a little disappointed I would say.”
But does the former Golden Eagle believe that Marquette is that much better than UWM?
One word: “No.”
See Lovell’s side in Media Milwaukee’s story on his Wednesday press conference.
Student journalists contributing reporting to this story, in no particular order, are Jason Gerondale, Danielle Stobb, Justin Jagler, Joshua March, Maurice Childs, Vanessa Nicholas, Tiffany Crouse, Amber Jorgenson, Lauren Miller, Maria Corpus, and Laurence Bell.