Thursday, October 05, 2006

Misunderstanding in e-mail origin sparks controversy


A misunderstanding between the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee administration and 3rd District Ald. Michael D’Amato over an e-mail opposing Residential Preferred Parking sparked a heated e-mail from the alderman earlier this month.

Because the e-mail came from interim vice chancellor of Student Affairs Jim Hill’s e-mail account, the understanding for D’Amato and his neighbors was the university now opposed RPP, the alderman said.

UWM spokesman Tom Luljak testified to the Public Safety Committee that the UWM administration continues to support the adoption of RPP a week after the misunderstood e-mail was sent out.

“I will note that although many students, faculty and staff are strongly opposed to RPP, it is the official view of the administration that we favor adoption of an enabling ordinance,” Luljak replied to D’Amato’s e-mail. “[W]e remain committed to seeing an RPP program adopted.”

Both D’Amato and university administration said they want to move on.

The Student Association contacted all UWM students urging opposition to RPP, which, if passed by the Common Council, will remove 721 parking spots on and near the university campus and reserve them for permanent residents.

“As university policy, we don’t provide direct access for that,” Hill said.

Under the previous structure, an e-mail to be distributed campus-wide is forwarded to Hill’s office. In turn, Student Affairs then sends the e-mail out to all students.

The SA signed the RPP e-mail at the bottom.

“It was a misunderstanding on his part,” Hill said.

Hill clarified via e-mail to D’Amato that the opposition to RPP is not endorsed by the administration and that the sender of the e-mail, the SA, was identified at the bottom of the e-mail. D’Amato did not reply.

“(So) I assume it’s okay,” Hill said. “His reaction might have been different had it been clearer. He might have been angry and responded with emotion.”

Now, the office of Student Affairs will clearly and prominently identify the author of campus-wide communications at the top of the e-mail, Hill said.

“If you didn’t read to the end of the e-mail, it might not have been clear that it was not from a university official,” he said.

D’Amato said it was a knee-jerk reaction on his part and that he’s glad he can trust the university to uphold its word on RPP.

“My initial reaction was that (D’Amato) reacted too quickly,” said SA President Samantha Prahl.

In the Saturday, Sept. 9 e-mail, D’Amato wrote, “Monday I will personally investigate how we can terminate or delay any necessary approvals that UWM requires from the City of Milwaukee.”

“It definitely sounded like a threat, he’s definitely using his power in office to do negative things and things he know will hurt people,” Prahl said. “He sent this out on a Saturday, he definitely should have thought about it over the weekend before he pushed the send button.”

Prahl said the university faces loosing the bussing service all students can take advantage of, and pay for through segregate fees, U-Pass, because of another increase in cost for its use. That coupled with the loss of two U-Park lots along Lake Michigan does not make for the right timing in removing more parking spots, Prahl said.

Both the university and alderman are ready to move on from the misunderstanding.

“I’m satisfied that the administration has re-iterated their original position in support of RPP,” D’Amato said. “I was obviously taken aback by what seemed to be an about face by the administration. My neighbors demanded that it be dealt with them.”

D’Amato said that anybody who would have read the RPP e-mail would have believed that it came from Hill speaking for the administration, not the SA.

“While I am supportive that the students have their own voice, it should be made clear that sometimes they are not in agreement with the administration,” D’Amato said.

“For our purposes now, we’ll go forward with our collation promoting RPP and we hope to build off of that,” D’Amato said.

Housing, student behavior and transportation are issues the alderman said the university has a long way to go before progress is made.

“It’s encouraging to know the administration continues to stand by the residents,” D’Amato said.


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