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Hove, Arthur (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 63, Number 8 (Dec. 1961)

Medical School crisis comes to head as Dean Bowers is dismissed,   pp. 18-20


Page 18


Medical School Crisis Comes to Head as
    Dean B(
T HE SIMMERING CRISIS in the
    University of Wisconsin Medical
School erupted anew this fall when it
was reported that the Regents, meeting
in executive session with President El-
vehjem on September 15, agreed to sup-
port the President in asking for the
resignation of Dean Bowers.
   Following the announcement of the
President's intentions, the whole matter
was once again before the public. It was
obvious from the President's decision
to relieve the Dean that the improve-
ments sought after Dean Bowers with-
drew his resignation last June had not
come to pass. In light of the complex
and highly personal nature of the Medi-
cal School controversy, a sampling of
editorial opinion throughout the state
revealed a distinct division between
those who thought Dean Bowers was
entitled to a public hearing before the
Regents wherein the whole list of griev-
ances and complaints within the Medi-
cal School should be thrown on the
table, and those who thought such a
hearing would serve no purpose and
that Dean Bowers was not entitled to
one. For example, the Racine Journal
said: "The Board of Regents of the
University must assume full charge and
responsibility for resolving this dan-
gerous administrative deadlock and hold
hearings, in public, to air the whole
situation," while the Milwaukee journal
held that: "Rehashing the whole row,
recalling things better left unsaid and
undone, reopening not so old wounds
can only hurt the University and the
Medical School and many individuals
of high talent and integrity."
   The question of a public hearing for
Dean Bowers soon became a legal mat-
ter. On October 18, Attorney General
John Reynolds said in an opinion that
18
)wers is I
   the Regents were fully justified in dis-
   missing Dean Bowers without the bene-
   fit of a public hearing. In the meantime,
   Bowers had retained three Madison
   lawyers-James -E. Doyle, Philip LaFol-
   lette, and Edmund J. Hart-to serve
   as his counsel. The next move was
   clearly up to the Regents.
     On October 20, the Regents met in a
   session that was attended by newsmen,
   members of the University administra-
   tion and the Medical School faculty,
   and interested citizens.
     In a procedural maneuver, Regent
   Charles Gelatt, La Crosse, presented a
   resolution which recommended that the
   Board conduct the question of asking
   for the Dean's resignation in the fol-
   lowing manner: 1) hear a statement
   from President Elvehjem, ý2) hear a
Previous to the appearance of Dean Bow-
ers at the Regents' meeting, reporters
sat on the sidelines, anxiously awaiting
developments.
    0
)ismissed
   statement from Dean Bowers, and then,
   without further discussion; 3) vote on
   the question. The resolution   passed
   unanimously.
     As television and newspaper camera-
   men stumbled over each other to get a
   better angle, President Elvehjem began
   reading from his prepared statement.
   The President first discussed the ques-
   tion of whether Dean Bowers was un-
   impeachable because of his faculty
   tenure. Pres. Elvehjem said, "The Wis-
   consin tradition that faculty members
   with the rank of associate professor and
   above have tenure has been respected
   by all. On the other hand, there has
   been equal recognition of the fact that
   a dean or administrative officer can be
   relieved of his duties without considera-
   tion of tenure... While tenure is essen-
   tial for the preservation of the academic
   freedom which is a source of strength
   for this University and for all great edu-
   cational institutions, it is equally im-
   portant that the ability to change
   administrative personnel as the needs of
   the University dictate be preserved."
     President Elvehjem then went on to
   trace the history of the Medical School
   dispute. "In the past two years," he
   said, "criticisms have been made regard-
   ing Dean Bowers' relationship with his
   faculty.  . Last fall, differences which
   developed concerning the appointment
   of a new chairman of the department of
   surgery intensified the situation. The
   extent of dissatisfaction among the fac-
   ulty, and the lack of confidence in the
   Dean, became quite obvious. I worked
   on the problem with the executive com-
   mittee of the Medical School beginning
   December 20, 1960, and considerable
   progress was made. It should be noted
   that many but not all of the members
   of the executive committee have sup-
   Wisconsin Alumnus, December, 1961


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