WSU professor Robert Wielgus, who filed an academic freedom complaint against WSU last week, may have been partly cleared of misconduct charges, according to a Spokesman-Review article.
A WSU Board of Regents meeting packet seems to clear Wielgus of accusations that he used state resources improperly, after he reportedly used his WSU email for lobbying, according to The Spokesman-Review. However, the packet does not mention him by name.
Adam Carlesco, Wielgus’ attorney, said the College of Agriculture and Human, Natural Resource Services (CAHNRS) Dean Ron Mittelhammer started an investigation into Wielgus for sending a news release to the state’s Wolf Advisory Group. Wielgus has worked as the advisory group’s primary researcher for wolf and livestock interactions since 2013.
After a series of comments, Wielgus said the school “cramped down” on his ability to send data and information to the group, so he worked with Mittelhammer and the CAHNRS media affairs office. He created a news release with the data and research he had done over several years regarding wolf and livestock interaction.
After the dean’s office and the media affairs office reviewed and approved the news release, Wielgus sent it to the Wolf Advisory Group, Carlesco said.
In his news release, Wielgus advised the group to restrict lethal control only to those ranchers and farmers who were following requirements put in place by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to help avoid wolf and livestock interaction.
After sending the release, Carlesco said Wielgus received an email from Mittelhammer suggesting he use his personal email rather than his WSU one. After finding out the release had already been sent, he claimed Wielgus had misused state-allocated resources.
The release also held a disclaimer stating Wielgus was not sending out the information in any official capacity as a professor and it did not reflect the university in any way.
Carlesco said his client maintains his innocence in these allegations.
Former American Association of University Professors (AAUP) President Cary Nelson denounced the university’s actions toward Wielgus in a talk at WSU on Monday.
“The university’s handling of the matter to date is unacceptable,” Nelson said, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Carlesco said he supports Nelson’s statement on the matter.
“He put it best in his comments,” Carlesco said. “Essentially, a professor and a researcher giving their knowledge and their research to the public is not just a right, but a responsibility.”
Wielgus originally filed a complaint against WSU on April 27, citing harassment and threats from university administrators following his statements regarding the killings.
The first public comments he received threats from the administration over were originally made to The Seattle Times last fall, after the WDFW had a pack of wolves killed in order to protect nearby cattle.
Wielgus said the wolf attacks could have been avoided if a rancher had not released his cattle near the wolf den.
In WSU’s statement, the university said the rancher released his cattle four miles from the den, and had been working with the WDFW and U.S. Forest Services to avoid any conflicts between the livestock and the wolves.
Wielgus was unavailable for comment regarding the situation.
Faculty Senate Faculty Status Committee co-chair Robert Rosenman, with whom Wielgus filed the complaint against WSU administrators, was also unable to comment, stating they are handling the matter internally.