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Friday, December 01, 2023

Albert Colom stepped down from his role as UW-Eau Claire vice chancellor for enrollment management following the university opening an investigation into a complaint of gender-based discrimination.

UW-Eau Claire administrator investigated for gender discrimination resigns

Albert Colom, the UW-Eau Claire administrator under investigation for gender-based discrimination, stepped down from his leadership role effective immediately yet will remain employed by the university until September. 

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt informed students and campus employees of Colom’s resignation in a Feb. 24 email, which included a statement from Colom.

“I told Chancellor Schmidt it has become increasingly apparent to me that, regardless of the outcome of the current investigation of allegations made against me, I am no longer able to effectively serve UW-Eau Claire in a senior leadership role,” Colom wrote. “It is my belief this is in the best interest of the University.”

Schmidt’s email also said Colom’s last day in his former role as vice chancellor for enrollment management was Feb. 21. Until Sept. 2, the date of his complete resignation from UW-Eau Claire, Colom will have a different university position and keep receiving his full salary. 

“While he will no longer be working on campus or supervising employees, he will be re-assigned duties related to his extensive enrollment management expertise,” Schmidt’s email said.

The complaint filed against Colom detailed former Associate Director of Advising Angie Swenson-Holzinger’s alleged experiences working within Colom’s “hostile work environment” where he disparaged her and other women at the university. 

Swenson-Holzinger filed her complaint Feb. 3, the same day she resigned from UW-Eau Claire. Her departure marked the sixth resignation from UW-Eau Claire’s admissions office since Colom’s hiring in 2018.

UW Shared Services opened an investigation into Colom following initial reporting Feb. 13 on Swenson-Holzinger’s complaint in The Spectator, UW-Eau Claire’s student newspaper. The investigation will continue regardless of Colom’s new role, according to Schmidt’s email.

During a Feb. 24 press conference, Schmidt said complaints against university employees are not unusual, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. 

“During a typical year UW-Eau Claire will have five, 10, 15 formal personnel complaints. All are investigated,” Schmidt said. “However, unlike this instance, other investigations are conducted privately and not in the public sphere.”

Schmidt also criticized media coverage of the Colom investigation, decrying it only portraying “one side of the story,” The Spectator reported.

“I will tell you that several women within that division came forward to tell a very different story,” Schmidt said. “So, I have access to a lot more data. I’m not going to share it — I won’t go further than what I did — but all of the data needs to be brought together.”

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Colom’s work in enrollment management at UW-Eau Claire included heading the “Apply in July” initiative to encourage early application and creating a program for students to begin their education at the Barron County branch campus before transferring, Schmdit said at the press conference. 

While Schmidt said he did not ask Colom to step down, he agreed “it wasn’t in the best interest of the institution to drag this out further,” WPR reported.

Swenson-Holzinger told The Spectator she was “relieved” to hear of Colom’s resignation, but she questioned UW-Eau Claire’s handling of the situation.

“I do still think some tough questions need to be answered about how he was able to be hired with his questionable past at previous institutions and, more importantly, why the chancellor didn’t act sooner when concerns were brought to his attention as early as the fall of 2018 and again in January of 2019,” she said. 

Schmidt announced a reorganization of UW-Eau Claire’s enrollment management division Thursday, with Director of Advising and Retention Billy Felz serving in Colom’s former role, according to The Spectator.

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