Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dean Berquam: FAIL

UW Dean of Students Lori Berquam made one of the most fundamental mistakes you can, when dealing with young people: trying to dictate their behavior.  If you’re not familiar with her recent gaffe, Isthmus covers the story very nicely here, including her FAILED You-Tube video.

Berquam, in the two-minute rant, repeatedly says “Don’t go” when talking about the Mifflin Street Beer Blast, which is now just a weekend away.

I learned when dealing with my nearly-fully-adult children a few years back (both are fully functioning independent adults now, and have been for several years) that, just as when they were younger, TELLING them how to behave is seldom effective.  They’ve both heard the talk from me several times, about how I’m no longer in a position to control their lives or their behavior, and I wouldn’t want to, even if I could.  Once a kid gets a driver’s license and access to a vehicle, it’s game over.

Besides, I firmly believe control is an illusion.

I also believe that most kids and young adults often deliberately do the opposite of what authority figures tell them to do, a lesson many parents never seem to comprehend.  What most kids want is to think THEY’RE in control, so my approach with our kids was to tell them unequivocally where I stand on whatever issue is under discussion.  Then, I try to give them information to help them make “their own decision” on whatever it is.  I’ve learned to aim for communication, not dictation, even in situations and circumstances when they may make a mistake from which they'll never recover.

Just like the mass e-mails Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema have sent ‘round about the obscene chants in the student sections at Badger football games, the net effect of Berquam’s YouTube rant will likely be exactly the opposite of what was intended.

Dean Berquam admits, much to her credit, that her rant was wrong in tone, wrong in message, and just plain wrong.  Within a few hours of her release of the video rant, enterprising UW students “re-mixed” her video mocking her constant repetition of “Don’t go”.

The Mifflin Street Beer Blast has long outlived its usefulness, and has become a huge waste of taxpayer money and police resources.  I’ve said many times before the event should be put to an end.  But Dean Berquam TELLING the students not to go? 



  1. I'm of the opposite opinion. She is the Dean of Students. Her students are getting raped, robbed, exploited and injured. Their status at the university is jeopardized by arrest and the event affects the university. She is the parental stand-in, just as good old Dean Paul Ginsberg was ours in our day. She damn well better be reminding students they should keep their antennae rigid on Mifflin Street. I would say it is part of her job.
    (Disclosure: I am a 1973 resident of 540 W. Mifflin St. and attended in one form or another, personal and professional, the first 15 or so, starting in spring 1970, except for the years I was overseas. I first met Mr. Soglin AND Bill Bandy's bouncers at one of these early events.) It went from a political event to a fundraising event to a sleazy party with bad music. You can't re-create it, any more than you can re-create the spontaneity (re-create "spontaneity"????) of Halloween on State Street.
    * Mr. Bandy was a landlord, and he hired motorcycle gang members to protect his property. Every generation has its stories . . .

    1. Actually, George, I think we agree on more points than we disagree on. I DO believe in the "in loco parentis" concept, particularly now that I have a daughter in grad school in the NYC metro. Even though she's 27 and lives off-campus, I WANT the Dean of Students to INFORM her about places and events on/near campus that are dangerous, and WHY they are dangerous.

      However, I still maintain that telling her (or any other student) "Don't go" is empty rhetoric.

      Perhaps Dean Berquam could have marshalled her resources to provide her with some really impactful video clips of football players beating the shit out of people, stab victims, random drunken dollies from hamlets like - say, Hortonville - babbling incoherently, to illustrate what the typical Beer Blast is like. She could have warned co-eds NOT to go alone, NOT to wander into houses where they don't know the residents - my point being that perhaps she would have had more success if she had given the students, particularly the Freshmen who may not be as aware of the event, some specific reasons to "carefully consider the decision they'd have to make" about the event.

      Excellent point about how you really can't recreate it.

  2. George H....every story has two sides, both you and Tim have made some very good points....another angle is that of the responsibility issues pertinent to the owners of the property..take it head-on, would this event even take place if the landlords got together and agreed to police this problem by not allowing it on their property?....I think the event would die very quickly with no place to the landlord's get charged by the city for the costs incurred by their tenant's behavior?...I think not, but should they be?...students and other participants are looking for a good time to call it the "end of the year" and need this event, in their minds, to "cap-off" another year...I agree it has outlived it's welcome, but I also do not agree that the University has the responsibility for what happens on private property...this is not a University sponsored event and unless a participant does something illegal and is charged with a crime, there should be no interest on the University's part....these are 21 year old adults (based on the allowable age to drink) who can make rational decisions and hopefully will as they continue their lives as responsible citizens of our community, state and nation...

    1. Gary, you too make a good point about how nobody will take responsibility for the Beer Blast. I think the Dean could take some pointers from parents like you. Your son was a guest in our home countless times, and he never did or said anything that you would not be proud of.

      Part of growing up is learning to own your behavior, and I've read so many articles that say youngsters of college age still haven't fully developed that part of their brain that helps them "see what's around the corner", so to speak - to be able to make judgments about the consequences of their behavior.

      They really do need guidance at that age, and it's an age when they seem to resist it the most.

  3. Tim...thank you for the kind was all my wife!

  4. Good timing! This from the man himself: