Not enough evidence found to conclude Albert Colom engaged in gender-based discrimination

UW-Shared Services says there is insufficient evidence that Colom violated UW-Eau Claire’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy

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Albert Colom, vice chancellor for enrollment management, started in his position at UW-Eau Claire on Oct. 1, 2018.

The UW-Shared Services investigation of a February complaint filed against Albert Colom found insufficient evidence to prove that gender-based discrimination or workplace bullying occurred. 

The complainant said they are disappointed with the results but will not be pursuing an appeal.

The former vice chancellor of enrollment management resigned from his position on Feb. 24 following a formal complaint that was filed by Angela Swenson-Holzinger, former associate director of advising, on Feb. 3. 

Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations, said Colom’s employment status remains the same. Rindo said in an email that Colom will continue developing comprehensive, strategic enrollment management plans and consulting with members of the UW-Eau Claire enrollment management team until his resignation takes full effect on Sept. 2. 

“(Colom) is receiving his full salary at this time and he will also be taking the same salary reductions as other senior university leaders in response to COVID-19 related budget reductions,” Rindo said. Colom’s current salary is $188,426. 

The Spectator reached out to Colom for comment but had not heard back at the time of publication.

According to the UW-Shared Services final investigative report, there is insufficient evidence that Colom violated UW-Eau Claire’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy

The report found that coworkers had a range of experiences with Colom. Some described him as “unfiltered” and “emotional” while others had “negative experiences” with him. He challenged the status quo but did not bully, the report says.  

“The evidence gathered in this investigation showed that several women supervised by Colom liked the way that he encouraged them to be creative; to make needed changes; and to think outside the box,” the report reads. 

The Spectator previously reported that Colom created a toxic work environment for Swenson-Holzinger, Heather Kretz, the former director of admissions, and others. 

Colom told investigators he wanted to work with Swenson-Holzinger and Kretz. He said that communication between them often became difficult, and Kretz was resistant to the changes he wanted to make. 

“In response to Swenson-Holzinger’s allegation that Colom wanted her to rank her staff from best to worst, Colom denied that he did that,” the report says. “Rather, according to Colom, he asked her to grade her staff. He did note this conversation was tense and extremely frustrating.” 

Swenson-Holzinger said she is disappointed with the outcome of the investigation. She will not issue an appeal because she feels nothing will change. 

Since Swenson-Holzinger’s story went public, she said she’s been commended by Colom’s former coworkers from other universities. They told her they wished they’d spoken up about his behavior earlier.

“This tells me that his toxic behavior, that’s really nearly portrayed as a personality quirk in this latest report, is a clear and destructive pattern,” Swenson-Holzinger said. “I still feel like it was the right thing to do.” 

UW-Shared Services investigators included the summary of interviews with five university employees who worked under Colom in addition to Swenson-Holzinger and Colom: Billy Felz, special assistant to the vice chancellor; Staci Heidtke, associate director of career services and current interim director of advising and career services; Nikki Andrews, director of enrollment management, financial aid director and continuing education director; Quincy Chapman, director of Housing and Residence Life; and Kim O’Kelly, director of enrollment management, registrar and bursar. 

Also interviewed were Kretz, Chancellor James Schmidt and several others who worked under Colom.

Schmidt declined to comment when contacted by The Spectator. However, Schmidt said in a statement shared with faculty, staff and student leaders that he tasked Warren Anderson, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and student affairs, with developing a long-term plan to improve the general campus climate.

“Moving forward I want to be clear: As Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, it is my responsibility to be a steward of this institution’s most valued assets – our employees, our faculty and our students,” Schmidt wrote. “My administration and I are deeply committed to the ideals of an equitable, inclusive and diverse workplace where all employees are treated with respect and dignity. We will continue to nurture our campus culture of caring and respect.” 

Fuerstenberg can be reached at [email protected].

Neupert can be reached at [email protected]

Kelley can be reached at [email protected].