Some students say T.A. was intoxicated

Six days after a memo was issued by the Office of Academic Affairs listing guidelines for faculty to take in order to curb student drinking on St. Patrick's Day, a teaching assistant in the College of Communication showed up intoxicated to teach a class, some students in the class told the Tribune Wednesday.

College of Communication officials said it was too soon to tell if the incident warranted professional action.

"At this point we don't know the truth of what happened," said College of Communication Dean William Elliott. He said it was too early to tell if the actions of the assistant warranted professional action.

"All I can say at this point is that the college is looking into it," said assistant professor of communication Sarah Bonewits.

Ben Tracy, director of university communication, declined to comment on the incident until more information was available.

The teaching assistant admitted that, prior to the class, she had gone to campus bars that opened at 6 a.m. Wednesday for the St. Patrick's Day holiday, but denied that she was drunk at the time the class was taught.

"I had been drinking, but that was seven hours before the class was taught," she said.

At least three students in the class said they thought the T.A. was not obviously intoxicated.

"It was something that was totally exaggerated," said Daniel Pera, a College of Communication freshman and student in the class. "She said she went to the bar before class and we kind of joked about it."

Pera said whether or not a teacher was drunk didn't matter as long as the teacher could perform professionally.

Another student, who asked not to be identified because she said she was afraid an appearance in the Tribune would adversely affect her grade in the class, said the T.A. was "draped accross the table in the class," had problems remembering dates and collided with desks repeatedly while joking about her lack of coordintation.

"I don't think it was right," the student said. "People were just getting up and leaving, and she didn't notice."

However, freshman Emily Dempsey, who also was in the class, didn't think the T.A. was particularly drunk.

"She admitted she had gone to a bunch of bars — Murphy's, Caffrey's, a bunch of bars," Dempsey said. "She said she had done some kind of KISS FM radio thing."

Milwaukee radio station 103.7 KISS FM performed the "Knight in the Morning" radio show from 6 to 10 a.m. at Caffrey's.

"There are a couple of students in her class that probably did the same thing," Dempsey said.

Katie Collin, another freshman in the class, agreed with Dempsey.

"I think it was exaggerated," she said.

She said she didn't notice the T.A. leaning across the table, the confusion over dates wasn't as severe as other students made out, and that only one student left in the middle of class, after staying for a period of 20 minutes. Collin also said she didn't know what the T.A. had done earlier in the day, and she didn't remember the T.A. bumping into desks.

"Maybe I wasn't paying attention," Collin said. "I don't remember her talking about" drinking.

Another student in the class, communication freshman Michaela Courtney, declined to comment, saying she wasn't comfortable discussing the situation.

Journalism and broadcast chair Kenneth Ksobiech said there was too little information to make any statement on the assistant's actions, but said in 27 years of teaching, he had never once had a problem with any teaching assistant.

In general, "it is unacceptable for any teacher or professor to be drunk in front of a class," Ksobiech said.

The incident comes on the heels of a faculty memo sent out March 11 that enlisted the help of faculty members in stopping campus drinking on St. Patrick's Day. A copy of the memo sent to the Tribune via campus mail lists five reccomendations made to the deans of the various colleges: "Not cancelling classes on Wednesday, March 17; announcing on Monday classes that students are expected to be at Wednesday classes; having a requirement such as a quiz or assignment due for March 17 classes; contacting (the Department of Public Safety) to escort any intoxicated students out of class; and not making jokes about drinking on St. Patrick's Day."

With St. Patrick's Day "comes additional concern about student safety and behavior," the memo says. "Added to that is that our students will just be coming off Spring Break and may not yet be setteled into academic work. In addition, the UW system is on Spring Break and some of their students may come to Milwaukee."

The memo goes on to list additional steps taken by the university on St. Patrick's Day, including the staffing of additional DPS and Milwaukee Police Department officers in the neighborhood around campus taverns, not allowing overnight guests on both Tuesday and Wednesday and extra staff monitoring buses to a possible Wednesday men's basketball appearance in the National Invitational Tournament.,”Brian O'Connor”