Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Why Walker Didn’t Graduate

Journal Sentinel adds more to story, but still leaves some mystery.

By - Dec 18th, 2013 11:55 am

The idea that Scott Walker was “kicked out” of Marquette University for some dirty deed is an article of faith among many Democrats. As an earlier story for Urban Milwaukee noted, the story has been given credence by critics like Louis Weisberg, editor of the Wisconsin Gazette, who wrote that Walker “was thrown out of Marquette University for cheating,” but admitted to writer Cindy Kilkenny that he had no proof of this accusation.

Today’s story by Journal Sentinel reporter David Umhoefer quotes the state Democratic Party’s website, which claims that “Walker was kicked out of student elections at Marquette University after masterminding a scheme that destroyed newspapers critical of him…Walker either dropped out or was forced out not long after.” But Mike Tate was unable to provide any hard evidence to back up this claim.

Kilkenny quoted Marquette University Political Science Professor Emerita Janet K. Boles, who taught Walker in at least one of her classes, and said she believed  “Walker did leave MU in good standing (with GPA well above the level that would bring academic probation/expulsion). A GPA of 2.59 is below-average for MU students (given grade inflation) but translates into a BC average.”

Walker had previously released a letter from Marquette University showing he attended for four years and earned 94 credits, leaving him 34 credits short of the 128 minimum needed to graduate. But as Kilkenny notes, Walker told the MU Hilltop yearbook that he was a triple major in political science, economics and philosophy. That would have undoubtedly required him to attain more than 120 credits.

So why did he drop out of school? Umhoefer dug hard and his story is long, but mostly adds interesting background to the story. Walker comes off as an ambitious young man whose take-no-prisoners style help turn his campaign for Marquette student government president into an ugly affair, culminating in accusations that Walker’s supporters emptied racks of the student newspaper, which endorsed his opponent.

But if there was any investigation about this, it did not affect Walker’ standing as a student. Umhoefer requested a statement from Marquette University, which responded (with Walker’s consent, which is required by the university) to say the future governor “was a senior in good standing when he voluntarily withdrew from Marquette.”

That means no conduct issues, academic or otherwise, blocked Walker from continuing in school, MU spokesman Brian Dorrington told Umhoefer. School officials also said Walker “was not expelled or suspended from the university at any time.”

So why did Walker leave MU? You get the impression he was really bruised by the loss in the student government race. Moreover, he had so tarnished his reputation that he surely had no chance of ever winning a student government race. Psychologically, it might have been hard for him to remain at the scene of his defeat.

A second reason for dropping out is that he became involved in a campaign to defeat state Rep. Gwen Moore in the fall of 1990. Walker worked hard, knocking on 13,000 doors, Umhoefer writes, but was easily defeated in what was a heavily Democratic district. It may have been impossible to keep up with his classes and campaign, all the more so since he had begun a job with the local chapter of the American Red Cross in February, 1990.

The one thing Walker still refuses to release is his student transcript. Of course that would allow his opponents to pick over his grades and cast aspersions on his intellect, should there be any low marks. The transcript, moreover, would allow a computation of just how far away Walker was from attaining his major. If he had been working on three different majors, it’s quite possible he was far short of attaining any of them.

By 1993 Walker had been elected to the state assembly and was enjoying the political success he had been shooting for since high school. So why would he want to return, even on a part-time basis, to Marquette, the place where he had failed? You could call it a folly of youth, but it’s left a hole in Walker’s resume that may come back to haunt him in his expected bid for the presidency.

Categories: Back in the News

32 thoughts on “Back in the News: Why Walker Didn’t Graduate”

  1. John Cocktoasten says:

    Typical liberal media

  2. Alba says:

    If Walker does run for President, the national media won’t allow him skip answering these questions.

  3. Steven Blackwood says:

    To me, the important issue is the failed bid to become ASMU president in Spring 1988. an election I remember well. It showed how thin-skinned he was (is?). The MU Tribune, while editorially endorsing his opponent, nevertheless, stated that both candidates were well-qualified. In the wake of this, Walker distributed a flyer attacking is opponent and had his guys and gals go around gathering up copies of the Tribune. Then just before the vote, the Tribune, noting this behavior, reversed itself , calling Walker “unfit” (I believe that was the word they used). Why he left MU 36 credits short, we may never know for certain but, unless, he was expelled and not a student in good standing, that particular issue is a non-starter.

  4. Steve says:

    Typical liberal media…trying to research the facts behind the story. Much easier to stick to a list of talking points and not do any research.

  5. Judith Ann Moriarty says:

    gee whiz. I used to work for a local publication that hired “watchers” to guard their newspaper racks, so competitors (the desperate) wouldn’t steal their stuff. It was well known that sometimes the competition would take the whole banana, racks and all..or change the name on the rack and restock it with their publication.

  6. chris byhre says:

    How is there still mystery behind him leaving Bruce? Because they did not dig up the reason that you and so many others wanted to hear? He dropped out, it happens. Talk to MPS leaders about drop outs, they are very familiar with the subject. We now know more about Walker’s college days then we know about Obama’s. The only source of shame on Walker’s record all those years ago would be losing anything to Gwen Moore, who is intellectually challenged to say the least.

  7. Bruce Murphy says:

    Chris, as a writer, I have consistently maintained there was no evidence to the claim that Walker was “kicked out” of MU and as editor, sought to run the story by Cindy Kilkenny that concluded he was not. The mystery that still remains is the human one. We learn about our leaders by how they deal with diversity. I offer my own speculations here as to why Walker never went back to finish his degree, but they are just that. Walker has never really explained why. As to suggesting a parallel to MPS dropouts, I don’t think that is fair to Walker and doesn’t help to explain his college days.

  8. Chris Byhre says:

    I see, so you really just want to know what was going on in the head of a 21-22 year old Scott Walker? Those years of his life are so vexing to you that you will not rest until you have found the answer? I never compared Walker to MPS students, I simply suggested that if dropouts were of interest to you, you need look no further then our own failing school system for plenty of case studies. We learn about leaders by how they deal with “diversity”??? Is it possible that you meant adversity or are you interested in how our leaders deal with groups of people from varying backgrounds??

  9. jake says:

    Bait and switch.

    I guess walker will have yo create a Ambition degree in order to finish his higher education.

  10. Bruce Murphy says:

    Chris, you’re right, I meant adversity. I’ll simply reiterate that you have had all kinds of Democrats insisting that Walker was kicked out of college. Which is untrue. This publication has done its best to set that record straight on that score. And yes, any campaign biography of any candidate starts with his/her beginnings. David Maranis did an entire book on Obama’s beginnings before moving on to his later life in a second volume. Walker is a man who intends to run for president so his early days are of great interest.

  11. Jessica McBride says:

    It seems to me that the story answered the core question here in Walker’s favor – he wasn’t kicked out, and he left in good standing. Anything else is just chaff. It baffles me why the JS headline continued to paint this as his supposedly mysterious or “elusive” college years. It doesn’t seem very elusive or mysterious to me. He wasn’t kicked out, and he left in good standing. There’s no there, there. He was a very political guy, even then. But we already knew that, don’t you think?

  12. Jessica McBride says:

    Also, Bruce, you’re right that his early years are of biographical interest. However, the JS and Democrats seem to be painting this as some kind of scandal or potential or actual nefariousness, versus an attempt to understand the man. And that I am not seeing.

  13. John Voltavinski says:

    President Obama has refused to release his academic records. No investigation from the JS or Urban Milwaukee there, though. In fact, Obama has refused to release his birth certificate as well, which is quite odd and became fodder for conspiracy theorists.

    Maybe Walker didn’t particularly care for college that much or that governor didn’t see the value in a degree. After all, Walker’s has become fairly successful without a sheep skin. Other successful people, like Bill Gates, also failed to complete college. Type A individuals often complain that they get bored attending lectures and writing papers about academic concepts, some of which are irrelevant in the real world.

  14. Doug says:

    The only question I would have remaining is why didn’t Walker’s campaign push back against the original attack harder? It seems that statement from Marquette would have put the whole thing to rest. Unless he just wants to forget it.

  15. Jessica McBride says:

    @Doug, maybe they just didn’t want to highlight his lack of a degree and chose to keep the focus on other issues. It’s the economy, stupid (not referring to you).

  16. East Slider says:


    So when is the outcry going to ever come from our liberally-biased and (up until recently at least) Obama loving mainstream media going to start pressing Obama about why HIS college transcripts are such a closely guarded secret? How exactly do you go from Occidental College then transfer into a much “tougher” school like Columbia and then get into Harvard Law with anything less than a totally stellar academic record? So, assuming he had this totally stellar academic record, then why in the hell won’t he release his transcripts???!!!

    All of you liberals and Walker-Haters keep trying to make a big deal out of anything connected to Walker’s college years, perpetual loser Mike Tate just went down in flames trying to smear Walker and the answer is pretty obvious, he left MU early to take a good paying job. I personally would’ve stayed the last few months and finished my degree, but whatever Walker has done just fine for himself without one and he’s damn effective at getting his way politically, first as county exec, now as governor and who knows where he’ll end up next!

    Meanwhile all of you liberals and Walker-Haters continue to completely ignore Obama’s college transcripts and the much larger questions they raise-like how exactly did he move up from Occidental to Harvard? That would require an impeccable college record, so if that’s the case then why not release the records?? BECAUSE SOMETHING DOESN’T ADD UP!!!! That’s the real story but all of you hypocritical Walker-Hating and Obama-Loving libs will continue to bury your heads in the sand as our completely unqualified president fumbles and bumbles his way through his eight years!

  17. Tim says:

    Dohnal, someone’s gunning for your job. I can’t tell if it’s great satire or a drunken moron with a keyboard… can we get a poll going?

  18. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Eve the Village idiot could have figured that out long ago. Scott left two years after the lost election where some of his people did a dumb thing. How many of you have investigated why Teddy Kennedy got kicked out of Harvard? Why did he ever get in the first place, the old womanizing drunk.
    The issues in this election are: education, taxes, jobs, economy, transportation etc. Not one vote will be cast on this silly issue.
    The truth is satire to the Left, you are all so funny. It is so easy to destroy you.

  19. Bill Hibbard says:

    I enj9y your kolms. I think the investigation and speculation can now take a rest, as it seems to have been covered exhaustively. Yours and the JS numbers on credits needed don’t seem to agree, particularly: the difference between 94 and 120 is not 36.

  20. Tim says:

    I see… he’s your understudy! Well no one can make a copy of your broken record.

  21. Karl Rohlich says:

    It seems to me that it is extremely rare for someone to leave school one semester shy of a degree. My spin on it would be that he was asked to leave but given the option of leaving voluntarily in good standing or fighting a committee or process to argue that he should not be booted out (for whatever reason) . If such a ‘deal’ was rendered and accepted confidentiality would certainly be a part of the negotiation. I got similar deals from the Boy Scouts and the navy. This is speculation, of course….but there is valid degree of “mystery” as to why someone would leave so close to a degree.

  22. Gee says:

    The problem remains that Walker has told so many different stories about why he left college before graduating — for example, only a few weeks ago, again telling Time magazine that he left to start a family. Time, of course, just printed that nonsensical Walker line, without checking the timeline of the birth of his first child.

    The problem also remains that the thefts of campus newspapers that he claims were the work of others who worked for him then established a pattern that also arose again in John Doe 1, with convictions of many of his aides, whom he also disavowed. If he was not involved, means that he is a poor manager who does not delegate or oversee well.

    That his many explanations are contradictory and easily exposed will continue to cloud his prospects, and that his explanations established a pattern that has continued, is no one’s fault but his. Not all of the national media are as gullible as was the writer for Time. Some still are capable of committing acts of journalism, the sort of journalism that we rarely see anymore in Wisconsin — not about Walker.

    And then, he will be done.

  23. bruce murphy says:

    Thanks to those who pointed out a math error, which I corrected: Walker has 94 credits. leaving him 34 credits of the 128 needed to graduate. And no, I did not major in math.

  24. bruce murphy says:

    argh, let me try that one more time, he is 34 credits short of 128 he needed.

  25. 2fs says:

    “Low marks”? With a 2.59 GPA, those are guaranteed: that’s quite pathetic for someone in such a powerful position.

    What does it say to children regarding how much they should value education if their state’s governor feels no need to apologize for getting barely better than a C+?

  26. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Anyone check LBJ’s at a local teachers college? JFK was very uninterested student won a pulitzer with a book ghosted by someone and then the old man used his punch to get it. Reagan was only average student. Carter got great marks, anyone want him?

  27. I don’t know who Cindy Kilkenny is and I don’t recall ever speaking with her. You have my phone number, Bruce, so it wouldn’t have been difficult to confirm this with me. I’d really like some proof that I spoke with her.

  28. Cindy Kilkenny is apparently a right-wing blogger and Walker apologist. She have been identified as such in your piece.

  29. chris byhre says:

    Louis, how about you stop making wild accusations without any shred of proof or does credibility mean nothing to you?

  30. Bruce Murphy says:

    Louis, I asked for and received proof of writer Cindy Kilkenny’s email exchange with you, and she did quote you correctly. As to identifying her politics, we don’t label our writers as “pro-Walker” or “anti-Walker,” liberal or conservative. We do label some columns as “Op-Ed” when they are obvious advocacy we don’t necessarily agree with, but the chapter of Kilkenny’s book we published struck me as pure reporting.

  31. stacy moss says:

    Don’t get this issue

    Something like 8 of the top of the Forbes list of billionaires dropped out of college.

    The only two who went on to post graduate education where George Soros and Michael Bloomberg (but they had Jewish mothers).

  32. Lepai says:

    What’s the Wisconsin Gazette? Never heard of it.

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