Melanie Conklin

About That Mandela Barnes Controversy

Media firestorm about college degree part of wide-ranging Isthmus feature story.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Aug 12th, 2019 04:38 pm
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Mandela Barnes.

Mandela Barnes.

Last week Isthmus writer Dylan Brogan wrote an in-depth story on what makes Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes tick. About 20 paragraphs into the story, Barnes divulges that he received an incomplete in a class at Alabama A&M and never turned in his paperwork to rectify that, so he never completed his degree.

Isthmus could have led the piece with that detail. It turned into at least a dozen news stories in other outlets and sparked a firestorm on Twitter from editors, reports and critics. Brogan says he expected it would grab attention.

He chose to weave that detail deeper into Barnes’ story regardless, he explains, “because it’s part of a bigger story. People are complicated. I didn’t want it to be all about that.”

Brogan wanted to allow other interesting facts to come through. “I thought it was noteworthy he’s playing a different role as lieutenant governor than his predecessors have,” adds Brogan. “Obviously, he’s so young — the youngest lieutenant governor in the country. And he’s taken risks to get to where he is.”

The full Isthmus profile ‘Barnestorming’ is a longer-form story that gives a much more complete picture. Should you need any more encouragement to read it — here are a few fun facts and deeper details you will discover:

  • He skipped two grades and graduated from Milwaukee’s Marshall High School at age 16.
  • His first name is actually Jesse, after his father. Mandela is his middle name.
  • He’s the point person in the Evers Administration coordinating efforts to combat climate change.
  • He owns old-school orange Nikes the “envy of any sneakerphile.”
  • He has embraced his role as Gov. Tony Evers’ “hypeman.”
  • His first post-college political job was receptionist for Mayor Tom Barrett.

That’s all you get here. Read the piece to learn about his unusual relationship with Evers, what he dubs, “the worst period of my life” and a whole lot more.

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner

3 thoughts on “About That Mandela Barnes Controversy”

  1. Patricia Jursik says:

    Not as controversial as JS made this out to be, lest we forget WI had a governor who did not finish at MU and left under a cloud which never was really resolved. I’ve seen candidates fudge education for a long time, an opponent for county board who never attended college ran on “certificate” earned from MU (for a business seminar he once attended).

  2. mkwagner says:

    There are many highly successful people who are 1-3 credits short of completing a degree. Tom Snyder, a renowned journalist was 1 credit shy of completing his degree at Marquette. I would like to think Alabama A&M would reach out to help him rectify the situation like some other institutions do.

  3. Thomas Martinsen says:

    I would suggest to Barnes to reach out to Alabama A & M for advice on completing the incomplete or on taking a class that would result in a degree.

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