UW-Whitewater, a public university in Whitewater, Wisconsin, now seeks a new chancellor, and the selection committee recently held a community listening session to request suggestions about a new campus administrator.
(However useful an invitation to a community listening session might be, it’s worth noting that observation, reflection, and commentary answer to a different – and prior – invitation.)
The community leaders assembled on February 6, 2019 listed the challenges the campus faces, traits they’d like in a new chancellor, and what’s attractive about the campus.
There’s not a single isolated word they spoke that was objectionable. One would hope for these suggestions in any routine search for a new leader. In this, one can be genuinely grateful that February 2019 community session was more responsible than the last one. (A local newspaper’s account of the last chancellor search reads in both style and substance like a parody of sycophancy and boosterism. See The Dark, Futile Dream and The Last Inside Accounts.)
Not long ago, UW-Whitewater’s chancellor resigned after concealing from her campus – for months – two separate investigations into multiple allegations of sexual harassment against her spouse, who held a public position as an associate to the chancellor.
Note well: one can readily presume that no one in the room wanted what’s happened over these last months and years.
And yet, and yet, it has happened, and so this is not a routine search.
UW-Whitewater now seeks a new, permanent chancellor after the last two presided over a campus with a high number of sexual assaults, administrative concealment of harassment, and multiple published accounts of failure to process complainants’ claims properly under federal law. See, a category at FREEWHITEWATER addressing the circumstances that brought this campus, and this community, to search for a new chancellor.
Mentioning this does not make Whitewater weaker – it is the necessary path to making Whitewater stronger (by being safer). The path to fewer controversies – where controversy means tragedy — runs through a place of candid discussion.
Truth and reconciliation, after all, begins with truth.