A fifth woman publicly accuses UW-Whitewater chancellor’s husband of sexual harassment

In a story from the Chronicle for Higher Education, a fifth woman, Hailey Miller, reveals her own experience with harassment from Pete Hill, who held the position of associate to the chancellor (while also UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper’s husband). Miller’s account to the Chronicle, backed by contemporaneous notes she shared with that publication, is similar in many details to the experiences of four other UW-Whitewater-affiliated women, including Stephanie Vander Pas.  Indeed, Ms. Miller’s account is corroborative of the method of harassment and assault alleged by other complainants, including Mrs. Vander Pas. See Journal Sentinel: UW-Whitewater chancellor’s husband banned from campus after sexual harassment investigation.

Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel also details many of the allegations that Ms. Miller makes in the Chronicle story, in Herzog’s own story (A fifth woman has publicly accused UW-Whitewater chancellor’s husband of sexual harassment).

At the time of these published news stories, UW-Whitewater’s media relations had not included in its reply to the Journal Sentinel‘s public records request under Wisconsin law any interview statement Kopper may have given to investigators.

The new revelations contend that other highly-placed employees were aware of Hill’s conduct, including assistant vice chancellor for university marketing and communications Sara Kuhl.  (Kuhl, notably, is the official responsible for providing full and complete responses to public records requests under Wisconsin law.)

The Chronicle‘s Jack Stripling reports that

In contemporaneous notes, which she shared with The Chronicle, Miller recorded an exchange on July 29, 2016, at approximately 1:45 p.m. Hill stopped at her office doorway, she wrote, and “walked behind my desk with his arms open, looking for a hug.” As she stood up to hug him, Hill said, “damn.” He embraced Miller, longer than she was comfortable with, and asked, “How long can we do this?” she recorded.

Hill “kissed my neck,” she wrote, and “as I pulled away, he slapped my lower back.”

Miller considered reporting the incident but decided not to, jotting down her rationale in notes on her phone.

“I did not immediately report this because I don’t want it to have a negative impact on my job or my graduate-school career in the semester before I graduate,” she wrote. “I am afraid of potential retribution if I report sexual harassment against the chancellor’s husband. Although Pete Hill should more than know that his actions are inappropriate, I believe he is using his authority and access to young women to further his own wants.”

Miller alleges that Hill’s unwanted touching continued at The Sweet Spot (a coffee shop here in Whitewater):

Miller says she was expecting an uncomfortable embrace, even though she had told Hill, “I’m not a hugger.” Hill’s response, reflected in Miller’s notes of the meeting, was that they would “have to practice” hugging.

“At that point, I was 23 years old, and I know I don’t want to hug you,” Miller says. “I’m not 13; there’s no kind of confusion. He just didn’t take no for an answer.”

Significantly, Miller recounts that Hill’s sexually-themed and unwanted behavior took place in front of other university employees, including Sara Kuhl:

Working in the chancellor’s office, Miller sensed that at least one other person appeared to tense up around Hill. But she says she never discussed the issue with co-workers or her supervisor, Kari Heidenreich, the chancellor’s assistant.

Heidenreich was present in the chancellor’s suite, however, on August 4, 2016, when Hill made two inappropriate comments, according to Miller’s notes. The first was a joke that Miller says she did not entirely follow about “why men prefer guns to women.” Hill then mentioned, Miller says, that “ugly women only get love past 1 a.m.”

Miller says that Heidenreich laughed, as did Sara Kuhl, the assistant vice chancellor for university marketing and communications. That response did not necessarily surprise Miller, who says she often deflected Hill’s advances with laughter.

Heidenreich did not reply to an email detailing the incident, nor did she respond to a voicemail. Kuhl also declined to respond to direct questions about the incident, beyond saying that she respected the university’s process for dealing with reports of wrongdoing.

A full investigation – there is now a third one – would properly consider whether high-level administrators who now claim a need for silence while a process is ongoing can show that they earlier respected existing processes for reporting harassment that they may have heard or witnessed.

Previously:  Journal Sentinel: UW-Whitewater chancellor’s husband banned from campus after sexual harassment investigationQuestions Concerning a Ban on the UW-Whitewater Chancellor’s Husband After a Sexual Harassment Investigation, and Chancellor Kopper Should Resign.

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5 years ago

There could be more than five women who have had harassment from Hill. The stories have a common pattern that looks like it played out many times. It’s good to keep the focus on what women are saying. How they are describing their experiences matters. How his behavior is the same matters. How people are laughing matters (because that is what they do when they are afraid their manager won’t help). Whether people are speaking up matters. Moving the story forward when new information appears matters. Asking good questions based on the facts matters.