A few hours ago, the Janesville Gazette published portions of an open letter from Whitewater City Councilwoman Stephanie Vander Pas describing harassment that she experienced from Pete Hill, husband of UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper, while Kopper was nearby.
Reading her remarks, along with public records published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, and considering obvious and reasonable questions published at this website this morning, I believe that Beverly Kopper is unsuited to serve as chancellor of UW-Whitewater, and should promptly resign her position. Indeed, this small and beautiful city must have a cleansing break from repeated harassment and physical coercion.
In her open letter, Stephanie Vander Pas is quoted in part:
Vander Pas points to comments Hill made to her and to the man who became her husband.
“You were in the room,” she wrote to Kopper. “I tried to catch your eye hoping you’d come pull him away from me. You didn’t.”
Vander Pas also said Hill touched her inappropriately.
“His hand slid up my skirt before I knew what to do,” she wrote. “He ran it down my back, down the shiny black of my skirt, then to a place I can still feel that hand.”
Vander Pas said Kopper knew, or should have known, of her husband’s behavior.
“I do believe I know the content of my husband’s character—and I believe you do, too,” Vander Pas wrote. “I believe you know and understand who he is and what he’s done. I believe he violated your trust, but I refuse to hold you harmless for my pain and the pain of others—because you put us in his path—and you either knew or were irresponsible enough not to know. For that, we deserve better.”
Vander Pas continued in her open letter addressed to Kopper: “I’m asking you to resign. I’m asking you to give back our campus. We deserve to associate it with something other than a man who hurt us and the woman who made that possible. I’m asking you to understand that I can both feel bad that he hurt you, too, and expect you to put this campus and its students before yourself. I’m asking you to let me have the last word this time.”
A boilerplate response from UW-Whitewater’s media relations team cannot suffice. (Indeed, it offends any serious and ethical sensibility.)
(On a brief personal note, I am not connected to Stephanie Vander Pas, and would not expect, in these or other circumstances, that my acquaintance should even scarcely matter. And yet, and yet, no discussion of her open letter should close without expressing a sincere regard for her well-being and respect for her forthright statement and clear concern for our community.)
We cannot – and so we must not – grow inured to these wrongs and those who have enabled them. Our small and beautiful city has – and always will – deserve better.
Previously: Journal Sentinel: UW-Whitewater chancellor’s husband banned from campus after sexual harassment investigation and Questions Concerning a Ban on the UW-Whitewater Chancellor’s Husband After a Sexual Harassment Investigation.