Old Whitewater – a state of mind rather than a person or a person’s age – seldom speaks except to reveal its deficient reasoning (and to reveal, in fact, that it doesn’t even know what good reasoning might look like). Before going further, a reminder: FREE WHITEWATER is the work of one person, writing without collaboration, of views directly stated. One needn’t – and here doesn’t – speak for others.
Today, I’ll consider – not for its merit. but for its utter lack of merit – a letter to the editor of the Janesville Gazette signed by Shirley M. Grant of Whitewater, and entitled Criticism of Kopper over husband’s actions unfair (subscription req’d). Grant contends criticism of UW-Whitewater’s Beverly Kopper stems not from Kopper’s public role, her responsibility for her public workplace, or her appointment of her own spouse to a public position, but instead Kopper’s “falling in love with a man she thought she could trust.”
No, and no again: private feelings of love do not govern this public matter. See No Ordinary, Unconnected Spouse: Public officials’ use of family appointees. and Questions Concerning a Ban on the UW-Whitewater Chancellor’s Husband After a Sexual Harassment Investigation.
Grant goes on to contend that a person in her twenties (referring to only one of the five reported complainants of workplace harassment and assault) could not possibly know the character of her – the complainant’s – own husband. Grant’s claim is an oddly personal, but easily refuted, one: society often correctly assumes that those in their twenties can and do assess complex matters – including character – correctly. From those in their twenties, America commissions officers in her armed services, schools assign teachers, cities hire police officers, and both religious and secular Americans get married. All of these matters require a general discernment of character. If Grant’s claim about not being able to assess character were generally true, then America would be wrong to commission her military officers, schools to hire teachers, cities to hire police officers, or for families and churches to support marriage from among those in their twenties.
And yet, and yet — for centuries on this continent we have selected from those in their twenties for these weighty matters requiring an understanding of character, and while so doing we have become the most influential and extraordinary society in human history. It’s highly improbable that we could have been so mistaken about people in their twenties and yet been so successful as a society. It’s more likely that our longstanding confidence has been wisely placed.
Perhaps Grant doubts the choices she or the people of her acquaintance made in their twenties, but there’s no reason to concern oneself with this point: the tiny handful within her horizon are nothing as against many millions who have and continue to discern wisely to the great benefit of our society.
Grant observes that she “attended UW-Whitewater when there were riot police on campus to make sure we got to class safely….Did the university fall apart? Did the students stay away? It looks to me as though it just got stronger.”
The implications are perverse: (1) that because she once had hardships others should accept injustices now, (2) that daily functioning under injustices excuses the injustices, (3) that continued popularity during injustices excuses the injustices, (4) and that an institution’s increase in wealth or size excuses the individual harms inflicted or tolerated during that increase.
That’s similar to claims that corrupt corporations make during financial scandals, religious institutions make during sexual abuse scandals, and governments make when officials abuse the public trust: a crude and amoral act utilitarianism. See The Act Utilitarians.
Finally, like so many of the Old Whitewater mindset, Grant thinks that a few exclamation points make her weak claims stronger (‘you are kidding!’, ‘whatever it might be!’)
One does not make Alchemy, Witchcraft, and Cold Fusion more plausible by writing Alchemy! Witchcraft! and Cold Fusion! False before, false afterward.
There is no sign from her letter that Grant thought about the issue more than superficially (and so, as a consequence, she’s apparently thought about it only deficiently). It’s evidence of the old – but failed, withering – poor quality of reasoning that slowly slips away in Whitewater.
Previously: Journal Sentinel: UW-Whitewater chancellor’s husband banned from campus after sexual harassment investigation, Questions Concerning a Ban on the UW-Whitewater Chancellor’s Husband After a Sexual Harassment Investigation, Chancellor Kopper Should Resign, A fifth woman publicly accuses UW-Whitewater chancellor’s husband of sexual harassment, The UW-Whitewater Chancellor’s Lack of Individual Regard, and No Ordinary, Unconnected Spouse: Public officials’ use of family appointees.