The Former Chancellor’s Only Weakness

Months ago, as then-Chancellor Richard Telfer was preparing for retirement, then-Provost Beverly Kopper thought about his career, and spotted only one weakness:

Chancellor Richard Telfer has only one weakness, according to Beverly Kopper, provost at UW-Whitewater.

This weakness isn’t being a bad listener or not being able to do his job.  His weakness is only having 10 fingers.

“Not nearly enough to wear his championship rings,” Kopper said. “An avid supporter of student athletes, since [Telfer] became chancellor, UW-Whitewater Intercollegiate and Club Sports teams have won 22 national championships.”

See, Thirty Years and One Goodbye: University Honors Chancellor Richard Telfer’s Career,

I’m tempted to say at least two weaknesses, one of them being a fawning successor whose reflections are obtuse.

Obtuse for two reasons, one lighter, one weightier. The lighter of the two is the implication that a university chancellor in a D3 environment actually earns any championship rings at all. Honest to goodness that’s ridiculous.

Athletes and coaches win championship rings – no one else actually wins anything (regardless of what one takes or receives).

Those who competed so well, and those who coached them to national victories, won those many UW-Whitewater championships – not administrators, administrators’ friends, town notables, etc.

Athletes and coaches.

There’s another way, weightier by far, in which Beverly Kopper’s observation is obtuse: the Telfer Administration squandered millions on an Innovation Center, then still millions more in WEDC money, saw a marked rise in sexual assault complaints at UW-Whitewater, a federal investigation into those complaints, chose a budget-reduction method that emphasized top-down solutions over freely-selected buyouts, saw statewide criticism for use of student informants on campus, and more than once pushed flimsy claims or studies unworthy of serious scholarship.

Many of these problems yet linger.

Those whose families have for so many generations on this continent respected academic accomplishment – and who can easily see that there are many talented students and professors at UW-Whitewater – would likely find the Telfer Administration’s deficiencies serious (and unworthy of a campus that deserved far better).

Only a light person, or one who though her audience was light, would ignore weightier matters for silly and false remarks about Telfer’s only supposed weakness.

As it turns out, however, Kopper’s remark about rings raises a more literal concern.

I’ll post about that, tomorrow.