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The Limits of an Institutional Deal

Yesterday, UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper announced that she was resigning her position as of 12.31.18.  Later in the day, the UW System publicly announced that Kopper would be on leave at her former salary for eight months, and then in the fall have the option of returning to UW-Whitewater’s Psychology Department as a professor.  See Kopper Resigns, Whitewater Remains.

Understandably, the terms of the deal quickly became a subject of criticism for their profligacy.  (Students are struggling with tuition each semester.)

Yet the deal between the UW System and Kopper will prove more than wasteful: it will soon be futile, disappointing, and self-destructive to both parties.

Events will change too quickly for either the UW System or Kopper to expect that this arrangement will long endure.  Indeed, even highly skilled institutional parties have trouble maintaining the balance during times of rapid change.  (It’s notable that behind-the-scenes efforts to preserve Kopper as chancellor amounted to nothing.)

Departing leaders often find that even a few months soon seem more like a few years, and what was once an environment they controlled is no longer suited to them.  (When the leader is a failure, this is especially so.)

What may seem like a good deal to a few officials at the UW System and UW-Whitewater will soon prove both unworkable and disappointing to them.  They’ll come to wish they had not made this deal — a continued connection will prove disappointing even to them.

About an institutional example, I alluded to yesterday: there seems no case in the contemporary environment where an institution escaped scrutiny or litigation by preserving connections to departing leaders who failed to maintain a safe work environment.

A deal that preserves an institutional connection will invite further scrutiny and legal avenues of all concerned, especially among injured parties who are represented.  A deal that involved a clean break – although itself objectionable – would have been the more prudent course.

This deal won’t last for the long term, will probably prove unsatisfying to the parties to it, and will prove self-destructive of even the narrow ends it aims to advance.

Significantly, however wasteful the terms of the deal in these times of fiscal constraint, the most important matters are the redress of individual injuries and the development of a better campus culture.

That redress and that work, after so many harmful years, should always be foremost in mind.

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, 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, No Ordinary, Unconnected Spouse: Public officials’ use of family appointeesAn Example of Old Whitewater’s Deficient Reasoning, The Principle of Diversity Rests on Individual RightsAnother ‘Advisory Council’ Isn’t What Whitewater Needs, A Defense That’s Worse Than Nothing0, 448, 476, 84, and Kopper Resigns, Whitewater Remains.

7 comments for “The Limits of an Institutional Deal

  1. J
    12/18/2018 at 11:02 AM

    We are a great school with huge upward potential but the last three leaders have been less than we needed. (Martha, Dick, Beverly.) Martha was here a short time, and the last two stumbled on similar problems about the campus culture. There is an ethos here that emphasizes looking good over being good. We wind up looking bad in the end anyway.

    There is a reference to “behind the scenes” efforts. That’s right although it was a mistake to even try. This decision should have been made in October at the latest.

    It’s obvious you watched all this carefully. The “previously” posts show a really methodical/tenacious approach. I guess this falls under the theme of individual rights that runs through so many of the posts at this website.

    I urge people to keep watching.

  2. Cathy
    12/18/2018 at 2:07 PM

    Thank you to everyone who is focusing on the main issue.There have been so many bad excuses for what happened to multiple women on campus.One person is too many.It has been really disturbing to see how quickly people showed up to try to normalize this.

  3. JOHN ADAMS
    12/18/2018 at 2:42 PM

    It’s true that one saw over these last months rationalizations about injuries to members of our community. These rationalizations had in common that they were intellectually and morally unworthy.

    There is much work ahead, and that work requires a break with the near past. It’s not enough to hear of improvement; people must be able to discern those improvements in their daily lives, on and off campus. Nothing less will be enough.

  4. joe
    12/19/2018 at 9:21 AM

    When even Whitewater’s own Steve Nass pans the deal, you know it’s in trouble. Nass happens to be right.

    That is the first time ever that I have agreed with Nass, who has more moss on his back than a chia pet.

    • JOHN ADAMS
      12/19/2018 at 1:29 PM

      I’ve added some additional questions on the policy side to an earlier post. The deal is so odd and so wrongly-focused that it will find common concern from all sides (even, as you note, from those of us who otherwise have disagreements right across the board).

  5. Stephanie Vander Pas
    12/19/2018 at 9:52 AM

    “however wasteful the terms of the deal in these times of fiscal constraint, the most important matters are the redress of individual injuries”

    Thank you. I was appalled by her resignation statement and its terms, of course. I am appalled that someone involved in this could be paid in such a manner–but I was more appalled that my injury and the KNOWN injuries of AT LEAST four other women were never mentioned by Ms.Kopper once in all the days since this all began. Not once has she even acknowledged my existence despite the fact that photos of the two of us together exist on the UWW website even to this day. BUT, at the end of the day, Iknow campus needs a new leader and I am relieved that will happen.

    I won’t heal just because Beverly Kopper is “gone” (which may not even be the case if she returns to teach); I have already lost too much. It cost me too much to get to this day. Choosing to reveal my own identity in filing complaint of my injury was a conscious choice, one that has been criticized with “you could have stayed anonymous.” I counter that in doing so, no progress would have been truly made in the matter–and that is an injustice I don’t think will ever be righted.

    • JOHN ADAMS
      12/19/2018 at 10:52 AM

      Good morning, Stephanie. Thank you. These are difficult but fundamental matters, and I believe those of us reading your words (yours, not mine) with the care they deserve will find ourselves with a better understanding after doing so.