UW System to open another investigation into UW-Whitewater sexual harassment allegations

September 18, 2018

The University of Wisconsin System will open another investigation into alleged sexual harassment at UW-Whitewater based on another woman’s account of allegations against the chancellor’s husband.

A Whitewater Common Council member came forward as one of the women sexually harassed by Alan “Pete” Hill, husband to chancellor Beverly Kopper. The councilwoman, Stephanie Vander Pas, described a series of inappropriate comments and an incident of groping in a Facebook post published Sunday.

Vander Pas told the Journal Sentinel in an interview Monday that she did not report the harassment, which occurred when she was a student-government leader, because she was embarrassed and feared retaliation.

“Given the University of Wisconsin System’s unwavering commitment to provide a safe educational and work environment, we are opening a new investigation into the most recent allegations related to UW-Whitewater,” System spokeswoman Heather LaRoi said.

Asked by email how many more women have come forward since the allegations were made public Friday, LaRoi did not immediately respond.

Vander Pas emailed UW System president Ray Cross Friday about her interactions with Hill after reading the Journal Sentinel’s story Friday. The newspaper first reported Hill has been banned from campus and stripped of his unpaid appointment as associate to the chancellor after a UW System investigation found “merit” to allegations of harassment by Hill, dating back to 2015, the year Kopper was named chancellor.

Hill has denied any wrongdoing, according to 44 pages of records provided to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The UW System provided the records to the Journal Sentinel Friday, the same day Kopper publicly acknowledged the investigation.

“As Chancellor, my top priority has always been and will continue to be ensuring that UW-Whitewater is a welcoming campus for all and that students, faculty and staff have a positive and safe environment in which to learn, live and work,” Kopper wrote in a statement shared with the campus.

Vander Pas called in her post for Kopper to resign, suggesting the chancellor shares some of the blame for exposing students to her husband’s alleged actions.She did not immediately return an email Tuesday and an automated greeting said her voicemail was not available.

State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, also called for Kopper’s resignation.

“At this moment in time, I can see no positive future for UW-Whitewater under the leadership of Chancellor Kopper,” he said.

Nass’ press secretary, Mike Mikalsen, said part of Kopper’s statement Friday — that she “fully supported and cooperated” with the investigation — is at odds with a July 10 letter she sent to Cross in which she expressed “concerns regarding certain statement of facts and interpretations.”

The “very signficant difference in tone and context” between the two statements raises questions for Nass, Mikalsen said.

Mikalsen said Nass had heard concerns from constituents about enrollment management and budget issues for about a year, but only learned of the sexual harassment allegations last week.

UW-Whitewater spokeswoman Sara Kuhl said Monday that Kopper has no intention of resigning.

This story will be updated.

Update hourly