The investigative report about former UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper and her husband’s sexual harassment is “rampant with speculation” and went outside its scope, Kopper said in a written response shared Monday.
Investigators wrote they found no direct evidence Kopper knew about her husband’s repeated sexual harassment of at least seven—and possibly as many as 10—students and employees. But they wrote “at best” it existed in a “blindspot” for her.
They also said in the report released Friday there was also no direct evidence Kopper obstructed the investigation or retaliated against women who made allegations against Kopper’s husband, Alan “Pete” Hill.
At the same time, the 18-page report points to statements from witnesses who questioned Kopper’s leadership ability and how she handled the whole situation—which drew criticism from Kopper in documents shared by her lawyer.
Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in higher education, on Monday mailed The Gazette a four-page response letter dated March 29 and signed by Kopper.
The report is “no more than a preconceived conclusion in search of supporting evidence” that relies on anonymous and secondhand sources, the letter states. After saying there is no direct evidence for some of its conclusions, the report goes on to imply some undiscovered evidence could substantiate some of the claims, according to Kopper’s letter.
The report uses the phrases “may be,” “might be” and “could be” to support conclusions.
Kopper resigned as chancellor Dec. 31 after the UW System Board of Regents signaled it wanted new leadership and system President Ray Cross “counseled” her to resign, according to system documents.
Her resignation came months after Cross in June banned Hill from campus because an investigation found credible claims of sexual harassment. That decision, however, was not announced until Sept. 14, the same morning the system released documents to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel because of an open records request.
While the investigators said it was “noteworthy” Kopper did not inform the campus about her husband until September, Kopper in the letter says she sent the statement “when she had permission from UW System to do so.”
Kopper’s response emphasizes she stayed out of the investigation because talking to her husband more about it would have looked like interference. She said she consulted the system’s general counsel when she was supposed to.
The report, according to the letter, erroneously says Kopper believed each allegation against Hill resulted from a grudge against her. She “does not believe this and has never so stated.”
Investigators looked into sexual harassment allegations against Hill—which they found evidence for—and to what extent the administration knew of those allegations.
But the report includes witness statements criticizing Kopper as a boss and a leader—saying she micromanaged, didn’t understand budgets and would yell at employees until she was red in the face.
Kopper, however, had no chance during her interview to respond to those criticisms, except one denial included in the investigative report that said Kopper denied being intemperate.
Not being able to respond meant she could not tell investigators that Cross in a 2018 letter said she was “excellent with managing the budget,” according to the letter.
In response to the report saying deans would “regularly” leave meetings when Kopper was in an “emotional state,” the letter says, “The Deans did not report to Chancellor Kopper, were not a part of her Cabinet, and did not have any regular meetings with her.”
Cotton told The Gazette there is “no question” this is an instance of a woman being blamed for her husband’s alleged conduct. But he added it has been a problem that has come up in higher education with spouses regardless of gender, too.
“I think it’s very unfair,” he said. “I think it’s very, very unfair. And beyond unfair, it’s unreasonable.”
But even with the problems his client has with the report, he said, at this time they are not considering any legal action in response to how the report was handled.
Kopper is on paid leave on her chancellor’s salary of $242,760.
Cotton said industry standards allow for 12 months to catch up on teaching methods, but Kopper will have only eight.
“Her first love (is) the students,” Cotton said. “That’s what this person does. I mean, that’s why she’s in higher education to begin with.”