A Whitewater City Council member is calling on UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper to resign, saying the chancellor’s husband sexually harassed her and others and that the chancellor should have known about it.
Stephanie (Goettl) Vander Pas on Sunday published on Facebook an open letter to Kopper—a woman she said she has long looked up to—detailing Alan “Pete” Hill’s history of making comments to her and inappropriately touching her.
“I really just think in order for the university to return to its core mission, that it needs to be under someone else’s leadership,” Vander Pas said in an interview with The Gazette.
Kopper on Friday announced the results of an investigation by the UW System that determined Hill should be banned from campus events following multiple claims of sexual harassment.
Hill, who records show denied the allegations to varying extents, was in his unpaid position as “associate to the chancellor” since July 2015, which is when Kopper became chancellor. UW System President Ray Cross stripped Hill of his position in a June 22 letter.
UW-Whitewater spokeswoman Sara Kuhl emailed The Gazette a statement Monday afternoon.
“As Chancellor Kopper shared in her message to campus on Friday, she remains deeply committed to serving campus and continuing the work of our University to provide our students with an education that is truly transformational and to make a difference in our communities, the state, nation and the world.”
‘I can still feel that hand’
Vander Pas represents Whitewater’s District 5, which covers parts of campus in Jefferson County. She has been on the city council since November 2011, she said.
She graduated from UW-W in 2013 as an undergraduate student. After two years, she returned as a graduate student but has since had to step away, she said.
On Saturday, Vander Pas, who has box seats for UW-Whitewater football games, said she saw Kopper come into her box to greet everyone—one day after the allegations against her husband became public.
Vander Pas has known Kopper for years, but she said the chancellor said nothing to her.
The next morning, Vander Pas posted her letter addressed to Kopper on her Facebook page.
“I can’t forget Pete, or the smile on his face, or the girl who pulled me to the side and told me to be careful of him because he didn’t keep his hands to himself,” she wrote.
Vander Pas in her letter points to comments Hill made to her and to the man who recently became her husband.
“You were in the room,” she wrote to Kopper. “I tried to catch your eye hoping you’d come pull him away from me. You didn’t.”
Vander Pas also said Hill touched her inappropriately in 2015 after Kopper became chancellor.
“His hand slid up my skirt before I knew what to do,” she wrote. “He ran it down my back, down the shiny black of my skirt, then to a place I can still feel that hand.”
None of the inappropriate actions or comments took place when she was an undergraduate student, she said.
She also said she was not one of the women who were part of the special investigation issued by the UW System, which began in April 2018.
On Friday, she filed a complaint about her story with the UW system.
“While President Cross was deeply disturbed by its contents, he was moved by the courage you showed in sharing your story,” said Gary Bennett, Cross’ chief of staff, in a Friday email to Vander Pas.
‘I wanted to be like her’
Vander Pas thought back to her time as the only woman on the city council. She said she loves Whitewater and saw Kopper’s rise to the university’s top position as an inspiration.
“I really admired her,” she said. “I wanted to be like her. I really had a lot of respect for her.”
Vander Pas said she is not sure how she looks at Kopper now, but she believes Kopper knew, or should have known, of her husband’s behavior.
“I do believe I know the content of my husband’s character—and I believe you do, too,” Vander Pas wrote. “I believe you know and understand who he is and what he’s done. I believe he violated your trust, but I refuse to hold you harmless for my pain and the pain of others—because you put us in his path—and you either knew or were irresponsible enough not to know. For that, we deserve better.”
Vander Pas stressed she is only sharing her personal thoughts and beliefs, and she is not speaking for all the victims.
She said she wrestled with the “difficult” question of whether it is fair to hold Kopper accountable for the actions of her husband.
But she said her decision was not based on Kopper’s personality but rather on professional standards—without Kopper’s position as chancellor, she said, Hill would not have had access to the women.
“I’m asking you to resign. I’m asking you to give back our campus,” Vander Pas wrote. “We deserve to associate it with something other than a man who hurt us and the woman who made that possible. I’m asking you to understand that I can both feel bad that he hurt you, too, and expect you to put this campus and its students before yourself. I’m asking you to let me have the last word this time.
“I hope you heal,” she wrote. “I hope we heal.”