The investigative findings into former UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against her husband, Alan “Pete” Hill, contain some troubling observations, though the ones that surprised us have nothing to do with harassment.
We felt certain, even before the 18-page report’s release last week, the investigation wouldn’t exonerate Kopper. She either knew about her husband’s vile behavior and ignored it, or—as the investigation concludes—she had “at best” a “blindspot” and failed to realize a predator was operating right in front of her. Either way, she let down the campus, its employees and students.
What we never suspected, however, was that she may have been incompetent in carrying out her day-to-day duties. She allegedly didn’t understand budgets.
“Two witnesses who were responsible for preparing and presenting budgets to Chancellor Kopper commented that they did not believe Chancellor Kopper had an understanding of the budget documents that were presented to her; that she did not possess a strong grasp of program funding, e.g., she did not understand why planning was required to secure funding for repairs to UWW buildings,” the report states.
The report also states the chancellor’s budget “was in the red, including operation, travel and furniture,” according to one witness.
In her rebuttal provided to The Gazette this week, Kopper complained investigators went “outside the scope of the investigation’s stated purpose,” which might be true but doesn’t diminish the investigators’ observations.
Responding directly to the budget issue, Kopper asserts UW System President Ray Cross “praised her budgetary skills, commenting that she was ‘Excellent with managing the budget’ at UW-Whitewater.”
She makes a fair point, though performance evaluations, if that’s the source of Cross’ comment, sometimes prove superficial. Plenty of employees who’ve been fired from their jobs can point to glowing evaluations prior to whatever incident triggered their dismissal.
Also concerning are statements from witnesses cited in the report that Kopper micromanaged to the point of needing to approve the hiring of custodians and yelled at employees until red-faced, encounters some referred to as “floggings.”
While Kopper’s inability to recognize her husband’s deviant behavior is disturbing, the investigation’s observation about her lack of budgeting competence is alarming. UW-Whitewater is a public institution, after all, funded in part by state taxpayers.
Up until allegations against her husband surfaced, Kopper seemed like a put-together administrator. She exuded confidence, and we never had reason to suspect she couldn’t handle finances.
Perhaps this is an issue Sen. Steve Nass, R-La Grange, who takes a keen interest in UW System matters, should more closely examine. Is Kopper the exception or the rule among UW System chancellors? Chancellors should be more than mere figureheads. They should understand finances and how they affect their campuses.