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UW-Whitewater students stand by chancellor after husband accused of sexual harassment

Posted at 4:37 PM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 13:22:15-04

The number of womenaccusing the husband of UW-Whitewater's Chancellor of sexual harassment is growing.  

One of the alleged victims is now calling on Chancellor Beverly Kopper to step down as the UW System launched another investigation into the allegations.  Students are well aware of accusations.  

"It's not a woman's fault what a man decides to do," said Trisha Castaneda.

UW System leaders stripped Pete Hill of his title as Associate to the Chancellor, an unpaid position, and banned him from campus back in June in the midst of the accusations.  

"I think a lot of people would feel better about if we knew a lot more about it," said Caitlyn Devalk.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported five women, including three employees, accused Hill of harassment. A former student and now Whitewateralderwomanis one of them.  Stephanie G. Vander Pas sent TODAY'S TMJ4 the following statement: 

"My call for Chancellor Kopper to resign has been mischaracterized and met with a great deal of backlash from those who misunderstand the nature of my implication. Chancellor Kopper’s handling of her husband’s conduct fails to meet the expectations of those for whom she was given the responsibility to keep safe, mentor, and lead. While I recognize that a spouse may not be held responsible for every action his or her partner may take during their marriage, I believe records have shown and will continue to show Chancellor Kopper acted irresponsibly in her decision to keep him active in his position during the investigation and to wait several months before releasing the information to staff and students, doing only so while under the pressure of a media release from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Chancellor Kopper leads a major university and should be expected to make decisions to keep all faculty, staff, and students safe-regardless of her personal feelings in the matter.

This has been an incredibly challenging time for myself and my family. While I recognize that I am an elected official and have asked to be subject to additional public scrutiny, in this instance, I am a victim. It is challenging to have a traumatic incident of this nature shown and discussed in multiple media outlets and on the internet by those who do not know me or my family. I had returned to UW-Whitewater to seek a Master’s Degree at the time my claims took place, making my decision to file a complaint more difficult. I regret that my struggle to file a complaint led to a delay in action and I hope to someday live in a society where the victims of these crimes, regardless of their gender, positions of power, or goals in life feel they can speak out about them without fear.

I am currently seeking additional psychiatric care to handle the traumatic nature of these incidents and I appreciate all of the kind, thoughtful messages I have received from people over the last week. I look forward to returning to my governmental duties soon."

Republican state Sen. Steve Nass is also calling for Kopper's resignation, but students don't think it's necessary. 

"She has our back and we have her back," said Sam Swiecichowski.

"I feel like she's doing everything she can," said Sharva Billings.

Click here to see Kopper's letter to campus following the initial investigation.

Students think their leader is being as transparent as possible considering the circumstances. 

"I think she'll do what's best for us," said Devalk.

"I think it was actually really responsible of her to like tell students about it because I didn't know," said Castaneda.

Hill has denied the accusations.  

"I would like to hear something from him and obviously I see who the grownup is," said Castaneda.

Kopper declined an interview, but sent the following statement: 

"Throughout my role as an educator I always have encouraged everyone to follow the official process for reporting allegations of misconduct, no matter who is involved. I have always implemented proper procedures in such situations.

I was notified by the UW System about the allegations involving my husband and they took me completely by surprise.

At the end of the independent UW System investigation, I concurred with the need for disciplinary action and I immediately implemented it. My focus remains on a commitment to excellence at UW-Whitewater."

Kopper told students and faculty a UW System investigation found the allegations had merit.  On Thursday the UW System spokesperson would only say they launched an investigation and can't comment since this is an ongoing investigation.