By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

The University of Wisconsin System has placed UW-Whitewater Chancellor Dwight C. Watson on administrative leave pending the outcome of an unspecified complaint lodged against the campus leader.

Interim President Tommy Thompson, of the University of Wisconsin System, declined to offer further details related to the Watson investigation in a Sept. 3 statement.

“We will have no further comment on this personnel matter at this time,” the statement said. “UW-Whitewater Provost Greg Cook will serve as leader of the university until the complaint is resolved.”

Cook acknowledged the situation has been a challenge for the university in a Facebook post sent to colleagues later that day.

He placed on emphasis on avoiding speculation or rumor regarding the investigation into Watson.

“We need to allow UW System to complete the investigation, which may take some time,” Cook wrote. “Meanwhile, I am asking for your understanding and support.”

The support, he said, will help the university’s leadership move forward in what he said was already a challenging week of new students starting classes as well as lingering concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an important week for so many of our community members. It’s the first college for some students, we have new faculty and staff who join us in helping our students learn and grow, and we’ve started back to classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Cook encouraged staff members to contact supervisors with any needs and help one another.

“This is an outstanding place to learn and to work. We have faced our share of challenges in recent years, and we’ve overcome them by putting our students, faculty and staff first, focusing on the exceptional education we provide to our students an on our continued service to this region. None of that has changed,” he said.

Watson, the 17th Chancellor at UW-Whitewater, began his tenure Aug. 1, 2019 and replaced former campus leader Beverly Kopper.

Before he arrived to UW-Whitewater, Watson served as provost and vice president of academic and student affairs at Southwest Minnesota State University, which enrolls about 7,300 students annually.

Watson previously worked as dean of the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa, associate dean of the Teacher Education Program at UW-Eau Claire as well as Department of Education chairperson at Hamline University, according to his UW-Whitewater biography.

Kopper stepped down from the post after her husband, Alan Hill, faced allegations of sexual harassment against students and staff.

Hill, according to published reports, has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Cook recognized students and staff could be confused by the sudden change in leadership and stressed resources are available.

“It’s natural and OK to be confused and upset by this unexpected change,” he said.

Students seeking resources have been encouraged to use University Health and Counseling Services while faculty and staff can access the UW-Whitewater employee assistance program.

Additionally, the UW System’s new service called Silver Cloud Health can help assess employee stress and direct staff members to needed support and resources.

“Warhawks are resilient. We pride ourselves on the excellence of everything we do, and that has not changed. I sincerely thank you for all you have done and continue to do on behalf of the university.”

The university plans to make decisions on an interim provost and an interim vice chancellor for administrative affairs, Cook said.



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