Letter to the Editor: Open Letter to Chancellor Gow

UWL+Senior+Kendra+Whelan+protesting+by+Hoeschler+Clock+Tower
Back to Article
Back to Article

Letter to the Editor: Open Letter to Chancellor Gow

UWL Senior Kendra Whelan protesting by Hoeschler Clock Tower

UWL Senior Kendra Whelan protesting by Hoeschler Clock Tower

UWL Senior Kendra Whelan protesting by Hoeschler Clock Tower

UWL Senior Kendra Whelan protesting by Hoeschler Clock Tower

Kendra Whelan, Guest Contributor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Dear Chancellor Gow, 

I emailed you with no response. I have been standing at the clocktower in my free time every day for over two weeks now. I have seen you twice and you have not spoken to me. In case you did not know, I have been protesting your lack of transparency surrounding recent sexual misconduct allegations against the former Chair of the Art Department, as well as your silence around the Chemistry professor who was removed from campus last year—and who knows how many others. I understand that there is an open investigation and that you may be unable to provide full answers—now. When this investigation is closed, I do expect you to address these concerns, and to make yourself and other university officials publicly available for further questions from the student body and the greater La Crosse community. 

I’ve been protesting because I believe this brush-it-under-the-rug, silence-at-all-costs approach to professors’ sexual misconduct against students is a violation of the Clery Act and a mockery to Title IX. I’m no lawyer, but not notifying students a professor is being actively investigated for serious sexual misconduct allegations sounds like a violation of the “timely warning” provision in the Clery Act. Students have a right to know if a professor might coerce them into a quid pro quo situation where their grade is tied to sexual favors. Students have a right to know if their professor is endangering their safety. Students have a right to know that if they go into office hours, they might be sexually assaulted. 

Simply issuing a no contact order for one student is not justice for the student who was harmed, or any of the other students harmed, or potential future victims. Especially if that professor has influence over that student’s academic career—like if they are Chair of the department or the only professor who teaches a certain course or discipline. If that student can no longer take those classes or network with the Chair, does that not constitute retaliation for speaking out about the abuse the student suffered? The university has limited the resources available to the student, and potentially ended that student’s career path. If that student wants to pursue that subject, they would now be forced to transfer. How is that not considered retaliation within itself? 

Furthermore, by not notifying students directly that these predatory professors have been removed from campus, the administration is prioritizing reputation over student safety and student trust. After the silence surrounding that Chemistry professor last year, and the current situation, how is any student supposed to trust that their report of misconduct by a professor will be taken seriously? Actions speak louder than words. Ending an email saying that the university takes reports seriously means nothing when there is no evidence to back it up. In any class, students learn that they cannot simply make claims without evidence to support that claim. Considering your, rightful, preoccupation with collecting evidence, and your long career in higher education, I would think you would understand that concept.  

When students have to find out from local news or from some random girl standing at the clock tower that a potential predator has been removed from campus, how is that supposed to make us feel? How does that garner trust? You say that you are the messenger here, but why aren’t the messages directed to us, the ones actually affected by physical proximity to a predator? 

I understand the need to protect the right of the professor in this situation. After all, if the allegation is not credible, why would we want to ruin someone’s reputation? Just as well, tenure can make it difficult to remove a professor. However, it is not the case that these professors merely bumped into a student on accident and the student is claiming a hostile work environment, as Vice Chancellor Figueroa tried analogizing to me. These are claims of coercion, of quid pro quo, and attempted sexual assault. These claims are deeply serious. These claims should not be treated the same as a simple misconstrued bump. There is nothing uncertain about locking a student in a closet, asking her to take off her clothes and then trying to forcibly take them off—that is an attempted assault. That is a crime. 

Following that train of thought, your claim that the initial investigation was thorough—despite the fact it found the Chair of the Art Department had not violated policy—is absurd in light of other victims coming forward. Just as well, looking at your own policy, it is clear that this man committed sexual harassment: “Often, sexual harassment involves relationships of unequal power and contains elements of coercion—as when compliance with requests for sexual favors becomes a criterion for granting work, study, or grading benefits” (Emphasis mine). When the initial investigation concluded, were you not going to monitor this man’s behavior to see if he would use that textbook coercion tactic on students again this year? Were you just going to let him roam campus without any supervision, with only a no contact order against one student? How is that good practice? How does that ensure student safety? How many professors are walking around, having been found “not in violation of policy,” but still a risk to student safety? I know now of at least two. How many more are you protecting? 

However, you told me that the university does not protect predatory professors. Well, it’s up to you to provide a preponderance of evidence of the contrary. Until then, I will see you pass me by at the clocktower. 

Sincerely,  

Kendra Whelan, founding member of PAVE-UWL Chapter 

 

P.S. I’m so sorry to have to submit such a serious open letter on such a beautiful day. 

P.P.S. Your sexual misconduct page is out of date and missing definitions. 

 

Co-signers: 

Alyson Young 

Juliette Moushon 

Sarah Noonan 

Hannah Robb  

Emily Gardner 

Jayci Hoff  

Allison Stanger 

Claire Nate 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email