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There have been a number of questionable decisions coming out of the University of Wisconsin System in recent weeks.

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow invited an adult film actress, Nina Hartley, to speak on campus during the school’s free speech week. Gow said he thought Hartley would lead a worthwhile discussion on the adult film industry and the difference between fantasy and consensual sex.

We are ardent defenders of free speech. Ms. Hartley is free to voice her opinions on the subjects Gow proposed discussing. We don’t, however, feel that the chancellor of a UW System campus should be using state money to pay adult film stars to speak on that campus. We agree with UW System President Ray Cross, who rebuked Gow for “poor judgment.” Gow, himself, recognized the mistake and paid for the speaker himself. But it doesn't forgive the action in the first place. 

An employee of any business who had recently been reprimanded for poor judgment would not, needless to say, be up for a raise. So we don’t have any issue with Gow not receiving the raise that several other System chancellors received recently from the UW Board of Regents.

The raises to other chancellors essentially divvied up the $270,774 salary of former UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, whose position was eliminated in the extensive UW System merger, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Dec. 7. Sandeen left Wisconsin last summer to become chancellor of University of Alaska-Anchorage.

The 13 two-year campuses that Sandeen managed were merged into regional clusters of campuses under the authority of chancellors of four-year campuses. UW-Madison absorbed the UW-Extension and about 1,000 employees around the state.

The regents awarded 10 chancellors raises of at least $14,421. The top raise went to UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who got $72,668 (a 14.25 percent increase) to bump her pay to $582,617. UW-Parkside Chancellor Deborah Ford was one of three chancellors to receive an 11.4 percent raise, increasing their pay from $224,400 to $250,000.

Another four-year campus chancellor who did not receive a raise is UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper, who is under investigation by the System in connection with her husband’s alleged sexual harassment of a former student and at least two female UW-Whitewater employees.

The investigation aims to determine what Kopper knew, when she knew it, and whether she created a hostile work environment that discouraged employees from reporting harassment by her husband, Pete Hill, who had an honorary, unpaid appointment as Associate of the Chancellor by virtue of his wife’s position but has been banned from the Whitewater campus in light of the allegations.

The Regents were absolutely right to deny Kopper a raise, especially since the seriousness of the allegations, if proven true, might require that she be fired.

But while we’re on the subject of issuing raises:

Was no thought given to devoting part of Sandeen’s salary to scholarships or need-based financial aid for Wisconsin-resident students?

We don’t take issue with giving the four-year campus chancellors increased pay for increased responsibility, but this was a missed opportunity to move some of that money from employee payroll back to taxpayers.

Editor's note: The editorial was edited to show that Gow ended up paying for the adult film star to come to campus to speak. 

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