Chancellor Dwight C. Watson, the 17th chancellor at UW-Whitewater, began his term on Aug. 1, 2019. (Photo: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater)

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Chancellor Dwight Watson is returning to his job after an allegation that he engaged in sexual misconduct at a former job was found to be without merit. 

Watson will return to his chancellor responsibilities Monday. He was placed on paid administrative leave Sept. 3, the day after classes began.

The accusations came from a man who Watson had mentored over a period of six years, but who had become “vengeful” and has accused Watson of sexual misconduct at least once before. The accusations were found to be unsubstantiated by Watson’s former employer and now by UW System.

In a message to campus Friday, Watson thanked his cabinet for their work in his absence and community for their outpouring of support.

He said he was pleased by the outcome and applauded the thoroughness of the investigation, which he said demonstrated that the UW System takes allegations of sexual misconduct seriously.

“I know this was a period of additional uncertainty in uncertain times,” Watson wrote. “I thank you for your patience, understanding, and your trust in the process.”

Andrew Petersen, president of the UW Board of Regents, issued a statement saying he is glad the allegations were found to be without merit and that the board looks forward to Watson’s return to UW-Whitewater.

According to an investigation summary released Friday by UW System, the allegations stem from a Facebook message that alleged Watson resigned from a former job at the University of Northern Iowa “due to sexual misconduct.”

An investigation into the accusations by Northern Iowa years ago found Watson did not violate the school’s policy on discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. Watson did not resign from the school due to the complainant’s allegations, UW System found.

Additionally, the UW System investigation found there were no allegations or evidence of sexual misconduct against Watson during his time at UW-Whitewater or at any other college where Watson held leadership positions going back to 2002.

The report outlines issues that developed in a years-long mentorship Watson has maintained with a man who graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2014.

Watson served as dean of Northern Iowa’s College of Education from 2010 to 2015, before leaving to become provost at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Watson and other witnesses said the relationship was not sexual in nature.

The man lived with Watson for about eight months after graduating from college. Watson also took in the man’s son and his son’s mother for six of those months. 

In 2014, the man alleged to officials at Northern Iowa that Watson was sexually harassing him, claims that were found to be unsubstantiated.

Watson told UW System investigators that the man “had demonstrated a pattern of previously ending relationships with people who had cared for him, such as family, friends and co-workers.”

From 2017 to 2019, the man spent periods of time in jail and on probation. Watson said he “reluctantly” agreed to let the man live with him again after being released from jail in May 2019 because stable housing was part of the terms of his parole.

When he was hired to his role at UW-Whitewater, Watson told former UW System President Ray Cross and the UW-Whitewater cabinet that the man was living with him, the investigators confirmed. 

However, the man began to face issues with drinking and substance abuse and Watson asked him to move out on Aug. 15. About two weeks later, the man sent a message to UW-Whitewater’s Facebook page, reiterating his allegations from Northern Iowa.

In his letter to campus, Watson said he is ready to come back to his role.

“I remain vigilant in supporting our processes involving sexual violence and sexual harassment for the betterment of our students,” Watson said. “My focus now is on leading as Chancellor. I do not intend to issue any further public statements on this matter.”

Contact Devi Shastri at 414-224-2193 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @DeviShastri.

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