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UMN SDS delivers letter to President Kaler slamming sexual harassment on campus, demanding accountability

By Stephanie Taylor |
November 12, 2015
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Members of SDS deliver letter to University of Minnesota administration slamming sexual harassment on campus.

Minneapolis, MN - Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) delivered a letter addressed to University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and the university's board of regents, Nov. 6, which put forward student concerns over the sexual harassment and assaults that have been perpetrated by members of the university's own administration.

Over the past months, the University of Minnesota has been appearing in local and national headlines for sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations surrounding members of its administration. Early in the semester Norwood Teague resigned as the athletics director amid revelations that he had inappropriately engaged with two female coworkers, both verbally and physically, at a university senior leadership retreat this summer.

But, records show that this is not just a one-off incident that President Kaler was uninformed about. In one interview, Kaler admitted that this was a "long-standing problem" of getting drunk and harassing women. In his former position at Virginia Commonwealth University, Teague was involved in a gender discrimination settlement with two female colleagues that ended up costing VCU $125,000 and the UMN $175,000. In the $112,000 search the University of MN paid to find Norwood Teague, his predatory behavior didn't come to light. More likely, however, is that it seemed inconvenient and irrelevant to the administration of UMN at the time.

Since Teague's resignation, there have been a series of similar allegations as well as departures from the athletic department. First, information surfaced just in the past month that in the 2014-2015 academic year multiple individuals in the Gopher's football team had complaints lodged against them for sexual assault, harassment and retaliation. To this day, there appears to be no serious investigation and no names have been given with regards to this - various administrative bodies have been virtually silent. After these allegations came to light, head football coach Jerry Kill, at the time facing tremendous pressure in light of recent circumstances for the athletics department, resigned his position for stated health reasons. Now, just over this past weekend, Mike Ellis, the University's Associate Athletic's Director, resigned his position citing that he felt that he was an unfair target in his colleague's [Teague's] investigation. Ellis was on administrative leave while being investigated for sharing inappropriate photos of college-aged women on his cell phone at U-sponsored sporting events.

It is clear that the athletics department is bailing out of a sinking ship. What President Kaler was so keen to ignore is now becoming public scandal after public scandal for the university. To this day, the administration of the university, President Kaler's office, has yet to prove that they are taking these investigations seriously. Members of Students for a Democratic Society are asking members of the university community to sign on to this letter demanding accountability from the office of the president and the board of regents themselves. The letter reads in part:

"The University administration’s lack of serious action on this issue demonstrates to us that it is not only not taking these issues seriously, but also contributing to the culture of rape on our campuses...

"It adds insult to injury for students who are, each year, taking on more and more debt, when we realize that the UMN administration is knowingly hiring perpetrators of sexual violence and paying them large sums of money. SDS demands accountability from the administration for hiring perpetrators like Norwood Teague.

"Additionally, SDS demands further accountability of people in position of great influence over the student body, such as Coach Jerry Kill. Coach Kill seems to think that simply reporting incidents of sexual violence as they come up exempts him from further responsibility for the appalling behaviors of his football players."

To read the full letter and to support SDS' demands, visit www.umnsds.wordpress.com

Stephanie Taylor is a member of UMN SDS

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