Dear President Kaler and the Board of Regents,
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) is writing to voice our opposition to the ongoing sexual harassment and abuse of women and queer and transgender people that has been pervasive on this campus for a longtime, but has just this semester began making headlines. 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. With the flood of recent headlines about sexual violence at the U of M, SDS and the undersigned call on the administration to demand accountability for their personnel and a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault.
The actions by members of the University community that have been broadcast in recent headlines are troubling to SDS and to students in general for two main reasons:
First, the assaults and harassments have held up an already-pervasive rape culture that exists on college campuses around the country. The University of Minnesota’s athletic department’s lack of action regarding the recent behaviors of football players, both in groups as well as individually, has only supported the wide-spread and disturbing trend that men are entitled to do whatever they want, regardless of the consent or non-consent of other parties involved, with little to no consequence. While the U’s recent passage of the Affirmative Consent Policy is a step in the right direction, SDS demands the administration’s policies reflect its rhetoric.
Second, SDS has advocated for lower tuition for many years, (with the 2013 tuition freeze evidence of our struggles). 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. For example, the search committee that hired Norwood Teague to be Athletic Director had documented evidence of a history of sexual harassment, but the administration chose to hire him anyway. Teague got $422,000 per year to come to the U to harass women. SDS stands against this gross misappropriation of our tuition dollars. It is horrendous that while our tuition continues to skyrocket, and administrators continue to line their pockets with raises and bonuses, they hire harassers like Teague.
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. These behaviors set examples for the wider campus community. Coach Kill, as a very public representative of the U of M, is paid $2.5 million, and has a responsibility to this community to take a proactive stance against the sexual violence perpetrated by his football players.
SDS stands in solidarity with the victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus and joins them in demanding accountability from university leaders and administrators. It is not enough to simply report incidents up the chain of command without addressing the larger problem. If the University chooses to continue ignoring the allegations its players and high-ranking administrators are facing, it would be at a serious detriment to the safety and well-being of our campus community, thereby perpetuating the culture of rape on campus. Students, staff, and faculty stand up for our university.
Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota
Amnesty International – UMN
MPIRG – Task force against sexual violence