MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — University of Minnesota women’s gymnastics coach Meg Stephenson resigned Thursday, following two university investigations into student and employee complaints about sexual harassment and retaliation in the program.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights received a complaint on March 20 alleging that the team’s volunteer assistant coach subjected a student athlete (Student A) to sexual harassment during the fall of 2013, and that the university “had notice of the sexual harassment and failed to take effective steps to end the harassment and remedy its effects,” according to an April letter from the OCR to university president Eric Kaler.
U of M associate athletic director Chris Werle confirmed that Jim Stephenson, the husband of Meg Stephenson, was the only volunteer assistant coach on the team’s staff in 2013.
The U of M’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action found that Meg Stephenson retaliated against a person for participating in that initial investigation by “expressing overt hostility” and interfering with that person’s ability to perform their job, which “made (redacted) fear for (their) job,” according to a June 4 letter from the EOAA to Stephenson. The EOAA also found that Stephenson’s “communications to Athletics administrators about her negative feelings toward (the person) also likely harmed (the person’s) professional reputation and future job prospects.”
On July 7, Meg Stephenson received a letter of reprimand from the University after an investigation found she “violated the University’s anti-retaliation policies.”
When asked what occurred between July 7 and Thursday, Werle referred to a statement from athletic director Norwood Teague.
“After careful consideration, this department felt the need for a change,” Teague said in the statement, “for the good of the students and the program.”
The statement termed it a “mutually agreed-upon resignation.”
The University said it took “prompt and appropriate action” after conducting two investigations, which are now completed and closed. The OCR investigation is open. The OCR is responsible for enforcing Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program that receives federal financial assistance.
Under Stephenson, Minnesota reached the NCAA Regionals every year since 1997, capturing top-ten finishes at the NCAA Championships three times. She was the 2013 Big Ten, Regional, and National Coach of the Year. She was named Big Ten Coach of the Year again this past season after leading the Gophers to their second consecutive Big Ten regular season championship.
The university’s two assistant coaches – Jenny Hansen and Louis Johnson – will continue with their current assignments during the search for a new head coach, the school said, with future assignments determined after the new coach is hired.
“We have decided that the time is right for new leadership in the program,” Teague said in a statement. “We appreciate the service of Coach Stephenson and wish her well.”