Amid Questions Over AD, U Of M Launches Investigation

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Within the past few hours, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and the chair of the university’s Board of Regents have agreed to a major independent investigation of the school’s athletic department.

This comes after the news of two prior sexual discrimination complaints involving former University of Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague.

The first complaint, accusing Teague of gender discrimination, came from the women’s basketball coach at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012 when he was the athletic director there. The complaint was settled for $125,000 in July of 2012.

Then in March of 2013, a senior associate athletic director at the U of M filed a complaint after she was fired. She questioned Norwood Teague’s “commitment to Title IX.”

That case was settled in April of 2014 for $175,000. Teague resigned last Friday.

News of the two discrimination complaints in addition to the harassment complaints is fueling outrage at the highest level.

On Tuesday, the chair of the Board of Regents who oversees the University met with President Kaler and the Board Vice Chair.

The result, according to Board Chair Dean Johnson, will be an examination of every aspect of the U’s athletic department.

“We have zero, zero tolerance of this kind of behavior,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who is also a former Minnesota senate majority leader, said the first part of the investigation President Kaler has  agreed to is a thorough independent audit of the athletic department.

“The investigation will look at all kinds of things such as compliance, expense reports, eligibility across the whole waterfront of the university,” Johnson said.

A separate focus will be employment.

“We would like to hire an employment attorney to look at the culture and employment practices within the department. We want to be transparent, we do not want to sweep this under the rug,” Johnson said.

Johnson was on the Board of Regents in 2012 when two search committees assured the board that  Teague was an ideal candidate.

“When I asked the question was there any sign of any impropriety on behalf of Mr. Teague there was no sign,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he was never told that a federal gender discrimination complaint had been filed against VCU by a basketball coach while Teague was serving as athletic director.

“I believe we should have known but we didn’t,” Johnson said.

Johnson said details of the investigation have yet to be worked out, but he is promising they will be thorough

“When we get through this, we will be a better university and a better department of the athletics,” Johnson said.

The U of M scandal is raising questions at the legislature.

State Senator Terri Bonoff the Chair of the Higher Education Budget Committee says she would like to see a law requiring all settlements involving taxpayer dollars be made public.

Teague still has a U of M phone number and email. He did not reply to our requests for an interview.

In the legislature

The U of M scandal is raising questions at the legislature.

State Sen. Terri Bonoff, the chair of the Higher Education Committee, said she would like to see a law requiring all settlements involving taxpayer dollars be made public.

“These are our taxpayer dollars,” Bonoff said. “I think we ought to question, ‘Is there a threshold when a settlement happens?’ There’s transparency where the legislature knows, and we’re really a window to the public.”

Bonoff also wants to look at what’s going on in the work places in Minnesota and around the country to make sure women feel safe and protected.

The lawyer for a former U of M Ph.D. student said the school didn’t do enough when his client came forward with sexual harassment claims.

She said her research adviser sexually harassed her while on out-of-town research trips. Her attorney, Joe Larson, said an investigation found the adviser did violate the school’s sexual harassment policy. But Larson said for three months after his client reported the harassment she had to continue working with the man responsible.

“This seems to be an institutional wide problem at the University of Minnesota, and litigation I’ve seen, they have failed to follow even their own policies on reporting these and taking these to the appropriate departments where they can be investigated,” Larson said.

Larson said his client resigned before finding out the claim was being investigated. Her lawsuit is currently being heard in Federal Court.

More from Esme Murphy
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