The University of Minnesota should beef up its appeals process in sexual misconduct cases involving employees, but otherwise it is doing a satisfactory job handling such allegations, according to a report released Thursday by the legislative auditor.
The report also found that the U’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) “has done a good job resolving reports of employee sexual misconduct and recommending appropriate discipline, when applicable.”
The review was conducted by Legislative Auditor James Nobles and Joel Alter, the director of special reviews, at the request of lawmakers following a series of allegations of sexual assault and harassment at the U since 2015.
“We focused on sexual misconduct by University employees and other parties (for example, contractors, volunteers, and patrons) involved in school-related activities occurring on or off the Twin Cities campus,” Thursday’s report said. It did not, however, include allegations of sexual misconduct against students.
Last year, the university received 37 reports of employee sexual misconduct and completed investigations in 18 of those cases — some were dropped when the accusers declined to cooperate, the report found. Eleven cases resulted in disciplinary action; employees resigned or were dismissed in six of those cases, while others faced demotion, reprimands or other sanctions. “Our review showed that EOAA’s response to sexual misconduct reports against employees was thorough,” the report said.
The auditors concluded that the U’s current policies “comply with major federal requirements,” with one exception. “In our judgment, the policies fail to provide a process for accused employees and their alleged victims to appeal sexual misconduct findings,” the report said. It noted that appeals are available to both sides when a student is accused.
The report noted that the U has recently improved its policies and that they’re generally similar to those of other Big Ten universities.
In a written response, University President Eric Kaler said “the positive findings reflect the University’s serious commitment to properly addressing sexual misconduct.” He added that “we respectfully disagree” on the need for a new appeals process “beyond that which is already in place for accused employees.” But he said the U is open to considering the recommendations.
The auditor’s office said it launched the review last summer after a series of high-profile incidents, including the 2015 resignation of Athletic Director Norwood Teague amid accusations of sexual harassment. That same year, the U agreed to tighten its policies following a complaint that female athletes had been subjected to a sexually hostile environment.
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384