U of M president: ‘I want to clarify a few things' on Norwood Teague

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler is apologizing for saying former athletic director Norwood Teague was “over-served” when he sexually harassed two university employees, leading to his resignation. President Kaler also offered a clarification of the university’s response to the victims’ reports, along with an explanation of new actions taken by the university.

Letter from University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler

Today, we took two important actions in the wake of Norwood Teague’s resignation.

First, the University has launched an independent external review. We have retained independent, external legal counsel to review issues related to sexual harassment and the athletics department.  And I’ve asked Board of Regents Chairman Dean Johnson to appoint a member of the Regents to the group overseeing the review.

Karen G. Schanfield, a partner in the law firm Fredrikson & Byron P.A., will lead the review.  Ms. Schanfield is a well-regarded employment law expert known for leading many high-profile cases. Ms. Schanfield is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate. Among other matters, Ms. Schanfield has conducted reviews of allegations of sexual harassment and other employment-related claims against several high-level individuals, including the former Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. Ms. Schanfield will work with her law partner, Joseph T. Dixon.  Mr. Dixon is a former federal prosecutor who led the U.S. Attorney’s prosecution of Tom Petters.  Prior to joining Fredrikson & Byron, he served as corporate in-house counsel where he led numerous internal investigations involving allegations of misconduct by high-level executives. Ms. Schanfield and Mr. Dixon will provide a public, written report to the Board and me, consistent with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

Secondly, we will conduct a full audit of Intercollegiate Athletics. I have discussed the need for an audit with Legislative Auditor James Nobles, and he has expressed his confidence in University’s Associate Vice President of Internal Audits Gail Klatt’s independence and ability to conduct a full audit of Intercollegiate Athletics. This was already part of this year’s audit plan, approved by the University’s Board of Regents Audit Committee in June, and that work will now commence immediately with an initial focus on the information most pertinent to the activities surrounding Teague.

Before I detail the range of these reviews, I want to clarify a few things.

Last Friday, during the news conference announcing Teague’s resignation, in response to a question, I said, “I view this as the action of one man who was over served and a series of bad events happened.” I regret that very poor choice of words because I cannot state strongly enough that Teague is entirely responsible for his behavior, and alcohol use is no excuse. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated at the University of Minnesota, and his resignation was the appropriate result of his actions.

Also, upon his resignation we announced that, as needed for one month following his resignation, we would pay Teague for his time on an hourly basis if the University needed to consult with him for any matters during the transition. We knew that the odds were slim that we would need to contact him for any information and, since that time, we have assessed our needs further and have determined that we do not have any need to seek any information from Norwood. I’m confident that, under interim Athletic Director Beth Goetz and her team, we can carry forward without any input from Teague.

Now, as to the scope of the independent and external review, we have asked Ms. Schanfield and Mr. Dixon to:

1. Review and investigate all allegations of sexual harassment against Teague or other senior leaders in the athletics department that come in after Teague’s resignation. The independent counsel will review and investigate all allegations of sexual harassment against Teague or other senior leaders in the athletics department that come in from any source following Teague’s resignation. 

2. Review and address any confidential complaints regarding sexual harassment in the athletics department.The independent counsel will review all reports that are received through the University’s confidential reporting mechanisms regarding sexual harassment in the athletics department to ensure that all reports are appropriately investigated and reviewed.

3. Review whether the University knew or should have known of allegations of sexual harassment by Norwood Teague, but failed to address it. The independent counsel will interview athletics department senior leadership and others as appropriate to determine whether there were other allegations of sexual harassment by Norwood Teague and, if so, whether the University knew or should have known of them and failed to appropriately respond.

4. Review the University’s vetting of Teague during his hiring process.
The independent counsel will assess whether our executive search firm and the institution appropriately checked into Teague’s background. This review will involve both interviews and review of all hiring materials and processes.

5. Assess the climate in the athletics department regarding the reporting and addressing of sexual harassment.

The independent counsel will partner with Kimberly Hewitt, the director of our Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office, to assess whether persons who believe they have experienced sexual harassment related to the athletics department are empowered to report it and whether the reports that are made are appropriately addressed.

As these reviews and audits are conducted, we must always keep in mind the interests of the persons who reported Teague’s conduct and their courage in bringing forth their complaints. I support them, as I’m sure you do, and throughout this process we at the University must be vigilant in our commitment to ensuring a healthy learning, working, and living environment for our students, faculty and employees. Sexual harassment at the University of Minnesota will not be tolerated.

Our actions today to bring in external and independent experts will help to strengthen the culture in Intercollegiate Athletics, help us to learn lessons and, most importantly, to move the University forward.