Email accuses Gophers football players of sexual assault, harassment, retaliation

Details have surfaced about reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by University of Minnesota football players. This comes 2 months after the resignation of athletics director Norwood Teague over allegations of sexual harassment.

The internal email obtained by Fox 9 lists a total of what appears to be 5 separate incidents involving Gophers football players over the last year-plus. No names are included, and the alleged violations are loosely classified by the university’s director of equal opportunity and affirmative action:

2 cases of sexual assault.
2 cases of sexual harassment.
1 concern of retaliation.

One case of sexual harassment was substantiated. The email notes the retaliation allegation, while not violating university policy, did raise concern. The other 3 allegations were not explored because "the reporting students did not want to go forward with an investigation."

The email was sent by Kimberly Hewitt to then-athletics director Norwood Teague that her office had noticed "a potential pattern that may or may not be indicative of a broader problem.”

She goes on to say the issues raised are concerning enough and asks for a strategy meeting to talk about them. Interestingly, she suggests leaving out the coach until a plan can be formulated.

“Five complaints. I want to know more about that. What is happening? What kind of actions are taking place? We have to have zero tolerance policy around all this,” Sen. Terri Bonoff, chair of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, said to Fox 9 over the phone.

“I want to know from Beth Goetz., our new athletic director: When did she get that email? When did she learn about what happened? And what is happening, what actions are being taken?" Bonoff continued.

Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson has been a critic of the University’s administration since athletic director Norwood Teague was accused of sexual harassment and found to be facing a discrimination complaint at his previous university.

“It raises serious questions about why a criminal act was not reported to the county attorney and the police,” Carlson said.

He believes investigating these claims internally is a conflict of interest and outside authorities should have been involved.

"It's a culture really of co-dependency. They're all in it together, and nobody is accountable. And if anything goes wrong it's really none of your business,” he said.

Statement from interim athletics director Beth Goetz

"In her role, the University’s Title IX officer proactively contacted the Athletics Department to initiate discussions on whether reports of sexual assault and harassment constituted a broader pattern. All of these reports were fully investigated to the extent that they could be and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) did not substantiate any sexual assault allegations. The EOAA Office substantiated one allegation of sexual harassment.

"A meeting was held between the athletics department and EOAA to determine whether additional educational efforts were needed and these discussions are ongoing. EOAA has independent authority to raise concerns and this is an example of that proactive system.

"One report of sexual assault or harassment is one too many and we took prompt, responsive action to investigate when notified of these reports. Coach Kill has a strong track record of dealing with student-athlete issues as soon as they arise.

"The Athletics Department holds mandatory educational training for all student-athletes on sexual assault each year.  We take any allegations of sexual assault or harassment seriously and investigate all reports. However, under the law and OCR guidelines, we are compelled to protect the identities of any reporting students or others involved in investigations."

Copy of July 16, 2015 email