The U Football Controversy

My beloved alma mater, The University of Minnesota, known affectionately as “The U” by locals including Uncle Luke, is in the midst of an unnerving, confusing controversy with its football team.

This started with a sexual assault allegation against numerous Minnesota football players.  The Star Tribune links to the police report from September 30, 2016.  The alleged assault(s) occurred on September 1-2, 2016:

  • “She doesn’t recall how the sex acts started. Victim did remember seeing several people being around and watching.  She described it as a line of people, like they were waiting for their turn.” (pg. 2)
  • “She recalls yelling for them to stop sending people back in the room because she couldn’t handle it. Victim described wrapping herself in the blanket that was on the bed to try and shield herself from the people in the room.  She said she was trying to get her clothes but was unsuccessful.” (pg. 2)
  • Victim said she was scared during the assault, didn’t feel like she could leave, and at some points believed she was being held down. She wasn’t clear if she was being held down or her fear was preventing her from moving.” (pg. 2)
  • “Victim remembers trying to push people off her by pushing on their stomachs and being unsuccessful.” (pg. 2)
  • (police notes after viewing video of sexual activity) “[victim] sounds as though she is somewhat intoxicated, but is not slurring her words and is certainly conscious and aware of what is going on.  She does not appear to be upset by the sexual activity and does not indicate that she wants it to stop…sexual contact appears entirely consensual.” (pg. 9)
  • (1st of the accused) “he had a conversation via Instagram with the victim…she never mentioned feeling as though she was sexually assaulted.” (pg. 10)
  • “She again contact him a little more confused about what happened the night before an and he realized that she had no memory for parts of the evening.” (pg. 10)
  • (2nd of the accused) “[h]e remembered asking her if she was ok with what was about to happen and that she responded with an affirmative.” (pg. 10)
  • (3rd of the accused) “She never appeared to be unengaged in the activity with him and he remained absolute wit his denials that he sexually assaulated the victim.” (pg. 10)

October 3, 2016:  the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office issues a statement announcing no charges will be filed

Based on the evidence available, the county attorney’s office is declining to file any charges. There is insufficient, admissible evidence for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either force was used or that the victim was physically helpless as defined by law in the sexual encounter.

The Star Tribune provides a clear synopsis of the case.  The Star Tribune articles notes that the university is required to investigate accusations of sexual assault pursuant to federal guidelines for schools receiving federal money.  The articles goes on to note the University of Minnesota a complaint is investigated by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action to review for a violation of the student code of conduct.  Finally, the articles says that the 2011 guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education directs schools to use a preponderance of evidence standard for sexual assault.  The U has an “affirmative consent” standard meaning “both parties have to clearly agree to the sexual contact; otherwise, it’s sexual assault.”  Drugs or alcohol vitiate consent.

Minnesota’s Code of Conduct

  1. email to student about the report requesting a meeting
  2. informal meeting in the OSCAI office
  3. The U pledges due process review
  4. The U uses a preponderance of the evidence standard

*There is an opportunity for further review including a hearing

Good Timeline from the Pioneer Press

October 4, 2016: players suspended since the incident are reinstated.

December 13, 2016: accused players suspended and expulsion for some of them

December 14, 2016: 10 Gopher players suspended indefinitely

December 15, 2016: From the Star Tribune

Five of the 10 University of Minnesota football players suspended from the team in the fallout of a student’s sexual assault allegation now face expulsion from school, the players’ attorney, Lee Hutton, said Wednesday night.

Four other players face a one-year suspension and another could get probation stemming from the Sept. 2 incident. The school discipline comes weeks after a criminal investigation resulted in no arrests or charges.

December 15, 2016: the Gopher football team announces a boycott demanding a meeting with the Board of Regents and Due Process for the accused.  Regrettably, they use the phrase “make our program great again” without a hint of irony evidently.

The Gopher coach stood by his players

December 17, 2016: Gopher players terminate their boycott.  They acknowledge the suspensions were not going to be lifted.  The seniors met with the university President and the AD where they all agreed (1) players will get a fair hearing (2) a “showing of support” for the majority of the team [unclear what this means] (3) players use their status to raise awareness of sexual assault and violence against women

According to more good reporting from the Star Tribune, the players had not seen the full report from the EOAA Office.  After reading the full report the seniors the motivation for the boycott changed.

My Take

The police report paints the picture of a “she said, he said, he said, he said, he said, kind of case” complicated by the lack of clear memory from the victim.  The 17-page police report is not enough of course for me to make a clear judgment on the Hennepin County Attorney decision to not press charges.  But that decision appears to have heavily influenced the players.   I can understand, I guess, their confusion.  If the guys aren’t guilty of a crime why are they being punished?  A cursory review of the student code of conduct and the lower evidentiary standard would make the distinction obvious.  The Minnesota penal code is not replicated to serve as the Minnesota student code of conduct.  Ultimately, the Gopher seniors demonstrated poor leadership by rushing to the boycott as the solution.  I mean, they immediately dropped the boycott upon reading the report.  Maybe get a more complete story or more complete information before acting.

I refuse to accept they needed a boycott in order to get the Administration’s attention.  Frankly, they could have even “threatened” a boycott instead of announcing one and then examining the evidence if they really couldn’t get the Administration’s attention.  If they wanted a copy of the report just ask for it.  If it’s denied, then draft a statement and show it to the Administration.  Then release it if it doesn’t work.  But for guys complaining about due process they sure didn’t seem to be following any sort of truly organized process for their own actions.  Perhaps they were expecting a University of Missouri level of success? They got out ahead of their skis a bit and decided a dramatic action was better than a sensible one.  Now they just look erratic and their platform muddled beyond any recognition.

Its on us to change the culture.  Lets hope the Gopher players actually stick by their pledge to use their profile to raise awareness.

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