I don't even know where to begin. This whole mess is sickening. If you haven't already seen the news, Amelia Rayno of the Star Tribune has written about her own experiences being sexually harassed by former Minnesota Athletics Director Norwood Teague. In case it wasn't already clear, there is very concerning pattern of disturbing behavior here on the part of Teague. Here's what that means.
Expect more victims to come forward
THIS IS A GOOD THING. It means we're all going to read accounts of some pretty ugly behavior. That will not be pleasant. It may feel easier to minimize, dismiss, or ignore what we're hearing. DON'T. When faced with uncomfortable situations, the easy option is to look away. We shouldn't and can't do that. Why?
We must examine how this could happen
On Friday I was pretty bothered by some of the media responses to how the U handled everything. There was plenty of "THIS IS A SCANDAL" and "THE U DIDN'T DO ENOUGH" kind of talk going around. No one offered any real, concrete examples of what should have been done differently and the unsaid implications of great mishandling of these revelations were clear. I found this to be absurd. After all, the U had investigated the allegations, confirmed their validity, accepted Teague's resignation, and publicly released all the relevant documentation to the media. I was glad that the U had done things the right way and been upfront with the public instead of trying to cover things up as so many other institutions have done when faced with misconduct by a top official.
I still feel that way, to a point. Here's the rub. My reactions on Friday had a fairly narrow scope to them. I must admit that I was partially influenced by the completely BS spin Norwood had put out in his morning press appearance. I believed his general timeline and that this was just a specific set of incidents, not the "it was the alcohol's fault" nonsense. I didn't fully consider how unlikely it was that this behavior was only a recent thing. As a result, I missed what TDG alum JDMill did not when he wrote the following in a post at Still Got Hope on Saturday:
Those are the actions of a man who has used these tactics before, and man for whom these tactics, sadly, probably worked at some point.
I am not alone here. There is a human tendency to move ourselves past uncomfortable moments faster than we should. I have no doubt that this happened at the University too. Human nature doesn't stop at the edge of an academic campus.
Let me be clear. I'm not implying there was a cover-up or a scandal. If the reports the U received two weeks ago were the first officially reported accounts then when it comes to those instances then the U did things the right way. That is a gut feeling, not one based on a reading of official University policies.
Amelia Rayno's experiences confirm a pattern and suggest that the pattern is likely worse than what has been reported. If Teague sexually harassed a member of the press, I have no doubt he sexually harassed other women beyond the victims we already know about. I believe many at the U will have come to the same conclusion. These individuals need to trust their suspicions and lead by example.
The U needs to work hard to identify any instances of harassment that have gone unreported.
The U needs to look for any examples where someone knew, even unofficially, but didn't do anything.
The U needs to be transparent about their efforts.
The U needs to make clear that any allegations of harassment will be investigated and if validated, appropriately addressed.
I hope those who work at the University hear that challenge and strive to set an example as an institution. I also hope they see it as a challenge on a personal level. I hope people think about any signs they saw but did not recognize or any signs they did recognize but failed to call out. This is a chance to be better.
Don't let yourself look away.
There were questions in Kaler's press conference about what Teague's behavior meant for the athletics department's culture. There are going to be folks who take additional revelations and run to some pretty broad conclusions. In general that's not a good idea without facts. Conversely, unnecessary skepticism is not warranted. Institutions fail when those invested in their success do not hold them accountable. If you love the University of Minnesota then you should want the U to ask hard questions and share all the answers no matter how uncomfortable they could be for the institution.
Accept the challenge to be uncomfortable. The better all of us become at seeing what we may not want to see and standing up when we recognize something is wrong, the better our world becomes.