University of MN: Rape Response (2007)
University of Minnesota Administration and Board of Regents
University of Minnesota Students
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Dear University of Minnesota Administrators, Faculty, Staff, and Regents,
We the undersigned are University of Minnesota students and non-student community members, as well as their supporters nationwide. We are also allies in the fight to end sexual and gender violence in our communities. In light of recent sexual assault charges brought against three University of Minnesota football players:
1) We are supportive of all victim-survivors of gender violence, including sexual assault. We recognize that sexual assault can happen to anyone and that both victims and rapists come from all social, economic, cultural, and age groups and can be of any gender identification or sexual orientation. Coming forward about sexual assault is a difficult choice to make, and we support those victim-survivors who seek help as well as those who suffer in silence.
2) We are outraged at media comments stating support for the accused players made by football coach Tim Brewster and members of the University of Minnesota Athletic Department. Of the players, University Athletic Director Joel Maturi said, It's our responsibility to stand by them and their families." We disagree: If the University, which is supported in part by state and federal dollars, signs your paycheck, you have an obligation to remain neutral in the media.
3) We are unwilling to be associated with a University system that permits athletic staff to make media comments that perpetuate rape myths. By repeatedly stating support for the accused players, athletic staff sends the message that while the players are innocent until proven guilty, the victim-survivor is somehow guilty until proven innocent.
4) We are dismayed to be associated with a University system that permits undergraduate athletes to make media comments about ongoing investigations, particularly regarding sexual assault. Many survivors of violence fear physical and social repercussions for seeking help and reporting the crime committed against them. When athletes make media comments vowing to unconditionally support [the accused] because we are brothers, victims are sent a clear message: If an athlete rapes you, it is your word against the entire team and its fans.
5) We are supportive of the work of the University of Minnesota Police Department and the discretion and standards of the Hennepin County Prosecutors Office. Both of these agencies worked diligently to locate the evidence necessary to hold the men in question on charges of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree and to set bail at $100,000 for each man. The severity of charges and the high bail indicate a wealth of evidence in support of the victim. Furthermore, we commend Chief of Campus Police Greg Hestness, who used an interview opportunity with the Minneapolis Star Tribune to remain neutral and professional about the case while debunking several general rape myths.
WE THE UNDERSIGNED demand that the University of Minnesota:
1) Submit to the media a public apology for all statements of support for the accused rapists made by University staff and athletes.
2) Demand 100\% adherence to and enforcement of university policies of media neutrality, particularly in regard to criminal investigations. Coaches, student athletes, and athletic department staff are known and respected across the state and country. As representatives of the entire university, these members have a responsibility to all members of the campus community. Their comments and actions carry weight, and influence public opinion.
3) Scrutinize and work diligently to change the culture among student athletes that permits and normalizes rape. While we dont blame the football team for the crimes committed by three players, we recognize that there exists among university athletes a culture that normalizes and conceals sexual assault, which is a crime against the state. An appropriate response will include:
*Mandatory annual training for all athletes about the intersection between power and control, sexual assault, and relationship violence.
* Immediate and permanent loss of athletic scholarship for any athlete found guilty by Student Judicial Affairs, or convicted by the state of Minnesota, on charges stemming from a complaint of sexual assault.
* Permanent status of University of Minnesota Athletics ineligibility for any student found guilty by Student Judicial Affairs, or convicted by the state of Minnesota, on charges stemming from a complaint of sexual assault.
4) Recognize that sexual assault is an issue that must be solved by working together as men and women, athletes and non-athletes, administrators, faculty and staff. Continue to appropriate funds for offices already working on this issue, and increase funding for offices providing advocacy and counseling services to victim-survivors affected by these issues.
This is an important opportunity for the University of Minnesota to separate itself from other universities whose reputations have recently been tarnished by inadequate responses to similar crimes. Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.