UMN regents will review sexual assault case involving Gophers football players

The U’s chief auditor is expected to complete the review by May and will report to the Board of Regents.

Gophers football players sit on the sidelines during a game at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 3, 2015.

Joe Sulik, Daily File Photo

Gophers football players sit on the sidelines during a game at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 3, 2015.

Christopher Aadland

The University of Minnesota will conduct an internal review of the school’s handling of a sexual assault case involving Gopher football players.

On Friday, Board of Regents Chair Dean Johnson said regents will oversee the review of the University’s widely criticized investigation of a September sexual misconduct case involving a student and several football players.

The assessment will be conducted by the University’s chief auditor and should be completed by May, Johnson said.

The review will “clarify and confirm accountability for actions taken” and will “identify areas of improvement to address similar matters in the future,” he said.

In the resolution, the board said the school’s handing of the case included “inconsistent statements and descriptions of the events … regarding the timing and basis for actions and decisions by the administration” that “appear inconsistent with the Regents commitment to addressing the issue of sexual assault on campus and protecting those who report sexual assault.”

The University initiated an investigation after a September report of alleged sexual assault involving ten football players.

After the report, four players were suspended in September. The suspensions were lifted in November, but in December, the same four players and six additional teammates were suspended after a University Title IX investigation alleged that they were responsible for sexual misconduct.

Six players were eventually sanctioned by a three-person panel, but after appeals to the Provost, four players have been expelled and one suspended for one-year for violating the student conduct code.

The aftermath of the investigation and widespread support of the accused players by teammates roiled campus in December.

Following the case, University President Eric Kaler announced several steps earlier this month to combat sexual assault on campus. The announcement also came amid an increase in sexual assault cases at the University.

Although the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office twice declined to pursue charges, the school conducted its investigation of the allegations using a federally-required “more likely than not” standard of proof, which is a lower threshold than the courts use.

Three of the suspended players have transferred to an Arizona community college.

“Over the past several months, the University of Minnesota endured a difficult period,” Johnson said. “We are committed to ensuring student safety across all our campuses as well as an appropriate process for all parties involved. When we encounter challenging situations we must step back and learn so that we can do better in the future.”