Football players accused of sexual assault to get hearings this week

The Thursday and Friday closed-door hearings will determine if the 10 Gophers football players will have their expulsion and suspension recommendations upheld.

Christopher Aadland

The suspended Gophers football players accused of sexual misconduct will have closed-door hearings this week to determine if they will be disciplined, the Star Tribune reported Wednesday evening.

In day-long hearings Thursday and Friday, the players accused of sexually assaulting a woman in September will plead their cases to the University of Minnesota committee that hears sexual misconduct cases, according to the Star Tribune. The players have denied the allegations and say the sex was consensual.

The committee, made up of faculty, staff and students determines whether students accused of a sexual misconduct committed the offense. If it decides that a student is responsible for an offense, it then determines sanctions.

If found responsible, the players can appeal the decision to Provost Karen Hanson.

In December, the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action recommended that 10 football team members be expelled or suspended after an internal Title IX investigation determined that the accused players had “more likely than not” committed sexual assault and/or sexual harassment in a Dinkytown apartment after a football game last year. The report was obtained and first published by KSTP-TV.

The players were suspended from football activities by the athletics department after the EOAA’s investigation, spurring a boycott by the football team of football activities until their teammates were reinstated, counter-protests by victim-survivors and advocates and the firing of the head football coach.

The most recent sexual assault and harassment allegations follow concerns in an July 2015 email sent to the then-athletics director from the University’s Title IX office about a “concerning pattern” of alleged sexual assault, harrassment and retaliation among football team members.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has twice declined to press charges in the case following an investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Starting in 2011, the federal government under the Obama administration, concerned that colleges and universities weren’t adequately addressing campus sexual assault, directed schools to more seriously tackle the issue.

Though controversial, schools were directed to use a “more likely than not standard” — lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard the criminal courts use — to determine whether an accused student was responsible for sexual misconduct.

Since then, the University has experienced an increase in the number of sexual misconduct cases.

About one-fourth of female undergraduates nationwide report experiencing non-consensual sexual contact during their time enrolled, according to a September 2015 Association of American Universities study. Overall, almost 12 percent of students report unwanted sexual contact.