Former UMN student begins trial for sexual harassment case

Opening statements were made in U.S. District Court Monday.

Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota on April 5, 2015.

Daily File Photo

Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota on April 5, 2015.

by Mike Hendrickson

A federal sexual harassment case involving a former University of Minnesota student and a University-sponsored researcher began Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

The trial is expected to last five days.

Stephanie Jenkins, a former University doctoral student, filed a lawsuit in 2013 for an alleged incident in 2011 against Ted Swem, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services researcher on a University-sponsored sabbatical at the time. Jenkins is also suing the University.

Jenkins alleged Swem made unwanted sexual advances on her and that the University created a hostile work environment by letting it happen.

The alleged incident happened in Alaska in the summer of 2011. Jenkins was researching peregrine falcons with Swem when he photographed her behind and asked about her romantic life, according to the criminal complaint.

Jenkins made it clear she didn’t want to be romantically involved but had to keep working with Swem, the complaint said. After she returned to the University in 2012, she found she would have to share an office with Swem.

Jenkins left the school 10 days after reporting the problem to the University’s Office of Human Resources and Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.