An explanation on behalf of the Special Olympics

The following is the letter Special Olympics Minnesota sent to President Yudof concerning the Jail ‘n Bail event, the subject of Dr. Jay Samuels’ May 4 letter to the editor.

 

Dear President Yudof:

 

I would like to take this opportunity to shed some light on the controversy that followed the Jail ‘n Bail fundraising event held April 10 that was organized by the SAE fraternity and Minneapolis and University of Minnesota Police Departments to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota. I would like to apologize to you and the University for the problems this event caused and reassure you that steps have already been taken to restructure the event for 2002 so classes are not interrupted.

The day of the event Capt. Steve Johnson informed me Dr. Samuels was angry because his class had been disrupted. I went to his office with a University of Minnesota and Minneapolis police officer, but Dr. Samuels had already left for a conference in California. I followed up with Dr. Samuels that day and left him a voice mail expressing our apology and asked him to call me upon his return.

Dr. Samuels called me on April 17, and we talked for about 30 minutes. He relayed to me how the event had transpired in his classroom and his concerns regarding the event. He explained to me, a police officer came into his classroom and asked for the student and did not explain himself to Dr. Samuels or the class. The officer then proceeded to remove the student from the classroom. Dr. Samuels explained to me the perceived reality of the situation because the student was African-American and was dressed “like a gang member,” which apparently only brought more reality to the mock arrest.

I asked Dr. Samuels for the student’s name so I could call and apologize to him personally, but he was unable to identify the student. I asked Dr. Samuels if the officer was a Minneapolis or University of Minnesota police officer, and he said he did not know for which department the officer worked.

I apologized to Dr. Samuels again and asked him to be a part of reorganizing the event or at least reviewing the reorganization plan to ensure these types of things do not happen in the future. He agreed and was satisfied with the outcome of our conversation.

At the time of my conversation with Dr. Samuels, he accepted our apology and felt comfortable with the direction we were headed with regard to the event’s future and felt no further action was warranted.

This is the seventh year of Jail ‘n Bail, and we have not had any reaction like this in the past. The entire event’s proceeds go directly to benefit approximately 6,000 athletes of Special Olympics Minnesota. As of today, we have received over $9,800, of which $2,100 goes toward expenses. We are very appreciative of the efforts of the SAE fraternity and the University of Minnesota Police in helping our fundraising and want to continue the great working relationship that currently exists.

How the incident took place in Dr. Samuels’ classroom is not indicative of how the rest of the mock arrests occurred. Each officer was instructed to ask permission from the instructor to remove a student and was to explain the nature of the mock arrest. Each instructor was then able to decide if the student would be allowed to be taken from their class. What apparently happened in Dr. Samuels’ class was an anomaly but is something that concerns me greatly.

We met on May 16 to discuss the restructuring of the Jail ‘n Bail from its current format. Representatives from the SAE fraternity, Minneapolis and University of Minnesota Police Departments and Special Olympics Minnesota were present to evaluate the Jail ‘n Bail and the subsequent events. We will no longer interrupt classes to serve these mock warrants on students or faculty and will instead schedule times for these individuals to appear in a mock court and post bail. We will determine if it is feasible to go directly to fraternity and sorority houses to serve the mock warrants.

We greatly value our association with the University of Minnesota and do not want to jeopardize the goodwill we have developed over the years. We are taking the necessary steps to ensure we do not offend faculty and students while still running a successful fundraising event.

 

Sincerely, David Herbster Special Events & Promotions Director