UMN liberal groups call for accountability after Franken sexual misconduct allegations

Some students believe Franken should resign after the allegations that surfaced Thursday and Monday.

President of College Democrats at the University of Minnesota, Braxton Haake, right, talks to U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 outside of Coffman Union.

Chelsea Gortmaker

President of College Democrats at the University of Minnesota, Braxton Haake, right, talks to U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 outside of Coffman Union.

by Carter Blochwitz

Allegations of sexual misconduct by U.S. Sen. Al Franken are a disappointment to student supporters at the University of Minnesota.

Former supporters and University students have expressed frustration and disgust after Franken was accused of sexual misconduct by two women in incidents four years apart.

Franken, one of the two U.S. senators who represents Minnesota, faced an initial wave of bipartisan demands for a Senate ethics investigation after radio anchor Leeann Tweeden accused him of forcibly kissing and groping her in 2006. 

On Monday, additional uproar was sparked when a second woman, Lindsay Menz, accused Franken of inappropriately touching her during a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

Calls for Franken’s resignation have since echoed around the nation and the University campus.

“He’s really someone that was a personal inspiration of mine,” said Benjamin Allard, vice president of the University College Democrats.

Allard said he used to be confident Franken could “deal with” President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric, but now believes the senator should resign.

“I think by staying and trying to hold on to his position, he’s really not centering the concerns of women,” he said. “And more broadly, the kinds of people who experience this awful behavior.”

Franken’s apologies to both Tweeden and Menz have, in part, claimed ignorance or different recollections of his alleged actions. 

And despite Tweeden’s acceptance of Franken’s apology, some are still skeptical of his sincerity.

“I think his original statement [to Tweeden] was a pseudo-apology,” said Madeline McMaster, co-chair of the Young Democratic Socialists of America at the University of the Minnesota. “[It was] a denial of wrongdoing on his part, wrapped in a victim-blaming rhetoric.”

McMaster said she felt disappointment and anger over the accusations, along with a sense of betrayal.

“I think, without a doubt, he should resign. I really don’t think there are any other ethical or right alternatives,” she said.

Though the news came as a shock to many, Skyler Dorr, an organizer in Students for a Democratic Society, said he didn’t find the allegations against Franken very surprising because of the prevalence of “predatory men” in power.

Dorr praised the growing trend of holding perpetrators accountable.

“There’s no valid excuse for sexual assault, so holding those men accountable is overwhelmingly a good thing,” Dorr said.

Immediately following initial accusations made by Tweeden, sexual assault advocate and former University student Abby Honold requested Franken’s name be removed from a bill they had drafted together to aid sexual assault victims.

Honold said she immediately issued a statement after learning of the accusations to make clear that she and her legislation stood with survivors — and that Franken’s involvement was distanced from the bill.

“I really look forward to an ethics investigation [on Franken],” Honold said. “There might be other people with stories.”

Despite the circumstances, Honold said she was grateful for the cooperation and support from Franken’s office on the legislation.

On Sunday, the office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., confirmed that she would sponsor the bill in place of Franken.

“I am very excited to work with Senator Klobuchar,” Honold said. “Considering everything that has come out, I think it is a good idea to have this headed up by a woman.”

Klobuchar said in a statement that she believes that this is just another example of why change is needed in work environments and reporting practices across the nation.  

“If anything, you’d hope the situation surrounding [Franken] will just further prove that bills like that, that validate assault survivors, are necessary,” McMaster said.