Brankin: A rude awakening

The consequences of violating sexual misconduct policy? Returning to work.

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Tara Brankin

*This column contains information sensitive to some readers. If you or anyone you know is a survivor of sexual assault or harassment, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.

This past week, several of the people I follow on Instagram began sharing a link to a post by the account @gspecumn. GSP stands for Gender, Sex and Policy, and the account is run by a student group affiliated with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Center on Women, Gender and Public Policy. The post contained a link to an article by the Star Tribune, and after reading that article, I felt sick to my stomach.

On Feb. 5, the Pioneer Press was the first outlet to reveal that James Ron, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School, received over $200,000 following his resignation. He was paid $86,198.40 in severance, $28,107.36 in insurance premiums and $80,685 to cover attorney fees.

Ron resigned from the Humphrey School in July 2020 after being disciplined when a University investigation found he had violated sexual misconduct policy. Since initially being reported on, additional complaints were filed, though he was found “not responsible” for any University policy violations in those instances; the additional cases have since been closed.

Ironically enough, Ron was a human rights professor at the Humphrey School. Ron was allowed to return to work for the fall 2019 semester following a suspension, but some students were not notified that he was returning until after classes had started as well. The people who accused him of harassment could have seen him walking down the hallways, as though nothing had happened to them.

Humphrey School Dean Laura Bloomberg notified students and staff of Ron’s resignation in mid-July of 2020 via email. The email read: “Jim is an accomplished scholar. During his nine years of service to the School he has contributed substantially to the growth and development of our global policy teaching and research agenda. I wish Jim well in his future endeavors.”

Knowing that a University investigation found that Ron had violated sexual misconduct policies, I find this email haunting. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would wish an alleged sexual predator well in their future endeavors, regardless of their scholarly prowess.

The Humphrey School is not alone in allowing accused predators to escape the ramifications of their actions. At the University of Illinois Law School, professor Jay Kesan was accused by 15 women of violating the university’s sexual misconduct policy, according to the Illinois Times. During the investigation into these allegations, Kesan was put on paid administrative leave. As of February 2020, his last reported salary was over $200,000.

While these men were removed from their positions, the fact that they didn’t face harsher ramifications further perpetuates the notion that men can sexually harass people and get away with it simply because they hold a position of power.

James Ron, I am now speaking to you directly. You disgust me. Some may consider you “an accomplished scholar,” but in actuality, I think you are a weak man who felt he had the right to sexually harass people. While I hope that you feel some semblance of shame for what you have done to these people, I highly doubt that you are capable of feeling culpability or remorse. It makes me sick to think about how relieved you must have felt when you received that $200,000.

But you did not win. Those people came forward and spoke out against what you did to them. They are survivors, and you will never be able to take that away from them.