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Interim President Jeff Ettinger inside Morrill Hall on Sept. 20, 2023. Ettinger gets deep with the Daily: “It’s bittersweet.”
Ettinger reflects on his presidency
Published April 22, 2024

UMN community members petition for stronger consequences for professor who reportedly sexually harassed students

Two investigative reports found that biochemistry professor Gianluigi Veglia violated University sexual harassment policies in 2017.
UMN+community+members+petition+for+stronger+consequences+for+professor+who+reportedly+sexually+harassed+students
Image by Morgan La Casse

Editor’s note: This article discusses sexual harassment. If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual harassment, the Aurora Center’s 24-hour helpline can be reached at (612) 626-9111.

Over 1,500 people have signed a petition asking the University of Minnesota administration to reconsider the decision made in 2017 to keep and sanction a professor who violated the University’s sexual harassment policies.

The University did not fire Gianluigi Veglia, a tenured professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics (BMBB) after multiple students came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct. Two investigations by the University’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office found that Veglia had violated sexual harassment policies in 2017.

Siu Yi Kwang, a chemistry graduate student, created the petition on March 20, which asks professors to “revisit the [Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action] reports and recommendations from 2017 and come up with appropriate actions against Professor Veglia.”

A March 15 article by Chemical & Engineering News prompted the petition. Veglia’s sexual harassment reportedly included making comments about students’ appearances and making sexual advances toward them.

The EOAA recommended that Veglia be fired, but the deans of the College of Science and Engineering and the medical school continued to employ him as faculty, while imposing sanctions on Veglia and banning him from supervising graduate students for three years, according to the article.

Kwang said she hopes the petition will prompt action from the University. She wants to see consequences that are “more proportional” to Veglia’s reported actions in his lab based on the EOAA’s recommendations.

“A lot of the time, it’s very easy to condemn sexual harassment, but what can you actually do when it happens?” Kwang said.

Despite the sanctions placed on Veglia, some chemistry department students and faculty say the University did not take strong enough steps to prevent Veglia’s alleged sexual misconduct because he was not fired.

University alum Katie Youmans, who helped create the petition, said instances like these represent a larger issue in academia: sexual harassment or discrimination that is insufficiently punished might be an explanation for why women may not feel welcome in academic communities, she said.

“They’re protecting him instead of the victims,” Youman said.

Veglia allegedly sexually harassed a student when he served as her principal investigator, a faculty member who guides and funds graduate student research. Students and faculty in the chemistry department said this can lead to a power imbalance between graduate students and their principal investigator.

Beyond advising a student’s research, students often need recommendation letters from their principal investigator after leaving graduate school, meaning students can be hesitant to speak out against inappropriate behavior.

Lee Penn, the director of undergraduate studies in the chemistry department, said there is a great deal of support for the petition among faculty.

“In terms of the faculty members I have directly spoken to, I would say there’s a large body of support for our students and a large body of support for not having professor Veglia teach in our department, and not having him advise graduate students,” they said.

Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson and President Joan Gabel have responded to concerns about Veglia’s alleged behavior and lack of severe consequences in an email to the students, faculty and staff of the chemistry department.

“We are committed to inclusive and meaningful restorative justice, so the University will hire an external consultant to ensure a robust restorative justice process,” the email read. “We are engaged with experts in the field who will be guiding this important work and will provide additional information as this initiative progresses.”

Kwang sent a letter to Croson and Gabel criticizing their response. The administrators responded, acknowledging her message.

“Your communication suggests that the University has the power to relitigate discipline previously imposed to send a message. That is not accurate. While we can reinforce the genuineness of the discipline previously imposed, we cannot wield authority to re-open individual employment determinations, regardless of how much we might wish to,” read the email from Croson and Gabel.

University spokesperson Jake Ricker said that because Veglia accepted his proposed discipline as dictated under the University’s tenure code, “[t]hat is the end of the process under the Tenure Code. There is no basis for reopening or redoing that process.”

While Kwang said that hiring an external consultant is a good first step, she said she hopes to see more action from the University going forward.

“It took me three separate sittings to read the [C&EN article] … I was in shock,” Penn said. “I would say there’s a lot of anger in the department right now. A lot of people are very angry. The situation’s done harm to our department. And, figuring out how we, as a department, move forward and heal from all of this is going to be a long process, but it’s our job to figure that out.”

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  • praiseinterracialmarriages
    Apr 13, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    The term “sexual harassment” means many things to many people. I was accused of sexual harassment and evicted from Centennial Hall dormitory in 1988 as a result of being nearsighted and the woman claiming that I sexually ogled her; and also because after standing up quickly after a two hour movie, I stumbled, grabbed a female student’s knee to keep from falling on her (she called it “sexual touching”), and the dorm director refused to receive medical data to state that I had low blood pressure at the time of the incident and was therefore prone to falling during that occasion.

    The University of Minnesota did not honor my human rights, or my right to address the claims as being inaccurate and/or presumptuous or unreasonable.

    I was accused of sexual harassment in 2019 for writing to my colleagues on DFL Senate District 60 Central Committee, in which I served as a director for ten years, to talk about how I had been raped and molested by women, both on and off campus, and in job interviews, in the 1980’s (Senate District 60 includes the Minneapolis campus of University of Minnesota). The woman or women, who support the policy of permitting abortion, which calls on the dismemberment, scraping, and evacuation of fetuses from wombs, declared that my statements describing my rape and molestations made for a hostile and offensive environment.

    Statistics from the EEOC report that from 2009-2020, over 50% of sexual harassment complaints were dismissed due to lack of reasonable cause. This shows that a number of women are either not aware of the restrictions which define what is not sexual harassment, or women are using sexual harassment allegations for retaliation for non-sexual harassment incidents (which I have experienced on three occasions and have been vindicated by a major corporation). Another reason why some women claim sexual harassment is their thought that they may receive a financial award which may allow them the ability to have more in the way of creature comforts. While some complaints of sexual harassment are legitimate, the EEOC statistics show that this is not mostly the case.

    A woman in England, who was an outspoken #MeToo Movement affiliate, was successfully sued for libel a few years ago and required to pay her victim over US$1 million for the ill effects that her accusation had on her victim.

    Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, in a Washington Post article a few years ago, noted that in his travels around the United States, he began to understand that we, as a people, are very lonely and that we do not always have places to meet potential friends, lovers, mates, or spouses; the workplace is one environment where we do have an opportunity to meet people given the long hours we work and the opportunity to meet people with similar interests. As such, adjudicators in sexual harassment complaints must be considerate of both the claimant’s concerns, as well as those of respondents’ needs, desires, and rights.

    Moreover, I would like to see evidence against this professor (and others) discussed in Minnesota Daily before I make any decisions about my moving to agree with one side or another. What exactly was said? Was the conduct repetitive and more than annoying, or was it occasional and indicative of sincere interest in developing a relationship? As the case has already involved discipline, why is it again in the news?

    By talking about the professor as though he has been convicted of a crime, taking on the emotional significance of murder in some people’s minds, without noting what exactly he said, women and Minnesota Daily are ruining that man’s life. While women do have a legitimate concern for their future letters of recommendation, making a spectacle of this situation is doing no one any favors; a more apt way of responding to sexual advances is to respond with at least a considerate statement of being flattered, but that under no circumstances will one engage in a romance, sexual or otherwise, with a supervisor or professor. This limits the amount of emotional fallout on both sides, while both respecting a suitor’s human needs and desires as well as developing and strengthening a bond with someone who may be of value in the many years to come.

    I know the territory, as I have felt the effects of lack of productivity and the harsh and ongoing emotional torture which developed after complaints which were based on women’s attitudes and reactions about things were not based on sexual conduct, innuendos, or sexual comments, but on their presumption and/or intemperance regarding me neighbor or colleague who had the courage to bring up the abuses and crimes of women, as well as to report the crimes or malfeasance of the claimants or their friends. My interests in none of those people were sexual, nor was sex discussed or inferred. I am stating these things to share a story that we must observe civility and to not automatically assume a complainant’s statement is based on fact or anything which rises to sexual harassment as the law and jurisprudence recognize suggests. I make no judgment on the women inferred and named in the article, but suggest that a vastly different and far more patient and filial response could have prevailed; and I say this as one who has been both sexually harassed with intimate touching and rape.

    Our culture is becoming very intolerant and prone to use general language to attack men who they don’t understand or, for sometimes unloving and unscrupulous reasons, they don’t want around; and those women don’t have the social or emotional skills to work with on their own. The baby-sitting that some women receive, absent of apt guidance on how to talk to people who they find uncomfortable, and in an effort to have them stop their behavior (whatever it may be), is a shameful element of our current culture and society. While I have long supported the Equal Rights Amendment, women must advance in their emotional and social lives if they want to truly gain equality in our society. Some women are masters at this; other’s are not.

    Cultural misunderstanding do occur, and the University has a history of quickly and injudiciously responding to the words of an accuser over caring for, and listening to, a respondent’s story. The Minnesota Daily has not stated what was alleged in the complaints, but has stated that the professor agreed to elements of discipline, which suggests that he is inherently of good character.

    The conversation in most media has largely been one-sided, presenting only the complainants’ stories — whether reasonable or not reasonable, and whether based on truth or fabrications, or on an immature attitude toward their responsibility with questioning their counterpart and frankly speaking to them in a mature, competent, and caring manner. This reality must change given the overabundance of complaints which lack reasonable cause in the minds of administrative judges at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It must change because men have taken their lives following these accusations.

    I believe women must learn to confidently negotiate their way through emotionally and politically difficult situations, as men do. Men are rarely given the benefit of the doubt when either they are accused, or have women harass or rape them and try to complain about their harassment or rape. I, as one who was subjected to physical touching of my intimate parts by two different women during my twenties, had no voice. A UMPD officer told me to relax and enjoy the sex, and not to complain, even if I were raped, as was the on campus case in 1986. I ended up quitting one job, and moving on from further interviews at a company which offered to hire me due to the woman’s incessant touching. I ended my relationship with the woman who raped me, despite my earlier desire to marry her.

    Equal rights goes both ways. For women with principles and intelligence and who care, unlike others, to control their emotional and social, political, and financial whims, it is imperative to protect the human, civil, and constitutional rights of all people — including men who Marxist theory has, in days gone by, labelled as being oppressive to women; and which some STEM organizations which support women in STEM have identified as still being the case. I promoted one such organization to University of Minnesota, as a friend of mine is the local director of the organization in one region of California. However, its use of a visual which says that men are oppressors only conflates immature emotional development, actual reality, and gender-based hatred for men to a higher level in academia. I have seen men from Italy interact with women — both very shy men who are more in their heads and considerate, as well as men who are emotive, forthright, and abundant in their manner toward women. I have also seen very shy and awkward men stumble all over themselves in an effort to get a date and attempt to enjoy their sexual dreams. The man in England who I nuanced noted being very awkward around women. Resorting to accusations which have the effect of making men look sleazy, when they may just be lonely and awkward, is as horrific as untowardly comments to women.

    As the professor has been disciplined and has agreed to corrective action which will lead to better relations in the Department and at the University of Minnesota, and as the University hired an outside consultant to assist in the case, it is time to relax, regroup our emotions, and learn from our experiences.

  • praiseinterracialmarriages
    Apr 12, 2021 at 6:05 pm

    The following statement from the EEOC is found within the link I will share. It notes what is not sexual harassment, and goes on to discuss what is harassment, and what is the role of an employer to protect peolpe ni the workplace from harassment:

    “Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”

    https://www.eeoc.gov/harassment?fbclid=IwAR0WinoryCgKb4lSXGGyel9Ne-sODGdu53G1xzeiGX5jNqFnfXe5tQ_JPO0

    Note that hostile and offensive is not yet defined in the law, which can be found by doing rudimentary research. These words are also not defined, or given exclusions, in Minnesota Chapter 363A.03, Subdivision 4 (3).

    In neither law is “reasonable” defined.

    In summaries of these laws, the effects of medical problems or exclusions details global cultural differences; and often, people who are accused are not given equal availability to the press to state their side of the story.

    Accusations for slights and annoyance are often enough, by untrained and unscrupulous decision-makers, are enough to put a person out of their role in an organization, ruin their standing in the community, and take away their enjoyments of life as were murder or torture committed. Often enough, mediation does not occur, and people with emotional and social difficulties due to pathology (even though a reasonable person’s complaint is required for a guilty finding), or due to age and inexperience lead to very hostile and provocative rulings. After the second time I was accused, I went to University of Minnesota Program in Human Sexuality and worked with Dr. Eli Coleman, the Program’s director. He told me that I do not have attitudes or a mind that is inclined to sexually harass others. I went to him despite the first woman apologizing to me, noting that she was angry at her boyfriend and misdirected her anger at me; and after the EEOA officer at my national corporation telling me that my statement was not sexual harassment. While I was brought back to work, and my supervisor and his colleague were fired for criminal behavior, the gossip was so bad that I had to quit due to the hostile and offensive work environment which existed after immature and undisciplined women gossiped about me being accused of sexual harassment and my leaving the workplace due to an illegal dismissal, making it impossible for me to work in comfort at the corporation.

    Women, if you are married or have boyfriends, dad, brothers, friends, or cousins for whom you care, this is also your fight. Sound and consistent policies and adjudication stands should and must exist to create a comfortable work environment for all people. While women have been working toward greater presence in the workplace, and civil and human rights, which I support: men also have rights. They should not be ignored or glossed over because a young woman doesn’t feel comfortable.

    I am saying this without knowing exactly what the professor from Italy said or did. Again, the Minnesota Daily, in all of its professionalism, hasn’t discussed his actions with detail to his comments. The absence of that data is, itself, provocative and leaves the University of Minnesota with a hostile workplace. Greater depth is required to make this story fair and considerate.

    Here is a selection of useful links which might be studied:

    https://www.eeoc.gov/sexual-harassment
    https://www.eeoc.gov/harassment
    https://www.eeoc.gov/…/data-visualizations-sexual…
    https://www.eeoc.gov/…/charges-alleging-sex-based…
    https://www.eeoc.gov/…/enforcement-and-litigation…

  • praiseinterracialmarriages
    Apr 12, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    The term “sexual harassment” means many things to many people. I was accused of sexual harassment and evicted from Centennial Hall dormitory in 1988 as a result of being nearsighted and the woman claiming that I sexually ogled her; and also because after standing up quickly after a two hour movie, I stumbled, grabbed a female student’s knee to keep from falling on her (she called it “sexual touching”), and the dorm director refused to receive medical data to state that I had low blood pressure at the time of the incident and was therefore prone to falling during that occasion.

    The University of Minnesota did not honor my human rights, or my right to address the claims as being inaccurate and/or presumptuous or unreasonable.

    I was accused of sexual harassment in 2019 for writing to my colleagues on DFL Senate District 60 Central Committee, in which I served as a director for ten years, to talk about how I had been raped and molested by women, both on and off campus, and in job interviews, in the 1980’s (Senate District 60 includes the Minneapolis campus of University of Minnesota). The woman or women, who support the policy of permitting abortion, which calls on the dismemberment, scraping, and evacuation of fetuses from wombs, declared that my statements describing my rape and molestations made for a hostile and offensive environment.

    Statistics from the EEOC report that from 2009-2020, over 50% of sexual harassment complaints were dismissed due to lack of reasonable cause. This shows that a number of women are either not aware of the restrictions which define what is not sexual harassment, or women are using sexual harassment allegations for retaliation for non-sexual harassment incidents (which I have experienced on three occasions and have been vindicated by a major corporation). Another reason why some women claim sexual harassment is their thought that they may receive a financial award which may allow them the ability to have more in the way of creature comforts. While some complaints of sexual harassment are legitimate, the EECO statistics show that this is not mostly the case.

    A woman in England, who was an outspoken #MeToo Movement affiliate, was successfully sued for libel a few years ago and required to pay her victim over US$1 million for the ill effects that her accusation had on her victim.

    Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, in a Washington Post article a few years ago, noted that in his travels around the United States, he began to understand that we, as a people, are very lonely and that we do not always have places to meet potential friends, lovers, mates, or spouses; the workplace is one environment where we do have an opportunity to meet people given the long hours we work and the opportunity to meet people with similar interests. As such, adjudicators in sexual harassment complaints must be considerate of both the claimant’s concerns, as well as those of respondents’ needs, desires, and rights.

    Moreover, I would like to see evidence against this professor (and others) discussed in Minnesota Daily before I make any decisions about my moving to agree with one side or another. What exactly was said? Was the conduct repetitive and more than annoying, or was it occasional and indicative of sincere interest in developing a relationship? As the case has already involved discipline, why is it again in the news?

    By talking about the professor as though he has been convicted of a crime, taking on the emotional significance of murder in some people’s minds, without noting what exactly he said, women and Minnesota Daily are ruining that man’s life.

    Our culture is becoming very intolerant and prone to use general language to attack men who they don’t understand and don’t have the social or emotional skills to work with on their own. The baby-sitting that some women receive, absent on apt guidance on how to talk to people who they find uncomfortable, and in an effort to have them stop their behavior (whatever it may be), is a shameful element of our current culture and society.

    Cultural misunderstanding do occur, and the University has a history of quickly and injudiciously responding to the words of an accuser over caring for, and listening to, a respondent’s story.

    The conversation in most media has largely been one-sided, presenting only the complaints’ stories — whether reasonable or not reasonable, and whether based on truth or fabrications. This reality must change given the overabundance of complaints which lack reasonable cause in the minds of administrative judges at the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). I believe women must learn to confidently negotiate their way through emotionally and politically difficult situations, as me do. Men are rarely given the benefit of the doubt when either they are accused, or have women harass them and try to complain about their harassment. Ias one who was subjected to physical touching of my intimate parts by two different women during my twenties, I had no voice. I ended up quitting one job, and moving on from further interviews at a company which offered to hire me due to the woman’s incessant touching.

    Equal rights goes both ways. For women with principles and intelligence which control their emotional and social, political, and financial whims, it is imperative to protect the human, civil, and constitutional rights of all people — including men who Marxist theory has, in days gone by, labelled as being oppressive to women and which some STEM organizations which support women in STEM have identified as still being the case. I have seen men from Italy interact with women — both very shy men who are more in their heads and considerate, as well as men who are emotive, forthright, and abundant in their manner toward women.

    As the professor has been disciplined and has agreed to corrective action which will lead to better relations in the Department and at the University of Minnesota, and as the University hired an outside consultant to assist in the case, it is time to relax, regroup our emotions, and learn from our experiences.

  • Tom
    Apr 11, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    Wowwww. She should be ashamed of herself

  • A Gopher
    Apr 9, 2021 at 10:04 am

    That C&EN article quotes a professor who is very critical of BMBB and Chemistry department heads. Yet, when I was in her lab she told me not to report one of her graduate students who had been accused of rape by a mentally unstable undergrad she decided should work in an advanced chemistry lab with zero experience. Nice to see she has completely forgotten her professional malfeasance and is on attack all men mode again!