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Northwestern Promotes Sexual Assault Defendant, Sparking Controversy

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Six Northwestern University professors co-signed an open letter to Provost Kathleen Hagerty criticizing the university’s decision to promote deputy athletic director Mike Polinksy, who is involved in an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit. 

Polinsky is one of four defendants in a federal lawsuit filed by a former cheerleader this year and set to be Northwestern’s next athletic director.

Earlier this year, Northwestern cheerleader Hayden Richardson alleged that she was groped and harassed by drunken fans during university-sanctioned events, claiming university officials did nothing to support her. Rather, the school tried to cover up her complaints.

Polinksy himself was accused of dismissing Richardson on the grounds that she fabricated evidence. She also said that he prevented her from meeting with athletic director Jim Phillips.

“The hiring of Polisky signals a troubling continuity in Athletic Department leadership that, while successful in some areas, failed the university and its students in significant ways,” the letter says. “We are alarmed by this decision and, indeed, embarrassed on behalf of the university.”

‘A Slap in the Face’

While the university hired a law firm to investigate the matter, faculty now want a third-party investigation into whether Polisky adequately addressed the cheerleaders’ allegations. They will also host a protest against his appointment on Friday at President Morton Schapiro’s house.

The university will hold a press conference sometime next week to make the official announcement. The appointment of Polinsky has left many people disappointed in the school’s hiring process.

Many feel that selecting Polisky runs counter to the university’s previous promises of equity and support for women on campus. History professor Amy Stanley said the move felt like “a slap in the face.”

“I can’t overstate the level of rage that I have been hearing from my fellow women faculty members,” Stanley remarked to the school newspaper. “It has been a difficult year for all of us, and this is just the latest indication that the university administration doesn’t care about our concerns.”

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