Disrespectful Correspondence from President David Anderson

Correspondence with President David Anderson has been sparse and unpleasant. My father in particular has been in contact with him for months, looking for answers about how the college so severely mishandled my sexual assault case.

Originally, my father contacted President David Anderson asking for help and to alert him of the policy violations that were being committed by his administrators. Beyond that, many of my father’s communications with Anderson have focused on questions of policy: Why does St. Olaf use only a single administrator to adjudicate rape cases? How are these administrators trained?

I think a large portion of the St. Olaf community is still waiting to hear the answers to those two questions.

The majority of my father’s correspondence politely tried to convey to Anderson the extent of administrative misconduct throughout my case. For example, no less that three administrators knew that my assailant had hired private investigators to harass me, which is an explicit violation of the sexual misconduct policy, but none of them took actions to prosecute my assailant for this violation. Details of that failure and many more can be found in my OCR complaint, linked here:

OCR Complaint (content warning: rape, sexual assault, intoxication)

We have heard from various sources that David Anderson still believes that no harm has occurred in the administrative mishandling of my case and the cases of others. To maintain this defensive stance in spite of the stories of numerous survivors, as well as a federal investigation by the Office for Civil Rights, shows extremely poor judgement.  

It also shows a severe lack of compassion. It falls exactly in line with his refusal to openly acknowledge the group of students which has brought the issue of sexual assault policy to light. It explains his administration’s baffling response to the complaints that have been raised, which has Title IX Coordinator Jo Beld saying to the Minnesota Star Tribune that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the school’s system for addressing sexual assault “isn’t broken.”

This defensiveness and lack of compassion came to the forefront of a recent email exchange with my father:

Note: the purpose of our publishing this email exchange isn’t to criticize Carl Lehmann, although we do think he has a conflict of interest in representing both the college and an entity designed to impartially examine college policies. Regardless of whether or not you agree with my father, this exchange is intended to show how David Anderson dismisses a well thought out, well worded complaint regarding a potential conflict of interest- and how he addresses the parents of sexual assault survivors. Clarifications and redactions are bracketed/italicized.

On Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 12:12 PM, Dean Martinson wrote:

Dear President Anderson and Chair – Kris Johnson (via Tim Maudlin):

There is a fundamental problem with how St. Olaf has been investigating Title IX cases. When I started asking some very basic questions in the beginning of the year, the college cut-off communications with me, and directed me to Carl Lehmann, the college attorney. After months of on and off communications, I have concluded that there are some glaring “conflict of interest” issues with Carl Lehman’s Firm and trainEd (Carl’s company). Carl Lehmann and Gray, Plant, and Mooty, (his law firm) defend and advise the college with issues pertaining to Title IX. Carl Lehmann and trainEd (his company) investigate allegations by students in regard to Title IX issues. Quite often these Title IX investigations will ultimately include, assessing if the college failed in some way to inform, protect, or respond to the victim. I believe this is a clear conflict of interest for Carl Lehmann and his role in all of this. I believe he needs to decide to defend and advise the college, or to investigate and hold accountable the college. He cannot effectively do both.

To give you an example of how this comes out in the wash: Madeline found out her assailant was harassing, retaliating, and stalking her, after her original report. Under Title IX, the college has a duty to take strong responsive action if harassment occurs and to take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred. The college claims they fulfilled this obligation by informing the assailant that: (paraphrasing) “We can’t tell you what to do or not do, but your actions might be considered retaliation.” After they failed to investigate it, Madeline documented her request for the college to investigate his actions. The college responded ([likely]through the guidance of Carl Lehmann) with opening a disciplinary case and recommending a informal resolution (normally reserved for [conflicts such as] roommate disputes). When objections were raised, the college finally referred the case to an independent attorney, [name redacted] out in Portland Oregon. He confirmed that the college was indeed, not taking this seriously enough and advised the college to classify the allegation as a Title IX complaint (which results in more serious sanctions and greater protections for Madeline). [Sentence redacted to protect identity] My point through all of this; because of this conflict of interest with Carl Lehmann, the college consistently provides inadequate responses, resulting in poor (if not illegal) implementation of Title IX. Further, this conflict of interests results in the following: The time it takes to resolve these cases is months, instead of weeks. This is due to the lack of response by the College and the consistent procedural mistakes of wrongly classifying these cases (under-reporting Title IX cases). In Madeline’s case, this resulted in the perpetrator, being able to continue his harassment, for months after the original report!

I attempted to contact Kris Johnson, a Board of Regents member, to voice my concern. She would not speak to me and had Carl Lehmann tell me; that board members would not speak to me. This was a baffling response to concerns regarding Carl Lehmann and the conflict of interest which exists. With this never-ending referral back to the person you have issues with, it appears a person has no remedy or avenue to voice their concerns. It employs the same logic which St. Olaf has used in the past; put the victim and the accused perpetrator in the same room to work out their differences; with a male faculty member present. Only this time, there isn’t even a faculty member present; just the person who you have the issue with.

Thank You for considering this.

Dean Martinson ’86

And the email he received in response from President David Anderson, two days later:

Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2016 10:40:28 -0500

Subject: Re: An acceptable method to resolve issues with Mr. Lehmann

Dear Mr. Martinson,

Like many of your other communications with the College, this one is rife with misstatements and falsehoods. I will not address all of them in this reply because that will simply result in more of the same from you.

Rather, I will simply affirm that Carl Lehmann will continue in his role as valued general counsel to the College. This includes advising us in the way we address sexual misconduct and sexual assault complaints.

He will also serve on the Title IX Working Group, not as general counsel to the College but as a volunteer subject matter expert.

Sincerely,

David Anderson

Here President David Anderson displays absolutely no respect for the struggles that my father and myself have gone through to even have our complaints taken seriously by the college’s administration. I want to reiterate that my father has always been polite and civil to President David Anderson while desperately searching for a fair resolution. To say that my father’s legitimate concern regarding the working group is “rife with misstatements and falsehoods” is appalling, and to say that engaging a concerned parent will only “result in more of the same from you” is disturbing. I am shocked that this is coming from the president of my college.

He displays no compassion for a father whose child was raped, a man who has spent months being ignored by St. Olaf’s administration, whose daughter has had to be on the front page of the Star Tribune before her college’s own Deans would start listening to her.

He refuses to even address my father’s criticism, instead opting for a combative, defensive position.

After the past month, David Anderson’s response isn’t surprising. It is exactly what we have come to expect from this administration.

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One thought on “Disrespectful Correspondence from President David Anderson

  1. Madeline, I so admire your courage and bravery. My clild was sexually assaulted and stalked at St. Olaf. The experiences you each had with the administration is the same. No one listened to my child until I got involved and then it was only lip service. President Anderson told me when I complained to him that wasn’t the way they dealt with assault issues. Clearly a false statement. After many weeks of arguing with the administration, they hired the law firm you discussed to “investigate” the allegations. All of this information was a “secret” and was erased within days. The report gave no information, no conclusions and read like it was written by a middle school child not a lawyer. The only reason anything happened was the assailant broke the no contact order ( as this person had done repeatedly ) and was caught. The administration was deceitful and dishonest through the entire two year ordeal. Thank you for your standing up and giving voice to this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

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