St. Olaf Testimonies

Seventh Testimony, Ole Alum:

Note: this testimony is the redacted form of a letter sent to David Anderson’s secretary. It is an update of the fifth testimony. Contact the sender at wildfire1146@gmail.com
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Dear [David Anderson’s Secretary],

I understand that you are the secretary of David Anderson, the president of St. Olaf College. I do not have a WORD attachment to my Acer laptop, so I will write in email form.

I request that you give this email to Dr. Anderson, the Board of Regents and Dean and Provost Sorter. Thank you.

Dear President Anderson,

I am a 69-year-old woman, an alumnus of St. Olaf from the 60s and a victim of sexual harassment and abuse by my teacher, [name redacted], now dead. This is the first time I have named him aloud, but have found courage because of the efforts of Madeline Wilson and the women and men that have stepped forward in the last month. This is hard for me and I feel my body shaking as I write, Not from fear, but from putting my memories down, and so reliving them.

I was a music major when I started school at the age of 17. [The professor] noticed me right away, commended me for my artistry, put me in a prominent seat in his [ensemble] and began the grooming process. From the very beginning, he pestered me almost daily. Since I needed to use the practice rooms for hours on end and his office was in the same building, I was easy prey. If I was not there, I would get notes in my po box summoning me to his office. If he found me in a practice room, he would distract me by sitting in and commenting on my playing—or just chattering.

I was innocent, but sensed something was not right. He would drive me home sometimes, once in a while taking me out into the country for coffee, without asking permission or considering I was a full-time student with hundreds of hours of practicing and papers to get done.. On one of these jaunts, he parked in the dark and kissed me on the lips. I remember thinking that this couldn’t be real—until he touched my breast. I remember pondering it all night, wondering if I’d imagined it. I didn’t know what to do and kept silent–like a lamb to slaughter.

When I was a sophomore, I quit the band to get away from him. I was accepted into the St. Olaf Choir that year but [the teacher] continued to hound me–even calling me at any time, day or night at my off-campus housing. He would cajole me under the guise of advising me as if he cared about me and my bad choices (like joining the choir). That summer, I lived in Minneapolis so that I could study with my [instrument] teacher. He tracked me down. He took me out to dinner several times. He said he wanted to present me as soloist with the [ensemble] the coming year. I was flattered and excited and accepted. I was the soloist for not only that year, but the following year, as a senior. All of the time, I felt squeamish and beholding to him. The unhappy (for me) sexual escapades continued, mostly in his car. It was a form of blackmail. He wanted ME, and didn’t care about anything else, lastly, me.

In my senior year, I called it quits. He continued to pursue me, however. Once he entered my practice room, turned off the light, and violently pushed me against the wall and tried to force himself on me. I screamed “NO” and he stopped.

I think he feared I would “out” him, because the next semester, he took a European sabbatical, Prior to his leaving, he acted like a zombie and others noticed this too. On tour, while I was performing my solo, he did not look at me once–even though the conductor and soloist need constant communication while on stage. It was as though I directed the whole band and he was a bystander waving his arms. He lost all professionalism.

As you might imagine, I have been deeply haunted throughout my life. I was an innocent child when I entered St. Olaf. I left four years later a hardened and distrustful child/woman. [The teacher] abused my body, but most of all my spirit. His actions have dominated my decisions in life, and have caused me depression, guilt and self-doubt. I’ve become a champion at compartmentalizing, something which all victims need to do to survive. It is exhausting and takes its toll on me and my family to this day.

Your students in the gray shirts are going through it right now. They are your children.

Sixth Testimony, Ole Alum:

Note: this testimony is the redacted form of a letter which the sender plans to send to the Board of Regents.

I am writing to you about [one of the professors]. I know he has died, but that does not change what he did. What he did should change how he has been memorialized.

I went on an [redacted] interim with this professor. It was to be a wonderful, educational experience, but it ruined my life. My husband and I have worked through all this, including the change in my self-image that resulted from being exploited sexually and emotionally by this professor. Because of this relationship, I skipped some campus events (as a student) that I otherwise wouldn’t have, and that I still have some regrets about. I also still have feelings of great ambivalence toward the college when I am up on campus.

This prof used to invite students along for a walk when he went to scope out the next day’s events. One day, he asked me. After a while, he took my hand while we walked. What did I think? I wasn’t sure, but I was in a foreign country with the man who was in charge of my food and lodging.

He groomed me for his exploitation by his actions on the interim. He isolated me. He routinely put me with roommates with whom I was incompatible and who didn’t like me and who I was uncomfortable around, especially since one of them stole my camera film (pre-cell phones and digital cameras). He pretended he didn’t know that my real friends on the trip wanted me to share a room with them, even though they asked him to have me assigned to room with them.

He took me to a restaurant another night. Somewhere in the remainder of the trip, after I had had 2-3 large glasses of wine (as was customary at our group’s evening meal), at the conclusion of the meal, he invited me to his room, knowing full well I was intoxicated. You know what followed.

After we returned to campus, he placed a note in my post office box on campus asking me to visit him in his office. We met once a week in his office [redacted location] for sex. My contact with him continued after graduation, although we never had any intimate relations after I left campus. He pursued me with weekly letters, phone calls and uninvited visits to my place of work to solicit sex from me for another year and a half! He offered to take me on college-sponsored art trips and pan me off as his ‘secretary.’

You should also know that he tried to give me [redacted description of property] that was in the school’s collection (I didn’t accept it) and that he tried to fire a student worker in his department so that I could have that job.

At the end of the school year, but before finals, he invited me to his house in Northfield. I was to appear at the door with a package, as if I was delivering something, just in case the neighbors saw me. Once inside, he told me to stay away from the windows. I assume what followed was to feed his fantasies while he was at home. Or maybe put a notch on his desk.

He betrayed his trust to the college, a Christian school, by approaching students for sexual relationships. He betrayed his trust to his students by viewing them as potential sex objects. He betrayed his wife. He betrayed his role of being in loco parentis while being in charge of students off campus. And he betrayed my trust in him as a well-thought of professor. He had access to my personal information. He had the power of grading, recommendations and inserting things, true or not, into my personal file. And I was too naïve to realize that I could have told someone in administration about it, although it is doubtful much would have been done about it, given the attitude regarding date rape on campus that prevailed at that time. But I didn’t want my family to know about it.

He expressed no remorse toward what he was doing to his long-suffering wife. Married to this man, having to listen to how great he was, and knowing what he really was. Because she knew. He also had no guilt feelings about any repercussions that this would have on my future.

I also know that I was not his first student paramour. I am sure I was not the last. During my time at St. Olaf as[name redacted] student sex provider he called me by the name of his previous conquest and later after I graduated and he continued to pursue me he called me by the name of his next conquest/victim. [Name redacted] was indeed a busy man.

I also know that there were other professors that did the same thing. And I am sure you do too.

I have no illusions that the college will do anything to right the wrong he did to me and the other girls. What I would like to see is the college do something to prevent this from happening to anyone else. There are programs about date-rape, offensive speech and all sorts of things. How about a program about what to do when a person in a position of greater power than you—specifically a St. Olaf College professor– approaches you sexually? You could even take the high road and extend the concept so that it also applies to post-graduation institutions and workplaces. There should also be severe penalties for St. Olaf professors that have sex with a student.

And really, how about [type of memorialization redacted]? I want to vomit when I see it. Instead of being glorified by St. Olaf, he should have been fired. Plain and simple. Princeton University is setting the record straight about Woodrow Wilson and his racism. St. Olaf has the chance to do the same with Professor [name redacted]. For all I know, St. Olaf had a file on him that kept track of his peccadillos and should have taken action.

St. Olaf can do a number of things. It can take sexual exploitations of professors seducing and molesting female students (or male!) out of the closet. It should be discussed openly during student orientation. It can start a discussion in any of its many forums and venues. It can ask students to come forward with their experiences, especially his former students. I am sure there are lots of ways that St. Olaf can address this matter.

I want to see something done. [Name redacted] was a sexual predator.

You may contact me at stolaffemale@gmail.com.

Fifth Testimony, Ole Alum:

I’m a victim of faculty harassment and sexual abuse at St. Olaf during the 1960s. Yes, this problem is OLD! I’m proof positive that the anti woman culture was rampant fifty years ago.

I have just now started speaking openly about my experience. I’d like to hear from others who knew or were aware, or who experienced acts of discrimination and/or harassment or abuse by faculty.

I welcome any correspondence at my email address: wildfire1146@gmail.com.

Fourth Testimony, a former Ole from within the past 3 years:

After talking with a friend at an off campus party I went to go find the friends I came with as it was getting late and people were starting to leave. I soon realized that even though my friends had promised to not leave without me that they had left without telling me and weren’t answering their phones. Since I had only had a few drinks that night and hadn’t had any for a few hours I was just going to walk home alone since I wasn’t too far away from my dorm. I went to go grab my coat when an acquaintance came to ask if I was leaving. I told him that my friends had left and I that I was just gonna go back to my room. He said that I shouldn’t walk alone and offered to walk me back since his dorm was right next to mine. When we got back to campus he invited me to come hangout in his dorm with some of his friends that I also knew. I agreed to come hangout for a little bit. When we got up to his floor I was confused because there was no else in the pod. He told me he had to grab something in his room so I followed him in and he locked the door behind me. After saying three time that I did not want to have sex he proceeded to rape me. The next day he said he was too drunk that he didn’t know what he was doing.

When I finally tried to talk to my friends about it a few weeks later they told me that he is a really nice guy and he probably would feel really bad if he knew what he did. They also told me it was my fault because I had been drinking (even they were too), etc. I decided to go talk to someone at SARN [Note: SARN is a confidential student-run resource network, this incident was not reported to administration]. They told me that administration would decide the consequences for my rapist depending upon how severe the rape was. How does anyone judge how severe a rape is?! They told me if I chose to file a report with admin that my rapist would be told that I was the one who accused him and that it would be like filing a restraining order on him that was only effective on campus. Not only did I think that their version of a “restraining order” was pointless because there was no way for anyone to monitor him and where he was but it also would have been social suicide. I was offered no further support.

I ended up transferring after my freshman year because I did not feel safe and it was just too hard to be around him. After I transferred I finally sought help from a therapist and was diagnosed with PTSD. It has been extremely tough to deal with and I can’t help but wonder that maybe if I got help or support sooner, I wouldn’t be dealing with all of this psychological trauma and college would have been a more enjoyable experience. My hope for St. Olaf is that they not only help students feel safe and supported after a sexual assault but also to really press the issue you to all students that sexual assault is never ok. No matter the degree or “severity.” It affects everyone differently and it should simply not be tolerated. NO means NO.

Third Testimony, from an ’03 alum:

I’m an alumnus of St. Olaf (class of ’03), and I, too, had an extremely bad experience with the administration mishandling a complaint of violence against women. In my Junior year at St. Olaf, I reported an incident in which a male friend of mine got violent, pushed me, and caused bruising on one side of my body. The subsequent investigative process conducted by St. Olaf was extremely slow, confusing, and manipulative. It was adjudicated by only one person, and resulted in decisions that were neither good for myself nor the male friend who behaved violently. Like you, I suffered repercussions of retaliation and slander that were completely ignored by the administration. Like you, I was treated like a guilty party and had to battle lots of victim-blaming. Now even fourteen years later I am still furious and hurt about the way St. Olaf mishandled my case, and I am devastated to discover that it has continued to mishandle cases ever since.

What I don’t think St. Olaf realizes is that its mishandling of cases involving violence against female students has negative repercussions that go far beyond the parties involved. Not only does the administration negatively impact the women who come forward, but they perpetuate a climate in which other female students will fear coming forward as well. They are the ones who cause a “chilling effect” (to use the administration’s own words) by promoting a climate of silence over a climate of action. To this day, I wish I had never come forward. The repercussions I experienced at the hands of St. Olaf administration were that bad.

If St. Olaf doesn’t care about the devastating psychological and physical effects of its actions on the student population (both women AND men), perhaps it will pay more attention if I outline the financial effects. Mishandling cases of violence against students results in the school losing money. Take myself as an example. I have NEVER, and I will NEVER donate any money to St. Olaf College. I initially decided not to donate as a result of how I was treated during my case. Now that I’ve discovered that the college’s policies and procedures have still not improved, I will continue to not donate and will discourage others from doing so. I also don’t encourage any prospective student (female or male) to apply for admission. What a shame…because the education one can receive there really is outstanding. A good education, however, cannot take precedence over student safety.

I am very, very disappointed in you, St. Olaf.

First Testimony, from a former member of the class of 2016: 

“St. Olaf provided me with an excellent education but personally, that’s where the positive experience ended. This institution treated me as a liability and an inconvenience when first, I dealt with severe depression soon after beginning my freshman year, banning me from the campus for a week and providing no support or guidance to help me through that difficult time, then shortly after, I was sexually assaulted by a friend when the two of us stopped into another friends dorm room to grab an item – this individual was extremely intoxicated (having consumed almost a full bottle of liquor that evening) while I had only consumed 2 drinks throughout the night. He let me in the room then locked the door behind me and slammed me against the closet doors and proceeded to grab me in all sensitive areas as I verbally and physically attempted to reject his aggressive advances. This continued for a few minutes as he attempted to touch me and speak to me in sexually aggressive ways. Luckily, because he was severely intoxicated, he lacked his full strength and I was able to push him off me long enough to run out of the room and back to my own building across campus.

The following week, I had a meeting with campus security and reported the incident. I provided them with all possible details regarding this experience and they said they would follow up with me. Within the week, they communicated to me that they would not be sending out an alert to students and faculty because the incident was not severe enough and said that they contacted the perpetrator and told him that he was not allowed to speak with me for 2 weeks. Nothing else was done about the situation – no one followed up to make sure I was ok, no resources were provided to me about how to cope with this situation. I was made to feel as if I had fabricated the entire incident and that a no contact order of two weeks was enough of a resolution for a victim of sexual assault.

No, my experience was not rape. No, my perpetrator did not get his hands down my pants or underneath my bra. But, he touched me, he grabbed me, he made me feel unsafe and scared – he scarred me emotionally. No one should ever have to go through that – no matter the person or the level of intoxication or the clothes that they are wearing. And no one on any college campus should be made to feel that their experience is not important, true, or worthy of the institutions time or care. The students and their safety should be St. Olaf’s number one priority. Changes need to be made.”

What happened to me was by no means an isolated incident.

If you are interested in sharing your experience, please feel free to e-mail us at studentsfortitleix@gmail.com

Do also note that we are interested in protecting the anonymity of all parties involved to reduce the risk of retaliation and harassment charges.

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