Jeff Kolpack, Published April 04 2012
VIDEO: Suspended NDSU women's AD Dorn: 'I made an error and regret it deeply'
The longtime administrator admitted she violated the university’s anti-harassment policy involving an NDSU student on Feb. 23. Her suspension became effective March 27 but was not disclosed until it was reported Wednesday by WDAY-TV.
An attempt to reach Dorn was unsuccessful, but she did release a statement through the university saying she accepted athletic director Gene Taylor’s decision.
“I made an error and regret it deeply,” Dorn said. “I respect the university’s decision. It is a privilege to work at North Dakota State University, and in particular, within the athletics department. I take this privilege very seriously.”
Taylor said he could not reveal further details about what happened, citing federal privacy laws. He said he couldn’t discuss whether the matter was verbal or physical in nature.
Asked if it was racial, he said, “No, it was not.”
Taylor said the allegations involved a single student. He wouldn’t say if it was a male or female student, though he did refer to the subject of the harassment as “he” in response to a question at an afternoon news conference.
According to a letter of reprimand from Taylor, the suspension stems from a “series of incidents” that took place on Feb. 23. He said he was first made aware of it from two staff members after he returned from a fundraising trip to Arizona.
Taylor said the discipline process involved university attorney Rick Johnson. He also said Dorn sought legal counsel.
The 62-year-old Dorn has been at NDSU since 1977 and became the women’s athletic director in 1979. She makes $140,585 per year.
Taylor said the two-week, no-pay penalty was his decision based on input from campus officials including President Dean Bresciani. Taylor instructed NDSU coaches and staff that he would be the only one to publically address the issue.
He said Dorn has apologized to staff members.
Asked if it will affect the women’s athletic department, Taylor said, “That’s a fair question. I don’t have an answer to that right now. It’s something I will certainly visit with Lynn when she gets back. A lot of people on this staff respect her enough they can get by this at some point and time, but it may take awhile.”
During the suspension, Dorn is barred from coming to work or attending any athletic-related meetings or events. She is able to use email or text messages for communication, if needed.
Under the threat of further disciplinary action – including possible termination – Dorn is also prohibited from discussing the incidents “with the employees or the student involved in the incidents” to “avoid the appearance of retaliation of any kind.”
NDSU’s anti-harassment policy protects students, staff and faculty from any “unwelcome verbal or physical behavior, which has the intent or effect of unreasonably interfering with the individual’s employment or academic endeavors or creating a hostile, intimidating or offensive environment.”
The policy states harassment may include “jokes, derogatory comments, pictures and/or direct physical advances.”
NDSU Policy Manual - Policy 163
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Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia