Remember in 1986 when the University of Minnesota basketball team went to play Wisconsin in Madison and several members of the basketball team were accused of rape? It lead to the resignation of coach Jim Dutcher, who was eventually replaced by Clem Haskins. Regardless of your opinion about Haskins toward the end of his tenure at Minnesota, his early decisions in working with the basketball team were admirable. He understood the background and experience of the young men who had been recruited to come to Minnesota. He realized that they came with challenges that would require extra support from the university and the greater community for them to succeed. One of his first moves was to recruit mentors from the university and from the community for each of his players. These mentors — I was one — became stabilizing forces in the lives of these young people, helping them to adjust to a culture quite different from what many of them had experienced. All of the young men involved in the basketball scandal were black; all of those accused in the current football scandal are black. Haskins recognized the value of connecting his basketball players with mentors from their culture. It made a difference then. Could it make a difference now?
Theartrice Williams, Minneapolis
The writer is a former member of the Minneapolis school board and former senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
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The Star Tribune’s Dec. 20 editorial assessing the five U football players suspended due to allegedly assaulting a female student attending an off-campus party at the apartment of one of the players (and five other players at the party allegedly aware of the sex acts being committed behind a closed bedroom door) roundly criticized the involved players, coaches and, to a lesser extent, athletic director Mark Coyle and University President Eric Kaler. As a former student, adjunct faculty and sporadic U football fan, I am now responding to the Editorial Board’s final comment stating that the university now needs to change its culture and conduct by football players and, really, its entire student body. The Strib offered no specific suggestions. Here are a few of my own for consideration:
1) Any gathering (on or off campus) of three or more university team members shall be defined as a “university team event” at which (a) no alcohol or other mind-altering drugs shall be served or available and (b) at least one university administrator and off-duty police officer shall be present to monitor the event. All events shall be held at a university facility, such as the alumni center, TCF Bank Stadium, Coffman Union, etc., unless the athletic department approves an off-campus location.
2) The Board of Regents should form a task force to consider the feasibility and comparative advantages/disadvantages of having the athletic director position elevated to the position of co-president of athletic teams, and report directly to the Board of Regents. The current university president shall become a co-president of academic and research institutes and report directly to the Board of Regents.
Regents and fellow Minnesotans, thank you for your consideration of these proposals. There has to be a better way to regulate the “social/sexual behavior” of our many university athletes and equally regulate and protect all students attending the school.
Bill Seeley, Minneapolis
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Probably like most of us, I had never heard of the University of Minnesota’s Office of Equal Opportunity office and Affirmative Action until the recent Gopher football scandal. So I was curious and found the EOAA office has a truly noble vision and excellent objectives. This vision is a university community that is equitable and free from discrimination. The stated objectives are to act as a neutral party and be vigilant to violations of the policy against nepotism. As a reference, the definition of nepotism is a group with power (historically referred to as an “old boy’s” network) practicing favoritism and preferential treatment — looking after its own biases.
But here’s a startling fact: Seven of the eight people on the EOAA staff are women. You can verify this at https://diversity.umn.edu/eoaa/staff.
Sure makes a person believe the EOAA is guilty of being structurally biased, in violation of its own stated vision/objectives. The staff clearly isn’t equitable on the basis of sex. Thus it presents the potential of practicing favoritism, preferential treatment and bias.
No doubt all eight on the EOAA staff are well-qualified professionals. But that’s not the issue in question. The people of Minnesota deserve an explanation how the discrimination came about and what steps will be taken to immediately correct this lopsided structural bias.
Bruce Johnson, Plymouth
COMPASSIONATE CARE ACT
Commentary was misinformed
Jean Swenson was paralyzed at a young age in a car accident, and fell into a deep depression in her first months after the accident. Yet she was able to overcome so many obstacles and become an active supporter of spinal cord research. However, her opposition to the Minnesota Compassionate Care Act is sadly misinformed (“Assisted suicide is not answer for the disabled like me,” Dec. 22).
Those who oppose the proposed legislation argue that it would legitimize “assisted suicide” for people like Ms. Swenson who have lifelong disabilities. This is not the case. The legislation is designed to provide people who are terminally ill, with less than six months to live, the option to have medication available to them if their pain and suffering becomes unbearable. Those who choose it must be mentally competent and able to self-administer the medication. No doctor would ever prescribe this medication to Swenson.
While I can only admire her strength and determination, we must not continue to spread false claims about the Compassionate Care Act. Four states, Washington, Oregon, Vermont and California have passed such legislation. These states have proved that this legislation does not in any way lead down a “slippery slope,” as so many detractors claim. Physician-assisted death is no answer for people like Swenson. But it is an answer for those near death who want the comfort at the end of their life so they can die with dignity on their own terms. It is essentially the most private and personal decision for any dying individual. We admire those who live their lives with dignity. We should allow those who are dying to do so with dignity as well.
Mary Alice Divine, White Bear Lake
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In this holiday season as we wish peace on earth and goodwill toward each other, it’s also essential that we cherish and practice the right to respectfully disagree. I congratulate Jean Swenson for her commentary. She counts her blessings: having friends, family, personal care attendants, medical professionals and insurance companies who help her live comfortably as a quadriplegic. Millions are not so blessed.
Many live with excruciating pain, both physical and mental, and cannot afford or do not have the kind of insurance that provides personal care attendants 24 hours a day. They live without hope. They know that we all die eventually. They want choice for themselves and their loved ones when life becomes unbearable and there is no hope for recovery. Making assisted suicide legal does not imply that it will be used against the disabled. To make such an argument under the guise of an organization calling itself the Minnesota Alliance for Ethical Healthcare is, to me, a contradiction. I much prefer Compassion and Choices, the name of the national organization that promotes what its name says.
Arvonne Fraser, Minneapolis
Our vigilance is crucial
News headline Dec. 22: “Trump stands by plans for Muslim ban and registry.” How long into Hitler’s reign did it take him to start singling out and discriminating against the Jews? We need to keep track of this.
Leonard Weiss, Knife River, Minn.