As a proud recent graduate of the University of Minnesota and former member of the Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee (SSMS), I believe the U continues to be a national leader in handling cases of sexual misconduct. As an SSMS member, I helped adjudicate multiple cases of sexual assault and harassment, including the widely reported football case from last year. I know firsthand how challenging it is to serve on a panel and the difficulties the university faces in balancing the rights of the accused and assisting the impacted student.

In addition, the proceedings are emotionally taxing for all involved, particularly the affected and accused students. I've watched multiple students break down from either recounting the trauma they experienced or from vehemently denying the accusations. I encourage readers to consider the challenge in deciding these complex cases that involve he-said she-said situations and/or alcohol. The complete truth is known only to the students involved, and it is up to the impartial panel members to make a judgment.

I frequently think about the various cases I helped decide and the students involved. I hope the victims have found peace and that the accused students have learned from their mistakes. The university and the SSMS strive to provide due process to the accused and help for the victims. Is the process perfect? No, but consider the source when individuals, such as private lawyers, cast doubt on the veracity of the process.

Spencer Buchanan, Bloomington

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"The power of Gretchen Carlson" (Jan. 11) reports that former Fox newswoman Carlson is urging underprivileged women to speak out against sexual harassment. History, however, proves the reverse to be true. While I applaud Carlson in her own effort to challenge sexual discrimination, "underprivileged" African-American women were the first to use Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to challenge sexual harassment in the workplace. Yet, Diane Williams, Paulette Barnes, Sandra Bundy and Mechelle Vinson are largely unrecognized for their efforts. These early cases filed before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the late 1970s eventually established the case law on sexual harassment. Fighting a legacy rooted in slavery, such women courageously spoke out against workplace discrimination decades ago. It is their legacy that now allows Carlson to "put Miss America in the forefront of female empowerment."

Missy McDonald, St. Paul

The writer is a historian.


Federal inadequacies could undercut local efforts to address

While many in these newly formed housing task forces will push for change in local regulations ("Affordable housing becomes top priority," editorial, Jan. 10), they should not ignore federal policy. The amount of federal housing funding coming to Minnesota relative to the capacity of local coffers is sobering. A federal pullback of 10 percent in its affordable-housing commitment would fully offset all current state and local housing resources. Unfortunately, a federal pullback of that magnitude is not out of the picture. For instance, the recent tax-reform legislation is predicted to reduce affordable rental housing production across the country between 10 percent and 20 percent.

Attention must be given to reversing the trend in the federal housing budget, the impact of which has been atrophying in an era where rents are exceeding tenant incomes.

Fewer families will be assisted with federal rent assistance, and that reality will undercut any new local housing initiative. Likewise, the task forces should promote the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, federal legislation that could more than offset the damage to rental housing development due to tax reform.

There's much more the federal government can and should do to help Minnesota respond to our housing crisis, but maintaining the housing budget and resurrecting the housing tax credit should be near-term priorities. All working locally to advance affordable housing should include these federal measures in their action plans.

Chip Halbach, Minneapolis

The writer, now retired, was the founder and longtime director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.


Status quo is no way to go

The Jan. 9 article on the farm bill quotes Rep. Collin Peterson saying that Congress does not want to change the farm bill because "we don't have the money." This is the emerging story on the 2018 farm bill. Keep the status quo because commodity prices are low and there is no new money.

As a farmer, I think this is wrong. We need change. Current farm programs have driven farmers to the breaking point by pushing them to only plant corn/soybeans from fencerow to fencerow and has created an environmental crisis for Minnesota's soil and water.

What farmers need is significant investment in growing a diversity of crops that creates a more resilient farming system, builds soil health and results in cleaner water for all of us.

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a farm bill program that does that, and I hear rumors that cuts to its funding are being sought again. I use CSP on my farm, and it has helped me, and I know a lot of farmers who think the same.

I also use crop insurance on my farm and believe that I and other farmers need it, but that the current program is way off-course. There are many ways to reform and save money in this program, including using it to incentivize conservation practices, because healthy soil is the best insurance.

The status quo has left us with poorer farmers, an oversupply of commodity crops, depleted soil and contaminated water. Minnesota needs change.

Tom Nuessmeier, Le Sueur, Minn.

The writer is a farmer and a Land Stewardship Project policy organizer.


Teams vs. stars? No.

Too often these days, sports reporting falls prey to the cult of personality. A case in point is the reporting of the Timberwolves' recent impressive victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. A caption on the front page of Tuesday's sports section refers to the Wolves' "first home victory over James since 2005." On page C4, under the heading "A rare sight," the writer says the Wolves "improved to 6-22 all-time against LeBron James." I wish to take nothing away from James, a brilliant player and future Hall-of-Famer, but the Timberwolves did not beat him. They beat a very good team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is their best player; that's all he is. His name does not appear in the standings.

Marc Burgett, Minneapolis

Make boys' volleyball happen

In regard to the Jan. 8 letter suggesting the sanctioning of boys' volleyball in Minnesota's high schools, I agree that this is an idea whose time has come and would encourage anyone in the metro or outstate areas to contact their schools to ask how it might get done. There is a proposal at the Minnesota State High School League level to sanction a boys' volleyball season beginning in 2019. In addition, this spring, there will be a boys' high school volleyball season involving many metro-area high schools. It began with the South Suburban Conference in the south metro, but is quickly attracting teams from across the seven-county area, including in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Walt Weaver, Lakeville