Update and Closure Regarding Investigation of Sexual Harassment

By John Finnegan | May 16, 2018

Dear SPH Faculty, Staff, and Students:

It is always painful to hear about cases of sexual harassment and misconduct. It is particularly painful when it involves our school, our faculty, and our students.

I am writing to update you on the status of the matter involving Professor Brad Carlin. As you may be aware, Prof. Carlin was the subject of a blog post in December about inappropriate behavior toward a woman at an academic conference in 2010. Following media coverage, additional people filed reports about Prof. Carlin’s behavior here at the School of Public Health (SPH) that were previously unknown. This initiated a formal investigation by the University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA), which included information gathering and many interviews. At that time, I concluded that under the circumstances, Prof. Carlin (who is on sabbatical) could not continue his leadership as head of the Division of Biostatistics, which is my call as SPH Dean.

The EOAA investigation included complaints from several women both inside and outside the University. Minnesota privacy law and University policy do not permit me to release the investigation reports, most importantly to respect the privacy of those who came forward. Out of respect to them, please do not attempt to identify anyone.

Those who filed complaints reported a pattern of sexually-themed comments, including observations regarding women’s attractiveness, inappropriate conversations about sexual matters, and an unwelcome request for sexual contact. Prof. Carlin’s status as a division head, professor, or expert in his field caused some to worry about how their response to his conduct might negatively affect their careers.

Having reviewed the evidence, I concur with EOAA that the events did happen and represent serious violations of the University’s Sexual Harassment policy. As such, this conduct violates behavioral standards set forth in the University’s Tenure Regulations. As several of the reporting parties noted – and I agree – this is a very sad situation. Prof. Carlin is an accomplished scholar whose expertise in biostatistics is well recognized. Regardless, Prof. Carlin’s actions are in conflict with the values of the University and the School and cannot be tolerated.

In light of these matters, Prof. Carlin informed me that he chooses to exercise his right to retire from the University of Minnesota effective June 11, 2018. He will no longer have a relationship with SPH in any capacity. He further has expressed regret for his actions and their impact. His own letter to the SPH community is attached.

I want to recognize the courage and bravery of those who stepped forward under such difficult circumstances. I also commend others who provided important information to EOAA. Like all academic institutions, we have an obligation to assure that harassment and misconduct of any nature are unacceptable in our academic environment and workplace. They are antithetical to a culture of support and mutual respect. Building a better culture in our school begins with all of us. It is a long journey that will require trust and commitment from everyone. I want to remind everyone that the University provides resources for those who have or are experiencing harassment, misconduct, or discrimination, including:

Thank you for your commitment to SPH and building a safe and supportive environment for all.

John R. Finnegan Jr.
Dean and Professor, School of Public Health

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