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Former Northland College AD under fire by some past athletes/coaches
Former Northland College staff and women’s basketball players are alleging that former Athletics Director Bill Wilson discriminated against women and gay athletes. Danielle Kaeding reports.
(Part two of three part series)
WRNC has learned that Wilson was reportedly investigated last spring by the college for inappropriate comments to female workers. That investigation concluded that he was not creating a hostile work environment for women employees.
The station has also learned that Wilson was the subject of a Title IX investigation early this year for alleged discriminatory treatment of female students on the women’s basketball team. Results of the Title IX investigation this year were not disclosed by the college. Wilson resigned at the end of April. He and the school did not comment on either investigation.
In the spring of last year, former Northland College Head Women’s Soccer Coach Amanda Evans says human resources told her Wilson was being investigated on whether he was creating a hostile work environment. Evans believes the investigation was initiated as a result of experiences she shared, but she can’t say for certain. She says Northland College President Mike Miller later reviewed a letter of the findings with her.
“Mike Miller read the letter to me and basically said according to the school’s lawyers that based on the findings of their investigation that it was not considered legally a hostile work environment.”
James Ryan is a spokesman with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC out of Washington D.C. Ryan says the EEOC deals with hostile work environments created by discrimination. He says behavior that rises to the level of discrimination, such as sexual harassment, depends on whether it is severe or pervasive.
“It can be complex deciding whether or not something was intolerable, illegal discrimination depending on the context of what was done and what the victim tried to do about it and how the supervisors responded to it.”
Northland College employees may bring forth complaints with human resources if they feel subject to sexual harassment or discrimination, according to the college’s personnel handbook. Human Resources investigates and provides a written response and resolution. If further investigation is needed, the president may name an investigator for complaints of discrimination or a three-member panel for complaints of sexual harassment. The complaint is reviewed and a report is sent to the president. The president’s final decision is shared with those involved. Evans says she did not appeal the findings.
“However, they recognized that there were some issues and they were going to work with Bill to rehab him based on those issues.”
Northland senior Sarah Hudson and former student Rebecca Lake played basketball under Wilson during the 2011-2012 season. They felt Wilson treated them differently for being gay and made inappropriate comments. But, they say players were afraid to talk about how Wilson treated them because complaints would get back to him. But, Lake says players have shared their stories with college officials.
“I’ve been asked about my problems or issues with Coach Wilson’s coaching. I’ve already told someone about this. I think it’s important. I think it affects a lot of people.”
In an email obtained from Hudson, a college staff member writes quote - "President Mike Miller has requested that I contact former participants and review some aspects of the women’s varsity BB program at Northland" – unquote.
Hudson says the team she played with her sophomore year was interviewed when some decided not to play last fall.
“How we felt about Bill Wilson as a coach. How he treated us as people, as women.”
The email is dated November 6th of last year. Two weeks later, the college announced Wilson had been promoted to full-time Athletics Director and would no longer coach women’s basketball.
This series is a special report by WRNC and has not been reviewed or approved by Northland College. In the final part of this investigative report, WRNC details requirements for schools under Title IX law and the view of Northland College officials on how Title IX investigations are handled.
(editor's note: Part three will be posted Friday and can be heard on KUWS (91.3FM Superior and WUWS 90.9FM Ashland at noon and 5 p.m.)
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