Amid faculty criticism and threat of protest, Northwestern University president Morton Shapiro released a letter Thursday defending the decision this week to promote deputy athletic director Mike Polisky to athletic director.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Polisky is one of four defendants along with the university in a lawsuit filed by a cheerleader who claims Polisky of dismissing her sexual harassment allegations.
In a letter addressed to “concerned members of the Northwestern community,” Schapiro said he interviewed seven candidates in recent weeks and was most impressed with Polisky.
“The University employed an external search firm," Schapiro wrote. "As part of the search firm’s process, they conducted a detailed examination of Mike’s background, which involved interviews by a former FBI supervisory special agent and a review by a former federal judge. Their findings gave me further confidence in Mike’s full fitness for the position, and I would not have hired him if he did not meet the highest standard of conduct and character.”
On Wednesday, six Northwestern women faculty members wrote an open letter critical of the hire and demanding more transparency regarding the process. It was the second letter regarding Polisky co-signed by female faculty members at the university — the first coming in February, when 80 signatories demanded transparency from the administration once the harassment lawsuit went public.
Faculty indicated plans to march to Schapiro's house today in protest of the Polisky promotion.
According to the Tribune, Polisky is a familiar face at Northwestern athletic events and worked closely with Phillips on major projects since joining the department in 2010. He previously served as president of the Chicago Wolves professional hockey team and president and general manager of the Chicago Rush arena football team. As Northwestern’s deputy athletic director for external affairs, he spent a decade working in branding and strategy, involved in ticket sales and service, marketing, corporate sponsorship, media and public relations, creative services, community relations, fan experience and merchandising.
Andrew Miltenberg, an attorney representing former cheerleader Hayden Richardson, said Thursday in a statement to the Tribune: “(It’s) clear that Northwestern is not taking the issue of sexual abuse even remotely seriously. This appointment is even more outrageous because Mr. Polisky called my client’s claims of sexual harassment fraudulent and fabricated when she first came forward to report them to Mr. Polisky, as she was a cheerleader under his direction.”
Schapiro concluded his letter stating “the safety and well-being of the Northwestern community is our top priority, and Mike and his Athletics and Recreation leadership team are deeply committed to the same.”