Northwestern University

Northwestern AD Mike Polisky Steps Down Amid Controversy Over Promotion

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Amid ongoing controversy over his promotion, Northwestern University Athletic Director Mike Polisky has resigned his post, just 10 days after he was installed in the position.

The decision comes after dozens of Northwestern University students marched through the college's Evanston campus in protest of the hire. Polisky, who was previously deputy director of athletics for external affairs, was named in a federal lawsuit filed by a Northwestern cheerleader who claims Polisky and three other administrators ignored her complaints of sexual harassment.  

According to school officials, Polisky resigned after "it became clear he would not be able to lead effectively" in his role as AD.

“My love and respect for Northwestern and for our student-athletes, coaches and staff are greater than my own desire to lead the department. I do not want to be a distraction to our incredible men and women as is pursues the collective goal of helping our student-athletes become the best they can be,” Polisky said. “While my family and I are disappointed, I move forward knowing this is the right decision.”

Several faculty members had penned a letter to the provost, saying the promotion is alarming, troubling and embarrassing. They said the timing isn’t right given the pending lawsuit and they want the university to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations.

“Why is the university appointing him and approving his promotion at a moment when what we’re really asking for is instead-- step back and investigate what happened," said political science and religious studies professor Elizabeth Shakam Hurd. "Give us the facts and then clear him and then promote him."

Jennifer Pius, a current member of the university's cheer team, said she raised concerns about sexual misconduct and racism to Polisky and her coach in 2019.

"Mike Polisky is a danger to Northwestern Athletics," Pius said at Friday evening's protest. "He knew about the abuses our teammates and I suffered and accused of lying to protect our coach."

Back in February, Hayden Richardson filed a federal lawsuit against the university, Polisky and three other administrators. She alleged she was sexually harassed and exploited at school events and brought her complaints to school officials but they did not take her complaints seriously.  

“I filed it because I can’t allow other individuals and woman that come after me to be subjected to the same thing,” said Richardson in an interview with NBC at the time.

Amid the protests over the hire, the school's president said in part, “the initial inquiry portion of that investigation is complete and there is no information to suggest that Mike engaged in any conduct that is a violation of policy.”

Northwestern has filed a motion to dismiss Richardson’s lawsuit.

Richardson's attorney Andrew Miltenberg issued a statement:

“With the recent appointment of Mr. Polisky — who is named in an active Title IX sexual misconduct lawsuit by cheerleader Hayden Richardson against the University — 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.  Let’s be clear — Northwestern’s appointment of Mike Polisky is a slap in the face to victims of sexual harassment at Northwestern and all colleges and universities, and a disgusting display of disrespect and cronyism." 

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