EVANSTON, Ill. — Newly-promoted Northwestern University athletic director Mike Polisky has resigned following protests surrounding his hiring.
Protesters believe the university is turning a blind eye to Polisky’s past. He is one of four people cited in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former cheerleader Hayden Richardson.
In the lawsuit, she claims cheerleaders were forced to work as “sex objects” to mingle with rich donors for the university’s financial gain.
“I was the recipient and was affected Polisky’s racist and sexist policies and attitudes,” said former cheerleader Erika Carter last week. “So I think for him to be appointed as athletic director, I wanted use my platform to speak out and say this isn’t right and I think Northwestern needs to do something to change it.”
Around 100 students marched last Friday from “The Rock” to Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro’s home.
Several prestigious former alumni and athletes signed a letter in support of Polisky’s hiring prior to him stepping down.
In a statement, Polisky said, “it has become clear to me that the current challenges will not allow me to effectively lead our department, especially during these unsettling times in college athletics.”
Read the full statement from Polisky and Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro below.
Statement from Mike Polisky:
Today, I informed President Schapiro of my decision to step down as Northwestern’s Director of Athletics and leave Northwestern University. Over the last 10 days, it has become clear to me that the current challenges will not allow me to effectively lead our department, especially during these unsettling times in college athletics. My love and respect for Northwestern and for our student-athletes, coaches and staff, is greater than my own desire to lead the department. I do not want to be a distraction to our incredible men and women as they pursue a collective goal – to help our student-athletes become the best they can be. While my family and I are disappointed, I move forward knowing this is the right decision.
I am grateful to President Schapiro for the opportunity to serve and I wish Northwestern the very best in the future. I will always cheer on the Wildcats!
Statement from President Schapiro:
Last week, when I announced Mike Polisky as the next Vice President for Athletics & Recreation at Northwestern, I acknowledged his important role in helping transform the department into a model for excellence both on the playing field and in the classroom.
Today, Mike told me he is stepping down from his new role and leaving Northwestern. I understand and respect his decision. I truly appreciate all Mike has done for the University.
I have selected someone outside of the Department of Athletics & Recreation to lead it on an interim basis. Professor Robert Gundlach has agreed to do so, just as he did in 2008 during another time of transition in the department. In addition to being a professor of linguistics, Bob is Northwestern’s faculty athletics representative to the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference. He has served on numerous NCAA committees and working groups and is deeply knowledgeable about the challenges facing intercollegiate athletics today.
In the coming months, I will share information on the process for selecting our next athletic director.
I thank the coaches, staff and student-athletes for their patience and commitment to the University. I believe in you and support you, and I’m so proud to be at a University that is a leader in academics and athletics.
Professor and President