Minnesota professor Brad Carlin resigns amid sexual harassment complaints

A professor accused of sexual harassment resigns, thanking his accusers.

A professor accused of sexual harassment resigns, thanking his accusers. Getty Images

Professor Brad Carlin, head of the Division of Biostatistics at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, has been in hot water awhile -- but not hot enough to do any damage.

He was investigated twice by the U before April 2016, when he was reprimanded by Public Health Dean John Finnegan for making inappropriate comments involving, among other things, “breastfeeding and gender stereotypes about female faculty.” He was instructed to attend four hours of diversity training, then carry on.

In December 2017, Kristian Lum turned up the heat by writing a lengthy blog post about Carlin’s bad behavior while she’d worked on her dissertation, accusing him of touching her leg and telling her that her dress was “way too sexy” during a 2010 conference. She also accused him of sending a slew of inappropriate Facebook messages:

“The activity I was thinking of is sex," he wrote, "but birdwatching would be better too I suppose.”

Carlin responded with a Facebook post admitting that Lum was talking about him in her blog and apologizing for his jokes about groping and assault. He wouldn’t comment further because that was information of interest to the U. At the time, Carlin was the subject of four active investigations.

Fast forward to Wednesday, when things finally came to a boil. Finnegan sent a letter to the School of Public Health’s staff, faculty and students. After Lum’s blog post and all the media coverage that followed, more people had come forward about “previously unknown” incidents involving Carlin from inside and outside the U.

The U, Finnegan said, won’t let him release the investigation reports, but he said they contained “a pattern of sexually-themed comments, including observations regarding women’s attractiveness, inappropriate conversations about sexual matters, and an unwelcome request for sexual contact.”

Finnegan decided that Carlin couldn’t continue on as head of the Division of Biostatistics.

“Professor Carlin is an accomplished scholar whose expertise in biostatistics is well recognized,” Finnegan said. “Regardless, Professor Carlin’s actions are in conflict with the values of the university and the school and cannot be tolerated.”

And on that note, Finnegan said, Carlin had informed him that he was resigning June 11. Carlin declined to comment outside of his own memo, where he thanked the office that investigated him and the people who reported him “for giving me the opportunity to reflect on my words and actions and the impacts they may have on others.”

“I hope that I will become a better person as a result of this information, introspection, and assistance,” he said.

There were 55 sexual misconduct cases substantiated in the university system between 2013 and 2017. In 23 of them, the employee responsible resigned or was laid off before they could be disciplined, which means their names and case files are never released to the public.