Northwestern’s new athletic director Mike Polisky — who was announced on May 3 as Jim Phillips’ replacement — resigned Wednesday.
The hiring of Polisky came with an abundance of backlash over the past nine days, as he is one of four defendants (along with the university) in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in January by a former Northwestern cheerleader.
According to The Chicago Tribune, the lawsuit alleges that Polisky and other school officials were dismissive and obstructive of her complaints that she was being sexually harassed at school events.
Additionally, The Daily Northwestern highlighted in February numerous complaints against Northwestern concerning racial discrimination within the cheerleading program, including Polisky’s alleged failure to report some of the complaints.
On May 7, more than 200 Northwestern students, faculty and staff, as well as local community members — and Evanston mayor Daniel Biss — marched in protest of the hire.
While multiple current students, student-athletes, alumni and donors signed a petition in support of Polisky, it wasn’t enough to preserve his job.
“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,” Polisky said in a statement. “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.”
Robert Gundlach, a professor in the linguistics department at Northwestern, will serve in the interim as the university’s AD. Gundlach has previously served in the interim role during 2008.