I don’t really “know” Lynn Dorn. I served on a committee with her last year and she seemed nice enough. I am not an athletic maven who has interwoven her life with NDSU Athletics (not that there is anything wrong with that – it just isn’t me). I do “know of” Lynn Dorn – her many years of service to NDSU are well-known and have established a foundation of respect for her across the campus and community. As such, news of her recent two week suspension based on a violation of the university’s anti-harassment policy has generated an awful lot of speculation.
To be fair, given the limited amount of information that is public about the situation – a violation of the harassment policy that happened on a specific date in February with a male student that was reported by two staff members – there is a lot of room left to speculate. In an employee/student matter like this, where there are rights to be protected, the information provided to the public has been minimal at best – but oh my, how the speculation has swirled about…like a dust cloud in an abandoned ghost town it has swirled and taken on a life of its own. What did she do? Is the university covering up something? Was it something sordid and perverse? Is the student so ashamed and scarred that he can’t even come forward?
The Free Dictionary defines speculation as: a conclusion, opinion, or theory reached by conjecture.
Speculation…so much is gained with it – at least as far as the theories of the potential events that may have occurred. A theory is posited and it spreads across an assortment of channels until it takes on a character of being pseudo-reality. Just like the old childhood game of telephone, the reality of where it all started is so distorted by the end of the whispering game that it is hardly recognizable.
The flip side of speculation is what is lost with it – the actual facts, sensibility, and reputations of those subject to it. I don’t know the facts of the situation that resulted in Lynn Dorn’s suspension. I have no inside information, no direct link to the student, and as I said – no personal relationship with Lynn Dorn; but, I recognize that the harassment policy can be violated by words or even a wayward look. It is a necessarily broad policy that is designed to be open enough to be able to address harassment across a hundred different potential presentations. And while I recognize that the way it has been presented by NDSU’s athletic leadership is that it was a significant event, I would argue that any violation of the harassment policy would be characterized as such.
Inasmuch, I would caution that associating the characterization of the event as significant with it being something like inappropriate physical contact or something along those lines as taking an unfair and factually unfounded leap into speculation. That kind of speculation ruins hard-earned respect and erodes noteworthy careers.
The bottom line is that truly egregious behavior typically comes to light in two ways: 1) with a lawsuit; or, 2) with a very public firing. We haven’t seen either of those here so I would urge those who are spending their time in deep speculation about what Lynn Dorn did to warrant a two week suspension to take it down a notch. This is someone’s life and career here and your speculation comes at a cost…a cost much greater than the two week suspension awarded her by those who actually know the facts.
Day one thousand and eight of the new forty – obla di obla da