Incident Catches Up With a President

December 21, 2006

Minnesota's Saint Mary's University on Wednesday announced the resignation of its president, Brother Craig J. Franz, following his admission that he had engaged in "an episode of inappropriate sexual behavior" with a student at Saint Mary's College of California, where he was president before going to Minnesota.

The Minnesota university announced the resignation with a letter from its board chair, Robert Figliulo. In the letter, he said that after officials there received information about the allegations from the California institution, "the university addressed the matter with Brother Craig" and he "disclosed to his religious superiors and to me as board chair" that while president in California, he "engaged in an episode of inappropriate sexual behavior with an adult student who was enrolled in that institution."

The letter added that the former president "realizes his activity was inappropriate in light of his religious vows and his position as a leader, teacher and mentor" and that he had left the campus and was residing with his religious community. He could not be reached for comment.

The university's letter stressed that the institution "does not tolerate inappropriate sexual behavior between a person in authority -- whether they be religious or lay -- with any student, faculty or staff member."

At the time Brother Craig resigned as president of the California Saint Mary's, in 2004, he was facing a financial controversy. A board member backed out of $112 million in pledges to the college, creating a major problem for the institution, which had already started some building projects and oriented other plans around the anticipated gifts. Brother Craig said at the time that it would be best for the college to have new leadership.

A spokeswoman for the college said Wednesday that the college had no knowledge of the allegation against Brother Craig until the summer of 2006.

A statement released by the California institution's new president, Brother Ronald Gallagher, said that at that time, a student came forward with an allegation that Brother Craig "had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with the student in late fall 2004, after Brother Craig had announced his resignation."

Brother Ronald said that he ordered an independent investigation, which last month concluded that Brother Craig had "engaged in behavior totally inappropriate for a Christian Brother and college president and inconsistent with our values and traditions." At that point, Brother Ronald said that the results of the inquiry were shared with Christian Brothers officials (both Saint Mary's College and University are affiliated with the order).

"I am sure it is as troubling to you as it is to me that one of our students was subjected to improper sexual conduct," Brother Ronald wrote. "Our Board of Trustees has initiated a follow-up inquiry to determine if other students might have encountered similar behavior while Brother Craig was at Saint Mary's College. That inquiry is ongoing."

The statements from the institutions in both California and Minnesota noted the sadness for the colleges of sharing news of the incident as Christmas approaches.

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