A rendering of the planned new Ryan Field.

Six professors at Northwestern University are demanding that the proposed $800 million rebuild of Ryan Field be put on hold, following revelations of locker room hazing of football players, and the subsequent firing of head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

The teachers are calling for a series of reforms, including more transparency about the hazing, emotional support for the victims, and greater outside oversight of the Athletic Department.

Plus, in their letter to NU President Michael Schill, Athletics Director Derrick Gragg, and Board of Trustees chair Peter Barris, the professors say that “the university should halt … [ the stadium] planning and marketing process until this crisis is satisfactorily resolved.”

One of those signing the letter, Prof. Beth Hurd, told Evanston Now “things need to be paused and put on hold while they clean up this mess.”

“Once they establish some trust,” Hurd continued, “then they can talk about the stadium or whatever they want to talk about.”

The professors are not necessarily opposed to a new stadium, saying in their letter that “we share an interest in ensuring the future success of NU athletics, and in stellar facilities where our students can compete at the highest level.”

However, because of yet another scandal (the same professors complained about sexual harassment of female cheerleaders a couple of years ago), “we need to get the existing house in order before expanding it.”

In addition to writing the letter, the six professors are creating a petition for other faculty members to sign, endorsing the same steps that the letter demands.

The transparency demand includes releasing as much of the hazing investigation as possible, within the law and respecting concerns of the victims.

So far, NU has only released an executive summary.

But the teachers say the community needs to find out who knew what when, “in part so we can ensure it never happens again.”

The letter also demands that the administration “provide all necessary support to the students who experienced hazing and trauma,” including a promise of no retaliation by the university.

The profs are also calling on administrators to “encourage the perpetrators and enablers of the abuse to acknowledge what they saw and did, and to apologize.”

Hurd also told Evanston Now that “we want a change in the culture, not just one coach being fired.”

The political science and religious studies professor said that she and her colleagues have athletes in their classes.

“We don’t want them to be hazed and harassed. It’s that simple.”

Professors who signed the letter are:

Caitlin Fitz, Kate Masur, Susan Pearson and Amy Stanley, all of the History Department, as well as Beth Hurd, Political Science, and Jessica Winegar, Anthropology.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. The stadium construction seems tangentially related at best, unless they were calling for suspending the entire football program, in which case the primary purpose of the stadium would go away.

    I am happy to see some faculty taking an interest in protecting students. I also suspect that this is a problem that is much bigger than just the head coach; he was just the fall guy. I doubt the faculty raising this issue would be satisfied if they kept playing football in the current stadium in exchange for meeting none of their demands. So it does not make sense to tie the issue of reform to construction of a building.

    1. Barry Miller said it best: “One wonders whether Northwestern’s plan to rebuild Ryan Field was a factor in how this was handled. A major controversy about the football program is ill-timed while rebuilding plans are before the city. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.

      The sequence of events makes it appear that Northwestern was more concerned about public relations, avoiding controversy and protecting its athletic programs than its fundamental obligations to the truth and protecting the welfare of its students. While top university administrators must always balance many factors in their decisions, they seem to have assigned insufficient weight to their most basic values.”

  2. The stadium construction isn’t related at all to the problems with the football program or the cheerleaders. How do bricks and mortar relate to hazing, a lack of coaching oversight, sexual harassment, etc? The baseball program appears to be in even more turmoil than the football program – so according to the professors’ logic, I guess part of the solution is to do something to Rocky Miler Park? If the professors aren’t fans of the stadium project, then make pertinent points about noise, traffic, etc. Their letter makes no sense.

  3. As a former Chicago mayor once famously said regarding moving forward his political agenda, “never let a good crisis go to waste”.

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