U removes Keillor plaque from campus display

University of Minnesota's Scholars Walk
Crowds pass through the University of Minnesota's Scholars Walk, a display on campus which honors notable university faculty and alumni, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

The University of Minnesota has removed a plaque honoring humorist Garrison Keillor.

Keillor's plaque is no longer displayed on Scholars Walk, which honors notable university faculty and alumni.

The move came Jan. 19, several weeks after Minnesota Public Radio broke ties with Keillor amid allegations of sexual harassment from a woman who worked on the show he founded, A Prairie Home Companion.

But so far, the U has not said whether the decision to remove his plaque is related to the allegations.

In a statement, the U said five panels were "updated to feature a fresh set of distinguished members of the University community."

A number of factors go into the determining the panel content and the timing of the rotation, "including whether the person meets the standards the University holds for members of its community," the statement continued.

Jim Heinz, general manager of the McNamara Alumni Center, said Keillor was one of 14 individuals mentioned on five copper plaques that were taken down last month as part of a rotation that takes place roughly every six months.

"Fourteen went up, and 14 came down," Heinz said. "The Garrison Keillor name was one of those that came down."

University of Minnesota's Scholars Walk
A plaque honoring former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz and journalist Eric Sevareid sits as one of the newest additions on display at the University of Minnesota's Scholars Walk.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Among the latest to be installed were former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Minnesota Lynx player Lindsay Whalen, former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz, journalists Eric Sevareid and Michele Norris, writer Cheryl Strayed, Star Tribune cartoonist Steve Sack and rapper Dessa, according to Heinz.

The honorees are pictured on the plaques as they appeared when they were on campus, Heinz said. The provost's office typically decides which individuals will be honored after collecting submissions from various university departments.

After the Minnesota Daily reported on his plaque's removal, Keillor wrote on Facebook that the news was "a relief."

"The idea of the Walk was some nameless bureaucrat's and was an embarrassment anyway: a great public university is about equality and anonymity and I'm proud to be a U of M grad, no need for a plaque. As for 'sexual harassment' on my part, there wasn't any. How does one go about proving this? The U of M Library asked for my papers years ago and I donated them. So now I guess they won't want them anymore. Fine by me. Do I have to return my B.A.?"

Keillor graduated from the university in 1966 with a bachelor's degree in English.

The longtime Minnesota Public Radio personality is known for telling folksy stories about his fictional Minnesota hometown of Lake Wobegon. MPR severed its relationship with Keillor in November.

The company cited dozens of alleged sexually inappropriate incidents with a female colleague after hiring an outside law firm to investigate the claims.

Keillor has denied the allegations and says that the radio station fired him without a proper investigation.

On Monday afternoon, he also posted an open letter on Facebook addressed to the editor of the Minnesota Daily:

"It's odd to be punished by having something taken away that you never wanted in the first place, like when my mother sent me to my room for being sassy. I loved my room, all my books were there, I had no interest in going outdoors. And that's how I feel about being removed from the Scholars Walk at the University because I've been accused of 'inappropriate behavior' by Minnesota Public Radio. I'm a writer, not a scholar, and writers don't need plaques: we write books and if you wish you can read one, and if not, good luck and God bless."

An MPR News investigation reported in late January two incidents in which Keillor made unwelcome remarks about his attraction to female college students, including a U student who was enrolled in a comedy writing class he taught in 2001. That former student, Lora Den Otter, said Keillor wrote her an email admitting his "intense attraction" to her after she inquired about interning for Prairie Home.

In a separate incident in 2012, Keillor wrote and publicly posted in his bookstore a bawdy limerick about a Macalester College student who worked there and the effect she had on his state of arousal.

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