Native American Institute Acting Director Sues MSU


EAST LANSING, Mich. — The acting director of the Michigan State University Native American Institute is suing the university for what she describes as years of sexual harassment.

“The institution has let me down. It has completely let me down,” acting director Christie Poitra said.

Poitra has been with MSU for a long time, earning her doctorate from the university before becoming an employee in 2016.

She said the harassment from her supervisor, John Norder, began immediately.

“My supervisor had shared his fetishes with me. He was in bondage. He gave me details about his sex life with his wife,” Poitra said.

This is just an excerpt from what she shared with Fox 47 News.

“In August 2018, Christie confided in a colleague about what was going on. And that colleague first reported it to MSU, to the Office of Institutional Equity, then they contacted her and she decided to move forward with the reporting process,” said Liz Abnour, Poitra’s attorney.

They filed a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights regarding his concerns.

“They transferred the investigation to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And then that investigation was not completed within 180 days. So we asked for what is called the letter of right of prosecute because by then additional concerns had arisen regarding discrimination and harassment by other individuals as well as retaliation,” Abdnour said.

Poitra believes the retaliation was underpaid, given fewer resources, and forced to clean out Norder’s desk drawer, including removing sex lubricants, when he was fired from his office.

MSU’s Office for Institutional Equity eventually conducted an investigation, determining that Norder had violated the school’s sexual misconduct policy. It took over 500 days.

Norder, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is still employed by the university as a professor.

Abdnour did not say how much money they were seeking, but they are seeking meaningful compensation for years of severe emotional distress and years of underpayment.

“It’s kind of a larger systemic issue that needs to be addressed. And my hope through that is to seek accountability and change for the institution,” Poitra said.

University spokesman Dan Olsen said he could not comment on ongoing litigation. He could only add that “the university moved the Native American Institute from the college it was previously in to the provost’s office with the university’s office of outreach and engagement.”

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