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The president of Hennepin Technical College has stepped down amid allegations he made demeaning comments toward employees and colleagues.

The Twin Cities technical college confirmed Dr. Merrill Irving, Jr.'s resignation Monday morning, sending a message to HTC faculty and staff about the upcoming "transition in leadership."

"I express my deepest regrets that Hennepin Technical College wasn’t always a respectful place to work," wrote Chancellor Devinder Malhotra in the message. "I’ve heard from you about the hurt, frustration, and pain it has caused, and for that I’m truly sorry."

Irving's departure comes a week after the Star Tribune uncovered investigation reports from 2021, which alleged he belittled and harassed various college employees, while on the job and during "informal work settings." That included comments about the sex lives, appearance, weight and physical abilities of different colleagues.

The investigation concluded Irvin's comments ran afoul of respectful workplace policies, but did not rise to the level of harassment, according to the paper.

The paper's report prompted nine Republican state representatives, including party leadership and members of the Higher Education Committee, to sign a letter demanding Irving resign. The letter's author, Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake) on Monday called his departure a "victory," but added "we still have so much farther to go in protecting employees from abuse."

Irving was named president of HTC in July of 2015, and according to his bio helped the college reaffirm its accreditation. It also notes the various recognitions and awards under his tenure, including one for Irving himself in 2017, in which the Minnesota State College Student Association named him president of the year.

In an email Irving sent to colleagues announcing his resignation, he called the decision to resign "extremely difficult," according to Inside Higher Ed. Continuing on in his role as president, he wrote, would become "more of a distraction" and detract from the work HTC was doing.

Wrote Malhotra in Monday's message to faculty and staff: 

"While transition is hard, we can look forward to a strong future for Hennepin Technical College, for which it is well-poised. I do wish to thank President Irving for his service and positive contributions to the college and to Minnesota State and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

I also want to thank you all for staying focused on your mission of providing exceptional education to students and supporting them as they work towards achieving their academic goals. The college is blessed with talented faculty and staff and enjoys the support of the community. More importantly, thank you for what you do for our students each and every day."

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