Swimmers charged

Published: March 10, 2016

Four swimmers charged, 17 others under investigation; swimmers claim innocence

photo courtesy of scranton athletics THE MEN’S and women’s swimming and diving teams rallying at a meet at Marywood University two seasons ago. Four students from the teams were charged this week with violating The University’s alcohol and/or hazing policies with a deferred suspension.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SCRANTON ATHLETICS / THE MEN’S and women’s swimming and diving teams rallying at a meet at Marywood University two seasons ago. Four students from the teams were charged this week with violating The University’s alcohol and/or hazing policies with a deferred suspension.

CARMINE GERRITY-GEMEI
Editor-In-Chief

A month after The University’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams were suspended and an investigation was launched, The University charged four swimmers with hazing or alcohol policy violations and 17 more are under Title IX investigation for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, swim team members confirmed.

The four swimmers charged with the student code of conduct violations, two junior men and two senior women, received deferred suspension, said senior women’s swim team co-captain Genevieve Cohen, who is under Title IX investigation. This means if they get in trouble with The University again they have a much greater chance of being suspended.

On Friday, Jennifer Laporta, The University’s Title IX coordinator and executive director of the office of equity and diversity, sent an email to the 17 individual swimmers accused of violating Title IX, Cohen said. The email stated these members will undergo a 1-4 week investigation to see if they violated The University’s sexual misconduct and sexual harassment policies, Cohen said.

After this period, the swimmers under Title IX investigation will know their punishment, if found guilty, which ranges from a fine or writing a paper to suspension for the semester, Cohen said.

The 17 members, including two senior women, all seven senior men and some first-year men will attend “investigative meetings” starting next week conducted by an unbiased investigator unaffiliated with The University, Cohen said. She said the other 37 members of the men’s and women’s teams will not be punished or investigated further.

The Aquinas asked Stan Zygmunt, director of news and media relations, to speak with David Martin, director of athletics, Anitra McShea, Ph.D., vice provost for student formation and campus life, who sent out the email to all students and faculty informing them of the swim teams’ suspension and investigation into the allegations, Lauren Rivera, J.D., M.Ed. vice provost for student formation and campus life and dean of students, Laporta and Jeffrey Kegolis, Ph.D., director of student conduct and assessment.

In response to the requests to speak with these University staff members, Zygmunt issued The Aquinas a statement on behalf of The University.

“As we have communicated to the campus community, a thorough and fair review of alleged violations by some members the Women’s and Men’s Swimming teams would take several weeks to complete.”

In accordance with the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), the University cannot and will not discuss the status or outcome of conduct cases for individual students.”

Senior men’s swim team co-captain Grant Owens, who is being investigated for Title IX violations, said he and several seniors are being accused of organizing a “team-bonding experience.” They are being investigated for the events that occurred at the gathering held at an off-campus house over intersession, Owens said.

He said although he is aware of accusations made against him, no one on the team knows who brought the accusations forward.

“They haven’t provided us with a victim,” Owens said. “Freshman are getting charged with sexual harassment, the girls are getting charged with sexual harassment and the seniors are getting charged with motivating sexual harassment.”

He said this is the worst possible situation for the swim team.

“This is an allegation that is something that will affect your entire life if you’re proven guilty…” Owens said.

Since many members are not charged or under investigation, Cohen said “it is ridiculous” that the entire team was suspended Feb. 10, one day after the team’s investigation was initiated. This prevented the teams from attending the Landmark Conference championship Feb. 12-14. The team is still suspended.

“Of course when an institution is brought such serious accusations, you should absolutely look into it,” Cohen said. “But they punished us a day after they heard (the allegations) with no solid evidence. They took those interviews (Feb. 9) that they scared kids into and ran with them. They didn’t really do their job and investigate and they took the opportunity to punish us…”

Cohen said the accusations against her may be dropped because of how The University gained the evidence – through text messages, photos and videos team members felt “forced” to show to University investigators Feb. 9.

One of the senior women’s team members received deferred suspension for sending a group message to team members about a team party and the other senior woman received deferred suspension for not doing anything about the text message, Cohen said. This message was presented to University investigators during an interview with a team member Feb. 9, Cohen said.

Nicholas Denniston, a first-year men’s team member under Title IX investigation, said many team members in his grade turned over text messages, photos and videos that may have incriminated themselves.

“(The investigators) knew we were scared of them and they used that against us,” he said.

Denniston, who said he does not drink alcohol and has never been forced to drink by team members, believes the accusations of hazing and sexual harassment and sexual misconduct to be false.

“No I don’t believe any of that stuff is truthful in my opinion,” Denniston said. “I don’t believe it happened.”

Owens is also optimistic about the result of the “investigative meetings.”

“We haven’t done anything that they’ve accused us of,” he said.

Owens explained a specific instance he disagrees with these Title IX accusations.

“One kid’s sexual harassment (Title IX) violation is being in his boxers in the presence of girls. We are in our Speedos, less than Speedos, half those Speedos are see-through they’re so old, every single day. We walk out on Midnight Madness in our speedos and jackets and we don’t get in trouble at all,” Owens said. “Now he’s in front of girls in his boxers that come down to right above his knee and gets in trouble for it.”

The swimmer in question was unavailable for interview.

Title IX prohibits students from engaging in gender-based harassment and discrimination.

Cohen said the swim teams have “been made examples of.”

Denniston said he recently received an email instructing him to schedule an “investigative meeting” for next week. The email said the meeting will take approximately 30 minutes and Denniston plans to bring a lawyer.

“I used to go to swim meets around here because I’m from the local area (Lords Valley),” Denniston said. “When they see Scranton swimming, it used to be a prestigious thing, but now I feel like the name will always be tainted, which is sad.”

Contact the writer: carmine.gerrity-gemei@scranton.edu

One Response to Swimmers charged

  1. Doc Reply

    March 10, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    The University’s silence on this is quite interesting. The institution does not have to name individuals, but it should list the charges. It certainly seems as though an entire group of students is being railroaded on the word of what appears to be one individual. I am trying to keep an open mind here, but the burden of proof lies with the University. They are punishing a vulnerable population — students — without having presented any evidence against them.

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