Published: April 28, 2016
The 17 swim team members under Title IX investigation for allegations they violated The University’s sexual harassment and sexual misconduct policies at off-campus events over intersession learned their fate by Monday.
The administration issued twelve swim team members punishments ranging from writing a paper to deferred suspension, or effectively a warning unless they violate another University policy, men’s team co-captain and senior Grant Owens said. Five swim team members received no punishment.
Owens, who received no punishment after his Title IX investigation, said five of his fellow seniors received deferred suspension. Junior Emma Sommers said one first-year swimmer received deferred suspension because he was already on probation and four other first-year swimmers are required to write a paper and participate in The University’s Promoting Awareness of the College Transition (PACT) program.
One men’s swim team first-year must write a paper apologizing to the women’s swim team for “not covering himself” while streaking during an off-campus swim team event, Sommers said.
In PACT, these swimmers will speak with first-year students in their residence halls on the topics of healthy relationships, relationship violence, stalking, sexual assault, consent, and campus resources, according to The University’s website.
Owens said the swim team members “will never know” who brought the alcohol, hazing and sexual harassment and sexual misconduct allegations to the administration Feb. 9.
First-year Nick Denniston, who also received no punishment after his Title IX investigation, said the results of the individual investigations are bittersweet.
“Everyone’s relieved to an extent, but also still just generally annoyed that our future and our championships (opportunity) were taken away from us,” Denniston said. “The team’s definitely still not satisfied with what’s gone on. Just because we haven’t gotten punished doesn’t mean that we’re satisfied and OK with it.”
Owens said the 17 swimmers received an email from Jennifer LaPorta, The University’s Title IX coordinator, at 9 p.m. April 20 either stating the individual was “not responsible for individual violations of the policies in question” or the individual was responsible. The swim team members who were charged with violations then set up a meeting for Thursday or Friday with Anitra McShea, vice provost for student formation and campus life, and received their punishment by email Monday, junior Emma Sommers said.
Denniston said the email was the “best email I’ve ever received in my life” and he read it aloud to his quadmate and another close friend in the Redington Hall lounge the night of April 20.
“As I started reading it I’m just like, ‘Wow this could be really bad’ if I read it and it says ‘You’re in trouble.’ I’m just going to break down in front of these people.” Denniston said. “And then I get to the ‘not guilty’ basically and just start running around Redington all happy. It was great.”
Director of Athletics David Martin initiated the interim suspension of the team and investigation of team members’ activities Feb. 10, one day before the teams were scheduled to leave for Landmark Conference championships, The Aquinas reported Feb. 25.
Owens, for whom the suspension ended his college swimming career, said the entire teams’ suspension before an investigation into individuals’ behavior was “inappropriate.”
Although the individuals are no longer under investigation, the teams’ suspension stands.
Junior Hanna Sandor said the 75 days between the start of the investigation and the punishments have taken an emotional and academic toll on all swim team members. Martin said he would make a decision on the swim teams’ suspension by April 15, Sandor said.
The Aquinas asked Stan Zygmunt, the director of news and media relations, to speak with Martin and McShea about the swim team members’ investigation outcomes and the status of the suspension of the teams and was met with this response from Zygmunt Wednesday:
“In accordance with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), the University cannot and will not discuss the status or outcome of conduct cases for individual students.”
Sommers said she emailed Martin Tuesday and junior Jessica Schmidt emailed Martin Monday to find out about the status of the teams’ suspension. Neither has received a response back from Martin.
Sommers said “It’s a waiting game” and the teams will not feel closure until the suspension is lifted. Sommers, Sandor, Denniston and Owens believe the suspension will be lifted after the “positive” individual investigation results.
Sommers said the administration has not notified head coach Paul DeAngelo or assistant coaches Colin Manley and David Hovey about the status of the swim team members’ investigations throughout the process. She said it is “ridiculous” that Schmidt had to text one of the assistant coaches to tell him the administration handed out all of its punishments by Monday and no swimmers were suspended.
“Coaches get notified if their student-athlete is found drinking in a dorm,” Sommers said. “Since this is a bigger thing, you’d think that they (the administration) would have the respect to include them (the coaching staff) in it.”
Sommers does not know if the current coaching staff will be back next year and said Martin is currently handling all swim team recruiting emails.
Owens said his lawyer reviewed similar college student-athlete cases and said the swim teams’ punishment was “very extreme.” The lawyer found that individuals in other college student-athlete cases had individual violations such as sexual assault or rape, but the entire teams were often not suspended or punished like in the case of The University’s swim teams, Owens said.
Sommers said she and Owens have spoken about encouraging future swim team members to bring any problems to team leaders before going to the administration to avoid a similar situation to this year.
Another four swimmers received deferred suspension in early March for hazing or alcohol policy violations, The Aquinas reported March 10. In total, 16 of the 57 members of the swim teams received punishment.
Owens said the team and individual investigations did not divide them. He hopes other University sports teams can learn from this investigation to be careful with their off-campus actions and know their rights under the student code of conduct.
Owens said 10 years after graduation this process will not have changed the way he looks at his team and teammates, but will have changed the way he views The University.
“On the swim team, I’m going to look back and I’m going to love it and have great memories. I came here and I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. I have three individual records, I have relay records and I’m glad that I went after them every year and I didn’t wait until my senior year to try to go after them,” Owens said. “I can speak for a lot of other seniors on the team: We’re always going to look back at The University of Scranton with a bad taste in our mouth just because of this.”
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