Swim teams reinstated

Published: May 5, 2016

photo courtesy of scranton athletics / jim o’connor THE MEN’S and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams pose for a team photo published Jan 22. Of the 17 swim members under Title IX investiagtion, twelve received punishment and five received no punishment by Monday.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SCRANTON ATHLETICS / JIM O’CONNOR / THE MEN’S and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams take a team photo published Jan 22. The teams were reinstated after being suspended and investigated for Title IX sexual harassment and sexual misconduct policy violations.

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Director of Athletics Dave Martin lifted the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams’ suspension Tuesday night.

The team received the “relieving news” in the same John J. Long Center room in which Martin announced the teams’ suspension Feb. 10.

About an hour and a half into Tuesday night’s meeting, first-year Nick Denniston said Martin, “officially said, ‘The suspension has been lifted.’”

“It’s just one giant cheer that went across the entire room and laughs and some people cried,” Denniston said. “It was just the icing on the cake of the entire situation.”

In addition to Martin and the swim team members, the meeting included head coach Paul DeAngelo, assistant coach Colin Manley and Associate Director of Athletics Toby Lovecchio.

It was the first time the swim team members saw their coaches since Feb. 9 — the day Martin told them they were under investigation at a meeting on the pool deck.

Denniston said the atmosphere at Tuesday’s meeting was one of “positivity” and “understanding” between the swim team members and Martin.

“A lot of us went into it (the meeting) hot-headed and angry towards him (Martin),” Denniston said. “But we came out definitely with a lot of respect towards him.”

Junior swim team member Jessica Schmidt said the meeting was “informative” and “beneficial.”

“Throughout the whole investigation, we didn’t know a lot of what was going on,” Schmidt said. “So this was a great way for everyone to express what they were feeling and ask questions and finally have questions being answered.”

In February, the team members were confused about why Martin issued the suspension that kept them from the Landmark Conference championships, but now they better understand why he took those measures, Denniston said. The teams’ reinstatement finally gives them the closure they wanted, Schmidt said.

Lovecchio and Martin said they do not look differently at any of the swim team members and the swimmers should wear their team apparel with pride, Schmidt said.

Head coach DeAngelo said he wants to move past the situation and is eager to begin next season, Schmidt said.

The Aquinas asked Stan Zygmunt, the director of news and media relations, to speak with Martin and Anitra McShea, vice provost for student formation and campus life, about the investigation and was met with an official University email response Wednesday.

“The University has concluded its investigation and adjudication of violations of our Hazing, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct, and Alcohol policies by some members of the Women’s and Men’s Swimming teams. 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.

“On May 3, Athletic Director David Martin met with members of the Women’s and Men’s Swimming teams to discuss the findings of the investigation and positive and safe ways for the teams to move forward that are consistent with the University’s Catholic and Jesuit values.

“Mr. Martin shared his decision to lift the interim suspension of both teams, clearing the teams to represent the University at athletic competitions and activities, effective immediately. The teams will be on probation through the 2016-2017 academic year, during which members must participate in educational programing and community service.”

The team’s reinstatement comes just over a week after the 17 individual swimmers under Title IX investigation for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct received their closure.

April 25, twelve swim team members under Title IX investigation received their punishments. They ranged from writing a paper to deferred suspension, or effectively a warning unless they violate another University policy, The Aquinas reported last week. The five other swimmers under Title IX investigation, including Denniston, received no punishment April 20.

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.

Denniston said after the individual and team outcomes, the challenge will be making a positive name for the teams once more.

“Once people start becoming more educated about what happened … they’ll understand that it’s still the same team that we’ve always been,” Denniston Said. “We’re still the same family that we’ve always been. If anything it just made the family grow stronger.”

Schmidt said Martin and the team members have agreed to plan community events for next semester that will help the team bond and improve their reputation.

Community service on and off campus, a “Special Olympics” day at The University over intersession and Relay for Life are some community activities in which the team will participate, Schmidt said.

Since McShea sent an email to all members of the campus community Feb. 17 informing them of the swim teams’ suspension and investigation, swim team members have requested a campus-wide email from McShea stating the teams’ suspension and investigation have concluded, Schmidt said.

Martin told the team Tuesday that he will ask McShea if she can send this email, Schmidt said.

Now that the teams’ suspension is lifted, Martin, Denniston, Schmidt and the team are focused on the fall and the start of next season.

“Everyone is excited for our first meet in October and is looking forward to that day to be in our Scranton suits and our caps and to show everyone that we’re coming back,” Schmidt said. “This may have happened, but we’re going to grow from this and really come back in a more positive way, have a strong season and not let this take us down.”

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

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