WU releases findings on soccer investigation
Men’s soccer team found in violation of Student Judicial Code, but not of sexual harassment policy following complaint from women’s team
The men’s soccer team did not violate Washington University’s sexual harassment policy, according to the results of an investigation conducted by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.
The investigation, however, did find “inappropriate and offensive behavior associated with certain team activities that is in violation of the Student Judicial Code,” according to a statement that was released this morning from Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori White.
“There’s always different perceptions of these kinds of issues, and often one side will say that the findings and or the related sanctions were not tough enough, and another side will say that the sanctions were too tough,” White said in an interview with Student Life. “So, we have to do an investigation and make decisions based on the information that we have.”
The investigation was launched in December, when a complaint was filed by the women’s soccer team citing allegations of “inappropriate behavior,” as well as an online document created by members of the 2015 team that included “degrading and sexually explicit comments” about the members of the women’s team.
During the investigation, the University was unable to retrieve the document mentioned in the complaint, White said. Students described it during interviews conducted during the investigation, but it was never seen by members of the University administration or those conducting the investigation.
The team was put on an indefinite suspension that was lifted after the investigation was conducted and completed over winter break. Both teams were then offered the opportunity to appeal the decision by Jan. 31. Neither team chose to appeal.
According to the University’s definition, sexual harassment is “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual violence, whether committed on or off campus.” This conduct can be verbal, visual, physical and/or communicated in writing or electronically.
The men’s team is on probation pending completion of mandatory educational training by all members of the team this spring, the statement continues. The team will also be required to write a letter of apology to the women’s team and to abstain from activities that were found to be in violation of the Student Judicial Code.
According to White’s statement, only some members of the team engaged in inappropriate behavior. However, because the complaint was brought against the entire team, the measures will affect the entire team and there will be no action against any individual member, White said.
“We investigated the team, and while it is the case that not every member of the team participated in any of the offensive activities that we uncovered, we felt that the team should be held responsible because a number of the team members were involved,” she added.
Should the team not fulfill these requirements it would impact its season in the fall, White said. But, that’s not something she expects to happen.
“I fully expect the men to participate,” she said. “They’ve indicated the willingness to participate in the training.”
For now, the University is attempting to aid the two teams—which have historically been close —in rebuilding a positive relationship. White said this includes encouraging the teams to work with some facilitators through small, group conversations.
She added that the women’s team also pointed to other gender-related issues on campus, as mentioned in her statement, which also spoke about the importance of being clear with students regarding expectations and increasing resources by providing more funding to entities like the Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center and the Title IX Office.
Looking back on the investigation process, White said she hopes those not involved in the day-to-day recognize the seriousness with which the University approached the investigation and that students in the future not be afraid to come forward when they witness or experience behavior “not in line with our University community values.”
“I’m hopeful that as people watched this unfold they saw the University took this very seriously,” she said. “When we received a complaint, we immediately acted upon it; we launched an investigation right away…we did a very thorough investigation and our investigation should lead to findings based on the evidence that we were able to review.”
White added that the University is looking to increase the amount of training and to alter when students receive that training.
“I think one of the things we’re really good at is training students in their first year when they go through orientation,” she said. “I think what we need to do a better job of is making sure that we have regular and ongoing training after students’ first year, beyond the students who might volunteer for those things.”