Georgetown’s track and field team is the subject of two university-led investigations into allegations of hazing, sexual harassment and racial bias.
Evidence of sexual misconduct in the men’s track team first surfaced in late April, when a student apparently affiliated with the men’s track team sent a video trailer via the university’s e-mail system for the so-called “Hoya Snaxa Awards,” in which participants “earn points” for performing a series of lewd, offensive, sexually charged acts.
That video was promptly blocked by the university, and an investigation was launched that included dozens of interviews with coaches and current and former athletes.
“Although not every student engaged in misconduct,” reads a statement issued by Georgetown on Friday, “the reported behavior is deeply concerning, inconsistent with the values of the university and does not meet the expectations Georgetown has set for members of its community and for its student-athletes.”
While Georgetown typically doesn’t comment publicly on internal investigations, the university released a statement acknowledging its twin inquiries into the track team — and the steps it has taken to date — after reports of misconduct and charges of racial bias gained traction via social media late last week.
The first catalyst was a blog post detailing sexual harassment and misconduct among some members of the men’s team in the men’s locker room, including the Hoyas Snaxa Awards and the “Scavenger Hunt” listing of acts to be performed. The details are similar to those enumerated in a five-page formal complaint dated July 6 and written by a rising junior on the team who had grown weary of the pace of the university’s investigation. His complaint, which was shared with The Washington Post, described instances in which the student witnessed teammates groping one another’s “private parts” and felt sexually harassed by three teammates in particular.
A second, separate investigation into the track team focuses on allegations of racial bias in the program. Launched in March, that investigation is being conducted by Georgetown’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action.
Fueling the social-media debate over what’s going on in Georgetown’s track team was another blog post, this by a rising junior, who opened her post by recounting the pride she felt upon signing her scholarship offer to run for Georgetown. The athlete, Stefanie Kurgatt, then describes how injury and a deteriorating relationship with her coach scuttled her promise. Kurgatt described feeling marginalized as a sprinter (as opposed to distance runner) and as a minority, recounting one instance in which a teammate asked if she spoke Ebonics. She said the coaching staff pressured her to run while injured and that a steady stream of negative comments felt like a tactic that was designed to make her quit. She said that in a single year, five Georgetown track athletes, herself included, either left or were dropped from the team — all of them minorities.
Soon after, comments from other students appeared.
Kurgatt, who is not listed on the team’s roster for the upcoming year, declined to comment on her experience or her blog post when reached by telephone, explaining that she wanted to wait until the university had completed its investigation out of respect for the process.
The school’s statement said the investigation into hazing and sexual misconduct on the men’s team is expected to be completed “in the coming weeks.”
Upon receiving the complaints, the statement notes, the university made clear in a meeting with the men’s track team that inappropriate behavior must stop immediately and would not be tolerated, and reminded the team of its prohibition of harassment, hazing, and offensive and disrespectful behavior, as well as its ban on retaliation against any whistle-blower. As an interim step, the university closed the locker room to the men’s track team and increased the number of administrators attending official team events. Officials also met with coaches and members of the men’s team to stress that all are responsible for creating a culture in which all community members feel respected and safe, and to explain how to file a complaint.
According to Georgetown’s statement, its probe into racial bias has included dozens of interviews with coaches and players, past and present. This review is expected to conclude “in the coming weeks.”
Patrick Henner, head coach of the track and field team, remains on the job while the investigations continue. He has not been placed on administrative leave, according to Stacy Kerr, Georgetown’s assistant vice president for communications.
“Georgetown University believes that everyone has a responsibility for creating a culture where all members of its community feel safe and respected,” the statement reads.
Two years ago, the same Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action investigated complaints that then-women’s basketball coach Keith Brown had conducted himself unprofessionally and used inappropriate language in dealing with players. Brown resigned eight days after being placed on administrative leave.