Woman says McGill didn’t fire coach after reporting misogynistic tweets, alleged sexual abuse
A McGill graduate has come forward with allegations against a former coach who she says was "sexually abusive" and wrote several misogynistic posts on social media while he was still employed by the university, but was never disciplined.
A series of emails shared with CTV News shows that the university waited more than five months to interview her after she filed an official complaint, and, in an apparent violation of its own Policy Against Sexual Violence, it blew past a 90-day deadline to complete the investigation.
The former student is telling her story now because she said she was outraged after reading about another case last month in which students accused McGill University of waiting months before firing a janitor who allegedly spied on women in the campus bathroom and for not taking complaints seriously.
"It just made me really angry reading about this and seeing that I had been through a similar experience," said the McGill grad of the recent controversy.
"I wonder how many other incidents at McGill are just simply swept under the rug and employees are allowed to continue working at the university, even if they've engaged in some sort of misconduct."
In her case, which she reported to the university in 2017 when she was no longer a student, McGill dismissed her complaint and said the coach’s offensive tweets were posted before he worked at the university, which was false, according to screenshots she shared with CTV News.
The woman, now in her late 20s, asked that her identity not be published due to fear of harassment.
CTV News is also not identifying the former coach since he was not criminally charged.
In a 4,000-word complaint to the university on Oct. 9, 2017, the woman described in great detail how the former coach allegedly sought her out in 2012 and initiated a brief and bizarre romantic relationship for apparent bragging rights with his friends. The lengthy complaint asked that the coach be removed from the university to protect other women and included several screenshots of tweets from his public Twitter account, many of which were sexually explicit and targeted women’s athletic abilities.
Several tweets from the coach's Twitter account commented on women's bodies and athletic abilities. (Source: Screenshot/CTV News)
In a tweet in May 2013, the former McGill athletics coach tweeted: "Watching high school girls trying to throw the javelin is my new favorite pastime #narpfest." A NARP is described as a "A Non-Athletic Regular Person."
Other tweets include: "Girls are so clothesminded," "Womens thighs have lost their clutch, and cranberry muffins don’t taste as they used to," and "Drunk girls know that love is an astronaut. It comes back, but its never the same. #lcdss."
The former coach did not reply to an interview request last week from CTV News to respond to the allegations. The day after being contacted by CTV, his Twitter account was deleted.
COACH HAD ALLEGED SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH STUDENT
The woman also alleged on one occasion she slept with the coach when she was a first-year student, and, while the encounter was consensual, "he was extremely abusive towards me (I would prefer not to get into the details)," the woman wrote in the complaint.
"Immediately after sleeping with me he proceeded to laugh at me and tell me 'haha got you' and that he especially liked smart girls because they were extra challenging," she wrote, describing what she thinks was "sharking."
"After sleeping with me, he got on his phone and when I asked him what he was doing he said he was messaging his friends to tell them that he had slept with me."
McGill University campus is seen Tuesday, June 21, 2016 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
A few weeks after the complaint, Mara Ludwig, who was vice dean of academic affairs at the time, notified the woman via email that the university looked into her complaint and decided the employee will not be dismissed.
"The employee acknowledged that the messages were inappropriate, but they were written years before he became an employee of the university. All the messages have been deleted," the official wrote in an email on Oct. 25, 2017.
However, that was not true. The man was indeed a coach at the time the tweets were posted, prompting the woman to push McGill to reconsider her complaint.
NO DISCIPLINARY ACTION FOR COACH
More than five months later, the woman was invited to a Zoom meeting with McGill, on March 28, 2018, to discuss the complaint.
Then, on May 18, 2018, McGill told the woman the investigation into the matter had concluded and acknowledged that the man was a McGill employee when he posted the tweets, but no action would be taken.
"As you know, after we were made aware that the respondent had been an employee of McGill University at the time of the incidents brought to our attention, I conducted an investigation that included a “Zoom” meeting with you … and an interview with the respondent," the official wrote.
"Having completed the investigation I have come to the conclusion that I will not impose a disciplinary measure. I understand that you may be disappointed with this outcome and I wish I could share more information with you, but unfortunately the law does not allow me [to] do this. I hope you know that you have been heard and that the facts you brought up have been thoroughly reviewed and assessed."
Citing privacy laws, McGill declined to answer several questions from CTV News about the 2017 complaint, including why it took more than five months to interview the woman, whether or not the coach was ever disciplined, or whether or not he was moved to another position.
Spokesperson Cynthia Lee said in a brief email that McGill has had a sexual violence policy since 2016, which states that teaching staff, including coaches, are prohibited from entering romantic or sexual relationships with students.
A "special investigator," the policy states, must complete their investigation within 90 days, yet the woman claimed she was never contacted by one. The policy also allows for someone who is not a member of the university community to file a complaint as long as "the alleged sexual violence occurred in a university context and the respondent is, at the time of the report, a member of the university community."
'NO ONE WANTED TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE'
The woman told CTV she tried for several months to report the offensive tweets anonymously but was "bounced around from person to person" and "no one wanted to address the issue," so she decided to file an official complaint with university officials in 2017 with her full name.
After her experience, she said there should be a clear and supportive mechanism for former students to report misconduct.
"It was just disappointing to see that absolutely no consequences were enforced and that this individual was still allowed to work at McGill," she said.
The social media posts and traumatic encounters happened several years ago, but she said she struggled for years and sought mental health treatment from a psychologist. The psychologist wrote a letter to McGill on May 8, 2018 confirming the woman received treatment after reporting being "emotionally vulnerable ever since she was sexually abused by a McGill employee."
It’s not the first time McGill has been accused of mishandling a complaint of sexual misconduct involving a faculty member. In 2018, more than 1,000 students signed an open letter alleging the university took no action after repeated complaints against staff, including professors in the Faculty of Arts.
Reading about the firing of the McGill janitor and how that complaint was handled was traumatizing, the former student said. But, by making her story public, she hopes the university improves how it handles complaints.
"I'd like to see McGill take complaints of this nature more seriously and to investigate when they immediately receive a complaint of this nature," she said, and to "not wait months before interviewing someone or taking steps."
With files from Adam Kovac
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