A federal lawsuit filed this week alleges that Canisius College ignored sexual harassment and discrimination reports within its running programs until a freshman runner was raped.
As reported by ABC affiliate WKBW in Buffalo, attorneys for the three unnamed plaintiffs wrote, “The sexual harassment and discrimination against female athletes in the Cross-Country/Track and Field Team fostered a hostile environment which promoted and condoned other forms of sexual abuse against female athletes, including sexual assault and rape."
The lawsuit names the college, head track coach Nathan Huckle, athletic director William Maher and former athlete Donovan Glavin as defendants.
In it, plaintiffs' attorneys state that male athletes would “get female athletes high so that they could have sex with them,” a practice the lawsuit describes as “smoking a girl up.”
The lawsuit also states that upperclassmen would “give and buy drinks for freshmen female athletes to get them intoxicated in the hope of taking advantage of them once the females were too intoxicated to consent.” In addition, male athletes who had already graduated “would stick around and prey on new freshmen athletes at team parties,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that two of the three plaintiffs were sexually assaulted by Glavin in 2016 and 2017 at or after off-campus team parties they were encouraged to attend.
It states that women warned Huckle in March 2018, but were told that Glavin couldn't be kicked off the team for "being a jackass," with Huckle suggesting the women warn incoming freshmen about Glavin. Then in May, according to the lawsuit, Huckle directed the women to not say anything in incoming freshmen.
Three months later, a 17-year-old freshman arrived on campus to run track and cross country and was allegedly raped by Glavin at an off-campus team party, the lawsuit alleges, adding that Glavin was “ostensibly suspended” from the team but allowed to remain on campus. According to WKBW, a bio of Glavin on the Canisius athletics website lists him as an athlete from 2016-18, but offers no statistics for his junior and senior years.
In December 2018, two students sent letters to Canisius president John Hurley detailing their concerns, but no response or action resulted.
In a written statement, Canisius officials said that they “will respond in detail to the allegations of this complaint in due course but the college denies that it did not respond swiftly and effectively to the claims of sexual assault and/or discrimination at issue in this action. That simply is not accurate.”
As reported by WKBW, the lawsuit's plaintiffs experienced declining academic performance, difficulty with daily activities, loss of confidence and self-esteem and the destruction of their passion for running as a result of the alleged assaults. Two of the women transferred to other schools and another graduated but was “forced to cease participating” on the cross country and track team, the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs seek damages for their pain and emotional distress and a judgment reimbursing them for their scholarships, tuition, fees, room and board and subsequent medical costs.