The hazing scandal at Northwestern University has widened to include a volleyball player who on Monday became the first female athlete to sue the university over allegations she was retaliated against by her coach for reporting mistreatment.
"This shows that it isn't just men," said Parker Stinar, one of her attorneys, as reported by The Associated Press. "It isn't just football players."
The private school in Evanston, Ill., is facing multiple lawsuits, including two filed on Monday. The other involved former football player Lloyd Yates, who is represented in part by civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
The volleyball player, identified in Monday's lawsuit as Jane Doe, says she was physically harmed to the point of requiring medical attention during a hazing incident in early 2021, the AP reported.
According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe contracted COVID-19 in February of that year, despite following the team's COVID guidelines. Despite this, she says, Northwestern volleyball coach Shane Davis and an assistant coach informed her she would need to undergo a "punishment" for violating the guidelines. A day later, on March 2, 2021, the coaches permitted the volleyball team's captains to pick the punishment: She was forced to run "suicides" in the gym while diving to the floor each time she reached a line on the court. As she did this, the suit says, volleyball coaching staff, team members and trainers watched.
Campus police were made aware of the incident, as was the athletic department, the lawsuit says. Jane Doe says she was isolated from the team, and Davis forced her to write an apology letter to trainers. The lawsuit also says the player met with athletic director Derrick Gragg to discuss the culture of the volleyball program but he "did nothing in response" to her concerns.
Davis did not immediately respond Monday morning to messages seeking comment. Messages also were left with Gragg and a spokesperson for the athletic department.
The school announced in December 2021 that it had signed Davis to a multiyear contract extension. A year later, in December 2022, the player medically retired from the sport.
Northwestern spokesperson Jon Yates confirmed the unnamed student made a hazing allegation in March, 2021. Yates said after suspending the coaching staff during an investigation, which confirmed hazing took place, two volleyball games were canceled and mandatory antihazing training was implemented.
"Although this incident predated President [Michael] Schill's and Athletic Director Gragg's tenure at the University, each is taking it seriously," Yates said, according to the AP. "Dr. Gragg met with the student at her request last year, and as President Schill wrote in a message to the Northwestern community, the University is working to ensure we have in place appropriate accountability for our athletic department."
The lawsuit was submitted in Cook County, Ill., by the Chicago-based Salvi Law Firm and names as defendants Davis and Gragg, as well as the university, its current and former presidents and the board of trustees. The suit also names Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner James J. Phillips, who was Northwestern's athletic director until 2021. Phillips, who has been named as a defendant in two other lawsuits, has said he never "condoned or tolerated inappropriate conduct" against athletes while he was Northwestern's athletics director.
So far, longtime head coach and star football alum Pat Fitzgerald is the only individual to suffer consequences from the scandal. Northwestern fired Fitzgerald on July 10 after 17 seasons at the helm of the football program.