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Lawsuit accuses Canisius College of allowing rape culture on running teams

Officials deny they failed to act on allegations
Posted at 12:36 PM, Apr 20, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A federal lawsuit filed Monday accuses Canisius College of allowing sexual harassment and discrimination on its men’s and women’s cross country/track and field teams and ignoring reports of sexual assault until one freshman athlete was allegedly raped.

“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,” attorneys Lindy Korn, Catherine McCulle and Brian Melber wrote in the lawsuit. Click here to view a copy of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which names the college, head track coach Nathan Huckle, athletic director William Maher and former athlete Donovan Glavin as defendants, stated 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 stated 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,” the lawsuit stated.

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.” Click here to read the full statement.

The lawsuit alleges that two of the plaintiffs -- who were identified in the lawsuit using pseudonyms -- were sexually assaulted by Glavin in 2016 and 2017 at or after off-campus team parties they were encouraged to attend.

They reported the incidents, the lawsuit stated, but in March 2018, when two women came forward to alert the coach of the sexual conduct, Huckle stated, “I can’t kick someone off the team for being a jackass,” the lawsuit alleged.

After suggesting that the women warn incoming freshmen about Glavin’s behavior, Huckle in May 2018 reversed course, the lawsuit claimed, and directed female team members not to say anything to the incoming freshmen about what the lawsuit calls Glavin’s “assaultive and predatory conduct.”

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 alleged, adding that Glavin was “ostensibly suspended” from the team but allowed to remain on campus. 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 stated.

Glavin did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the allegations. A biography of him on the Canisius College athletics website states that he was an athlete at Canisius from 2016-18, during his freshman and sophomore years at the school. It gives no information or statistics for his junior or senior years.

The lawsuit also stated that in December 2018, two students directed “lengthy letters” to Canisius President John J. Hurley reporting “a detailed and extensive array of concerns and complaints about sexual harassment, discrimination, sexual assault and retaliation” and about the college’s failure to respond, but stated, “there was no response and no action taken based on those letters.”

In its statement, Canisius officials said the complaints in 2018 “were promptly and thoroughly investigated and adjudicated under applicable college policies...As to claims about the team culture and the actions of Coach Huckle, those too were promptly investigated. The allegations made against the Coach with respect to his alleged bias or favoritism of certain student athletes over others were found to be completely lacking in merit.”

The alleged assaults had a severe impact on the three women, the lawsuit stated, including declining academic performance, difficulty with daily activities, loss of confidence and self-esteem and the destruction of their passion for running.

The lawsuit seeks damages for their pain and emotional distress and a judgment reimbursing them for their scholarships, tuition, fees, room and board and subsequent medical costs that resulted from the alleged assaults.