By Chris Goldberg & K.N. Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/8/12
Lauren Paul, who was fired last month as coach of the powerful Franklin & Marshall women’s lacrosse program due to an alleged hazing last year, has given Phillylacrosse.com an exclusive statement claiming she has been unjustly dismissed and knew nothing of the incident.
“I cannot say how sad and hurt I am. But, by the same token, the support from the American Lacrosse community that I love so much has been overwhelming, and heartening,” Paul said in a prepared statement through her Paoli attorney, John A. Gallagher, Esquire. “Any continued support is appreciated, because we intend to battle this through until justice has been achieved.”
The alleged hazing incident took place in March of 2011, leading to the firing of Paul, and assistant coaches Caitlin Powderly and Lidia Sanza as well as the suspension of 11 of the team’s upperclassmen. Paul, an F&M graduate, posted a four-year record of 68-10 and led the Diplomats to the 2009 NCAA Division III championship.
Cass Cliatt Vice President for Communications at F&M, gave this statement on the university’s position:
“The decisions that were made were based on the consistent statements of essentially all of the women’s lacrosse team members, as well as the fact that a number of students reported that hazing and other team activities caused them real harm. The College’s senior leadership first began its investigation in response to information provided anonymously this February to the Lancaster Police Department, and information from other sources provided anonymously to the College.
“We take any information about hazing very seriously, and we immediately sought to learn more. The initial anonymous report did not give specifics, and did not mention a specific team, so the College engaged in several rounds of inquiry to learn the basis of the information provided. We were able to launch a formal investigation April 10.”
Cliatt said that three extensive investigations took place and the College reached its decision to remove the coach “after the the very thorough investigation of violations of the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct was complete.
“There was a second disciplinary process for the students that then had to proceed under the College’s Student Code of Conduct (the original sanctions were under the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct governing athletics teams, but all students then are subject to the College’s general code of conduct). And then third, a highly respected outside specialist with no prior relationship with the College was engaged to interview all of the employees connected to this situation to determine what happened, why it happened, and how the College responded when various employees learned of team activities in violation of College rules and policies.”
Gallagher provided this statement on behalf of Paul and her assistants.
“None of the coaches had knowledge of or involvement in the March 11, 2011 incident giving rise to their present circumstances, and do not condone hazing in any form,” he said. “If they had known that hazing occurred in March 2011, if it occurred, they would have taken corrective action They have been provided virtually no details into what took place on that fateful evening.”
The chain of events, according to Gallagher, are as follows: “In early February 2012, Coach Paul made cuts from her team in the ordinary course. Soon after, the parents of one of the cut players registered a complaint about a student-led event in March 2011, eleven months prior. This incident, about which no details have been released to Ms. Paul or her assistants, has since been categorized as ‘hazing.’
“After hearing of the March 2011 event in mid-February 2012, the administration took virtually no steps to investigate same until April 6th, 2012. It is unknown what action the complaining parents, or their lawyer, took during this period of inactivity.
“F&M thereafter (April 6th) began an ‘investigation’ wherein the student-athletes were instructed not to speak with their parents, and told they did not need to seek representation of any kind. This investigation was procedurally flawed in many significant respects.”
Gallagher questioned why Paul and her assistants were placed on leave of absence and the 11 players were suspended on April 17 while the investigation was ongoing.
Gallagher offered that the college acknowledged in writing that, as of Friday, April 20, 2012, the investigation was still ongoing. He also questioned why the college later asked the players if they wanted reinstatement, following the investigation. All declined.
“Earlier this week, (April 27th) and having completed its investigation, F&M decided to invite the 11 suspended players back on to the team,” he stated. “None of the suspended players were suspended or expelled from the college. The suspended players have rejected the college’s invitation to rejoin the team.”
Cliatt confirms, “The College offered to consider reinstatement with considerable stipulations, but the women decided not to participate. The discussion did not proceed further than that.”
The remaining team members played two more games before deciding to end their season in advance of the Centennial Conference semifinals that they were to play in April 28. They let the College know that they were going to decide on a game-by-game basis whether they would continue playing. They held votes before each game. They won their last game against Dickinson before deciding to end their season.
Gallagher said the decision to offer the players reinstatement – even with stipulations – and the lack of disciplinary action led him to conclude there was not enough evidence to consider it a hazing incident. But Cliatt disputed his claim, saying the university maintains “that the the investigation did find evidence that hazing did occur.”
“The decision to reinstate the suspended players,” said Gallagher, “coupled with the absence of any meaningful student discipline being pursued or carried out, particularly when viewed through the prism of F&M’s stated principles where student well-being is concerned, clearly suggest that whatever occurred in March 2011 did not constitute ‘hazing.’
“The coaches were at once heartened that the investigation, when concluded, found that no hazing occurred, but at the same time were highly disappointed that they were not offered reinstatement like their players.”
Click here for Gallagher’s blog on the incident.
Neither Sanza, nor Powderly, have commented publicly on the situation, but both agreed to speak with PhillyLacrosse.com.
“I left Brown to come to F & M because of Lauren Paul,” Powderly said. “Everything I heard about her was true. She was committed to excellence on the field and, more importantly, to teaching our players the types of values that transcend sports.
“I am just so disappointed in the way this turned out. I only wish we had been given a fair opportunity to tell our side of the story,” Powderly added.
Sanza said, “We feel like we were convicted before trial and, even worse, we never had a trial at all. I played for Coach Paul for 2 years, and she always treated the team with the utmost respect, and required the same for us. Plus, she was a winner. When she offered me the job, and the chance to come back to the place I loved, I didn’t hesitate.”
Bios on F&M coaches:
Lauren Paul, a 2003 F&M graduate, was a two-time All-American when she played for the Diplomats. As F&M Coach, she amassed a .875 winning percentage, guiding the Diplomats the National Championship in 2009, and to the Final Four in 2010.
Lidia Sanza, a 2010 F & M graduate, was a two-time All-American goalkeeper who won a pair of NCAA Championships with the Diplomats. She joined the coaching staff at Yale after graduation from F & M, but left Yale to return to the Diplomats as an Assistant Coach in September 2011.
Caitlin Powderly enjoyed a highly successful career as a goalie for the University of New England, setting numerous records and being named to the All-Conference team prior to her 2004 graduation. She immediately began coaching, and ascended to an Assistant Coaching position at Brown University before joining F & M’s coaching staff in 2010.