A federal lawsuit accuses Canisius College of tacitly permitting discrimination against female athletes on the school’s cross-country and track and field teams.
The lawsuit also accuses Canisius of ignoring reports of sexual assault at the Buffalo, New York, college, with administrators purportedly only taking action after a female athlete was raped.
According to WKBW7, the complaint was filed on behalf of several Canisius athletes by attorneys Lindy Korn, Catherine McCulle, and Brian Melber.
“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 attorneys wrote.
The lawsuit names as defendants:
- Canisius College
- Head track coach Nathan Huckle
- Athletics Director William Maher
- Former Canisius athlete Donavan Glavin
The plaintiffs allege that Canisius officials let sportsmen “get female athletes high so that they could have sex with them.” The practice, says the lawsuit, was allegedly known as “smoking a girl up.”
“This was a feature of the general male culture on the cross-country/track and field team,” the lawsuit says.
Furthermore, the suit states that upperclassmen would frequently “give and buy drinks for freshmen athletes to get them intoxicated in the hope of taking advantage of them once the females were too intoxicated to consent.” Some male athletes who had already graduated would even “stick around and prey on new freshmen athletes at team parties.”
WKBW7 reports that two of the plaintiffs—identified in court documents by pseudonyms—say they sexually assaulted by Glavin in 2016 and 2017. Each of the victims claims they were pressured by head track coach Nathan Huckle, who let female athletes know they were expected to attend off-campus parties.
Both women reported the incident, and others tried to alert the team coach of Glavin’s alleged misconduct in 2018.
But Huckle allegedly responded simply by saying, “I can’t kick someone off the team for being a jackass.”
In a Tuesday statement, Canisius College officials denied any wrongdoing, saying they had investigated the sexual assault reports as well as the complaint against Huckle.
“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,” Canisius College said in a statement.
“The key conduct concerns complained of in this lawsuit, when first brought to the college’s attention as part of internal complaints lodged back in 2018, were promptly and thoroughly investigated and adjudicated under applicable college policies,” Canisius added.
Alongside alleging sexual assault and cover-ups, the lawsuit claims that Canisius gave male athletes special privileges which were not afforded to their women counterparts. Huckle, for instance, violated NCAA policy by booking more than two female athletes into single hotel rooms, often forcing them to share beds; in contrast, most “elite” male athletes were only booked two to a room and given individual beds.
The lawsuit also states that male athletes were given branded Nike apparel whereas the women were not.