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As it Happened: Harvard Commencement 2023
Harvard’s women’s ice hockey program has come under scrutiny this year following investigations by the Boston Globe and the Athletic, prompting the eighth major review surrounding Harvard Athletics since 2016.
Harvard Athletics’ decision to retain an external investigator to review the program in the wake of allegations against embattled women’s ice hockey coach Katey Stone is the first time since 2019 that a Harvard coach’s conduct has been investigated by an outside group.
The women’s hockey program will face an investigation by New York-based law firm Jenner and Block, led by attorney Katya Jestin, who specializes in culture investigations. Athletic Director Erin McDermott announced the external review in a March 14 email to student athletes.
In past scandals within Harvard Athletics programs, coach behavior and team culture have been reviewed by University bodies — such as the Office of General Counsel or the Title IX office — or independent investigators.
Harvard Athletics and its affiliates have faced several major reviews in recent years, five of which involved external investigators.
Former men’s fencing coach Peter Brand underwent an independent investigation in April 2019, which found him in violation of Harvard’s conflict of interest policy.
The investigation centered on the 2016 sale of his home to Jie “Jack” Zhao, father of two recruited Harvard fencers, for “well over” its assessed market value. Zhao also donated $1 million to the National Fencing Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit which that year donated $100,000 to a new nonprofit formed by Brand.
Brand was subsequently dismissed from Harvard, but he was acquitted of federal bribery charges during a jury trial in December 2022.
The 2012 men’s soccer team was reviewed by the Office of General Counsel in 2016 for its annual tradition of producing “sexually explicit scouting reports” of the incoming women’s soccer freshman class.
Following The Crimson’s reporting of the document which ranked women based on appearance and assigned hypothetical sexual positions to each player, Harvard’s Office of General Counsel conducted “an immediate review” at the request of then-University president Drew G. Faust.
The remainder of the team’s 2016 season was canceled following the review.
In 2012, shortly after the men’s soccer “scouting report” was made public, The Crimson reported a similar practice by the men’s cross country team, in which male athletes created spreadsheets featuring sexual comments about women on the cross country team.
Former Athletic Director Robert L. Scalise requested a review of the program by the Office of General Counsel. The team was placed on “athletic probation” following the conclusion of the review, which found that the team did not try to “denigrate or objectify particular women.”
Consultants from the National Consortium for Academics and Sports conducted a department-wide investigation in 2017 after the dual scandals, but its results were not made public.
Patrick Wales-Dinan, a former women’s cross country team coach, faced scrutiny in 2017 for accusations that he fostered “a culture characterized by an expectation of total devotion, unhealthy training habits, and deep divisions about the direction of the program.”
Concerns over his behavior were brought to Harvard Athletics staff, the College’s Title IX Office, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, Scalise, the program’s faculty fellows, Faculty of Arts and Sciences human resources employees, and at least one external investigator.
Wales-Dinan stepped down in June 2017 after three years as coach of the distance running program.
In 2017, The Crimson reported allegations of unequal treatment of women’s rugby team members. Players alleged that they did not receive equitable support from Harvard Athletics, specifically raising concerns around recruiting spots and coach compensation.
The complaints led to involvement from representatives of Harvard’s Office of Human Resources after players reached out to Faust and Scalise on multiple occasions.
In November 2016, Alexandra D. Thaler — an attorney at Bello/Welsh LLP specializing in labor and employment law — was hired to review Harvard Athletics’ treatment of the program. A few months later, Janet P. Judge ’85 was hired as an external investigator to review gender and pay equity in the Athletics Department.
An April 2017 Crimson investigation found that coaches of men’s athletics teams earned “significantly more money” than coaches of women’s teams.
Harvard Athletics was most recently reviewed from 2019 to 2020.
The review was announced shortly after the dismissal of Brand, the fencing coach who violated Harvard’s conflict of interest policies. Still, FAS Dean Claudine Gay said the review, conducted by outside consulting firm Mercer, was “unrelated” to Brand’s firing.
The review found that many athletics staff members and student-athletes feel a disconnect from the FAS, despite Harvard Athletics falling under the jurisdiction of the body.
—Staff writer Paton D. Roberts can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @paton_dr.
—Staff writer Sophia C. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @ScottSophia_.
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