Update: Women’s Cross Country Speaks Out (Made its way to the New York Times)

Five months have passed since we published a three-part article alongside alumnae from the women’s cross country team exposing the toxic culture they experienced during their time with Head Coach John Crooke. Today the story was brought to new attention when it was published in the New York Times.

Immediately after our article was published on March 2nd an investigation was opened and Crooke was placed on leave. Michael Roth ’78 sent out the following all-campus email:

Dear friends,

Earlier this week, Wesleying published powerful and disturbing accounts by several alumnae regarding experiences during their time on the women’s cross-country team. As I wrote on my blog, I sincerely apologize for the profoundly negative experiences described in these testimonies.

The Office of Equity & Inclusion has opened an investigation, as called for by the Director of Athletics. The standard timeline for such an investigation is 60 days, and we will keep the University community informed as appropriate. The coach at the center of these allegations has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation. If anyone has information that would be helpful to the investigation, you can share it with the Office of Equity & Inclusion through an online incident reporting form, or by emailing …… Wesleyan Athletics will fully cooperate with this work, and the University will report on its findings.

Beyond the investigation, we’re mindful of the other demands made by the women’s cross-country team alumnae in their petition. I pledge that we will take all necessary steps to fix any systemic issues that have been brought to light, and that we will ensure the health and well-being of our student-athletes.

For many, these issues are profoundly disturbing. I urge any students in need of support to contact Counseling and Psychological Services at (860) 685-2910. Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program at (800) 854-1446.

Michael S. Roth
President

According to the Times article, Crooke retired last week despite a 4-month investigation that found him not to be in violation of the school’s athletic policies. The article also reports that despite the many testimonials given against Crooke Wesleyan offered to place him in charge of leading a shift in athletic culture on campus.

On July 14th Allison Williams ’81, Wesleyan’s vice president for equity and inclusion/Title IX Officer, sent the following campus-wide email:

To the campus community:
We hope this message finds you all healthy and safe. As promised, we write today to update you regarding the conclusion of an investigation that began this fall concerning the Cross-Country team; and conducted by my team in partnership with Human Resources.

Through a review of all information and interviews with numerous alumni and current students on the team, it became clear to the investigative team that the experiences with Coach Crooke were personal and varied widely with individual experience and expectation. Our investigation procedures require us to consider the totality of the circumstances and the context in which the behavior is alleged to have occurred in determining whether a policy has been violated. In this case, it was concluded that there has been no violation of Wesleyan policy by Coach John Crooke.

However, written statements and personal interviews with past and current team members did show that the University should work toward improving the climate, culture, and experience of the current and future teams; and the investigative team has shared recommendations for consideration based upon this information. A number of people indicated Coach Crooke should be provided an opportunity to and a role in implementing significant change and he is prepared to do so.

The leadership of the Athletics Department is working with Coach Crooke to engage the current athletes in implementing changes connected to the culture in long-distance running that can lead to disordered eating and injury, access to athletic trainers focused on endurance athletes, and a review and revision of mechanisms for gathering feedback and input related to coaching staff.

We thank everyone who participated in this investigation, and look forward to moving forward on changes to make our Cross-Country team stronger than ever.

Sincerely,

Alison Williams
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion/Title IX Officer

 

In mid-July Crooke had sent an email in preparation for the upcoming season, only about a month later he retired. This however does not mark the end of this issue. As Rachel Unger ’15 recently wrote in an email to Roth “We need to make sure the pressure stays on”.