Niagara Swimmers Sue School Over Alleged Harassment By Men’s Swimmers

Three former or current members of the Niagara University women’s swimming & diving team are suing the school, saying they were sexually harassed by members of the school’s men’s team, and that the coach of both programs didn’t properly address the issue.

The Buffalo News reports that one current member of the women’s team and two former members are plaintiffs in the suit. Nastassja Posso is currently a senior on the team, Jaime Rolf would have been a senior, but quit the team (giving up her scholarship, the Buffalo News story says), and the third plaintiff is an unidentified diver who graduated in 2018. The three say in the suit that they suffered from anxiety and depression based on how they were treated by members of the men’s program.

The three women filed a federal suit through the U.S. District Court in Buffalo. The suit also claims the women’s team was treated unequally in coaching and equipment, a violation of federal law. Specifically, the suit points to a lack of a female coach or athletic trainer on staff.

The women say members of the men’s team ranked the women by physical appearance, made fun of their bodies and gave them hurtful or vulgar nicknames. Per The Buffalo News, one woman was allegedly called a “water buffalo” and another “Princess Thigh Gap.”

The women say their coach, Ben Nigro, didn’t intervene, but rather told the women to ignore the behavior. The lawsuit says Nigro told the women that “boys will be boys,” and that “90% is how you react and 10% is what they do.” The unnamed diver in the lawsuit also says she made a complaint to an assistant athletic director in 2016, when a member of the men’s team allegedly had sex with a female recruit. The lawsuit says Nigro joked about the situation, saying “he must not have been very good, since she is not coming to NU.”

The lawsuit also says the school delayed the process of a formal complaint that was filed last December, allowing some of the male swimmers to graduate before the school decided whether to punish them or not.

We’ve reached out to the school for comment, but have not yet received a response.

Update: the school has provided the following statement:

We are aware of a lawsuit that was recently filed in federal court.

Niagara University’s foremost priority is the well-being of every member of our campus community. We proceed with due diligence to examine any issue that is brought forward that may compromise our culture, while ensuring that we do not rush to judgment or reach conclusions before the completion of the process. Where it is necessary and appropriate, the university engages independent investigators.

To ensure the integrity of the process, and out of respect for every individual involved, we do not comment on ongoing matters.

Niagara’s first meet of the 2019-2020 season, its intrasquad Purple vs. White meet, is scheduled for this Saturday at 9AM.

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(G)olden Bear

Coach Ben will likely soon be “spending more time with his family” or “pursuing other opportunities”.

hookem91

He better not let the door hit him on the way out.

volmenusa

Those beasts should be suspended and pursued legally. What is the “boys will be boys mentality”. It all falls under the heading of treating people with respect and love. Sad for the girls. Hopefully the Coach and mean spirited boys will grow from this and respect women moving forward. I too have witnessed the nicknaming of female athletes like “Whale Blubber Skin” and “Trollbutt” such characteristics are so hurtful to those who are called such inappropriate names. Glad SwimSwam reports on tase travesties.

Deuceswild22

I mean it doesn’t feel good to be bullied and I don’t condone their behavior but this happens on just about every team. I played multiple sports in high school and swam in college and the boys will be boys thing has some truth. Some girls probably do the same thing. We’ll never get rid of locker room talk or be able to put a stop to the wild college parties. I don’t agree with some of the coach’s choices in words or his inaction but let’s not be so quick to judge the situation. After all trump was elected with his grab em by the ** remarks. Some kids need thicker skin. It’s usually the sheltered ones that get… Read more »

Swimmer A

Orrrr we could apply consequences to actions and all those boys can learn the hard way.

KickingGeek

It is NEVER acceptable to be sexually, psychologically or physically harassed.

Never.

Coaches have a massive responsibility to ensure the safety in all those aspects for athletes in their care. NO coach should EVER be using “boys will be boys” or similar to explain away thoroughly unacceptable conduct.

There’s this thing called “good sportsmanship” and another things called “good character”.

No excuses for this sort of conduct. Never has been.

Jeff

It is remarkable in this day in age that someone could use the expression “boys will be boys” and not immediately realize by default they are probably condoning something very bad. It literally is a concession that you have lost.

Swimmer

“It’s always happened so it’s always going to happen”… doesn’t feel like a GREAT message…

Xman

I think the culture around what is acceptable and is not amongst kids and what their parents will tolerate is different then it was when we were in school. I’d say it’s for the best.

Coach Laura

This mentality is why is continues.
As coaches we have a responsibility to let our athletes know what is and isn’t acceptable within our programs. If it happens, don’t let it go. Send the message that it is not acceptable and it will stop. Don’t allow athletes who don’t meet a basic standard of decency be a part of your program. The culture changes if you want it to change.

No one should have to “grow a thicker skin” to avoid feeling demeaned or harassed.

AEW

I (a female) swam in college and on coed club teams before that. This is not something that happens on every team, I can assure you. While I may have had personality conflicts with a few teammates here and there, there was never any crude harassment similar to what these 3 women are describing.

anonymoose

definitely agree, i swam for 3 different clubs so far and only the one im in rn is the one where practically no bullying exists. all you need is a couple of bullies (di*kheads) to start the bullying and the rest to allow it/find it amusing, or even worse, when coaches themselves initiate such behaviour.
its not normal even if its very common. its still ugly and a sign of low moral standards

Cathy Silveira

I have known (and coached) one of the swimmers and am very proud of her for standing up for herself and her teammates. Nastassja was my high school team captain. She is hardly thin skinned or “sheltered” and has provided leadership that far exceeds your pathetic statement. Her actions will go a long way towards stopping this behavior at NU. And perhaps change it elsewhere. Your comment of “it happens on every team” is an acceptance it. So instead of talking about “culture shock”—-condemn the culture. And I sincerely hope that you never find yourself in the position of being the parent or previous coach of any athlete making a stand. It’s obvious you would fail them.

DJ-JD

Deuces — don’t lose sight of the forest through the trees, this is not about if you feel what the boys did was right, wrong or if you think it rises to the level of harassment. This is a suit about an institution’s alleged failure to respond appropriately to a complaint made by a student athlete regarding alleged harassment by other student athletes. The facts will be revealed during discovery if this is litigated – BUT at the very least lets not engage in criticizing the girls for complaining when they clearly felt this was serious enough to warrant it. One quit losing the scholarship, and I doubt being involved makes life easy for 2 girls still on the team.… Read more »

do the right thing

It would seem that if the Title 9 investigation had not taken 10 months, which let all the people involved graduate before the investigator did even file it with the school, so they would have not even have to even have a single consequence to face, maybe this would not have gone this way. The school and investigator, along with this coach seem to want to brush it all under the rug and pretend nothing happened. How disrespectful and how irresponsible. It seems to be the way the Catholic church likes to operate, pretending nothing happens, ignore it, and hope it goes away.

WetCatMom

I know of a situation where the swimmer raped a girl, Title XI involved, expelled the swimmer from schools and swimming at another college. I’m sure the female parents and swimmers would like to know about that. I’ve truly lost faith in coaches, the sport, and the athletic system. It is all about winning at any cost!

rainofterror

This post confuses me. The Title IX office kicked a swimmer that raped a girl out of school and you’re mad at them for doing the right thing?

WetCatMom

No sorry for the confusion. Swimmer was expelled from a college and is now swimming for another college. I don’t think he should be able to swim for another college. Title 9 did all they could

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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