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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AfterShock
2 years ago

St Vincent de Paul needs to have a talk with some of these students.

SwimMom
2 years ago

What happened to innocent until proven guilty? This article, and certainly the comments below, are unfair to everyone involved.

Ben
2 years ago

As a former Niagara swimmer, I can say that the whole environment is completely toxic. The men’s team was so bad when I was there that it forced me to transfer mid-semester. These men were not only sexist but also verbally harassing most of the team.

Anonymous
Reply to  Ben
2 years ago

Don’t commit to a Division 1 program when you can’t handle the training load. You were not harassed you were just given consequences for consistently missing morning practices and missing classes. You left because your actions in the classroom and the pool were not up to par with a Division 1 standard.

Ben
Reply to  Anonymous
2 years ago

You have zero idea why I left which makes this situation even more interesting. After receiving zero support in not only swimming but academically I removed myself and put myself into a better situation. The training load wasn’t the problem it was the attitude of the team.

Anonymous
Reply to  Ben
2 years ago

Think what you want, but: “90% is how you react and 10% is what they do.”

Anon
Reply to  Ben
2 years ago

As a former swimmer of the men’s team, I can easily say that the women’s team during my freshman year, had made a list of ranking men’s privates sizes. So don’t let this distract you that the women’s team was just as guilty. this case is extremely one-sided and it has a LOT to do with this girl being broken up with, they will figure out these girls true colors, and are only doing it to get back at the men. I also feel terrible for the current men’s swim team because they are whatsoever NOT involved with the current situation, and the men that were involved did no such bullying to the women. Completely one sided and biased because… Read more »

Anonymous
Reply to  Ben
2 years ago

The only thing that was toxic was your attitude and your actions towards other people especially your teammates. People tried to help you in and out of the pool but it is no one’s fault but your own that you didn’t want help or to meet up to student-athlete standards. You were disrespectful to everyone around you and only did what you desired no matter how wrong.

Sam
2 years ago

re “he must not have been very good, since she is not coming to NU.” >>>

Nothing to see here, our president condones this kind of behavior too, so it’s OK

Swammer23
2 years ago

On a side not, ESPN has listed this as a top story on its college page!

https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/27707142/niagara-swimmers-sue-sexual-harassment

Swimming Fan
Reply to  Swammer23
2 years ago

And the loser of the dispute is … the college swimming community, which doesn’t need to give college administrators any additional justifications for cutting college swim programs.

Unkown
2 years ago

Everyone’s opinion is literally based off of one news article. There could be some truth to the fact, but keep an open mind to how exaggerated this could actually be.

Here is a fact: this all began after a break up, that’s when they first reached out to the school. Perhaps some other girls have mentioned one thing here or there to the school, but think about the situation. 40 people, mixed guys and girls around each other 24/7. Two siblings can’t get along and we expect 40 of them to all of a sudden? Its a recipe for something like this to occur.

unknown
2 years ago

just an FYI… none of them are actually on the team..

Corson
2 years ago

To the best of my knowledge, swimming is the only college sport where the genders are co-mingled (save for the locker rooms). One can imagine the outrage if the University of Tennessee announced that its basketball teams would start sharing coaches, training facilities, practice times, hotels, etc. This was bad practice twenty years ago when I swam in college and situation at Niagara underscores why it still is.

Mick
Reply to  Corson
2 years ago

Track & Field is another sport that is co-mingled, share coaching staffs and compete/practice together, similar to swimming.

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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