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.