Cal student alleges sexual harassment in football program

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BERKELEY — UC Berkeley is investigating a student’s claims that she was sexually harassed by several Cal football coaches and players.

In a Facebook post, the student outlined a number of explosive allegations, including being subjected to derogatory comments and being pressured to have sex.

“We are aware of the very disturbing public allegations made on social media,” the university said in a statement when asked for comment on the claims. “As is our policy when such assertions are made, we have immediately referred the matter to the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, which is responsible for investigating such assertions. These allegations go against the very core of our values.”

The student did not immediately respond to an interview request, but she did talk to ESPN. The San Jose Mercury News is not naming the woman because she says she is a victim of sexual misconduct.

In a phone interview with ESPN, the woman said she contacted Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton, football coach Justin Wilcox and other staff members in the fall about her experience, but no one responded. That, she said, partly was the reason for the Facebook post.

“So far we can’t find a single person who was made aware of these allegations prior to the Facebook post,” a source close to Cal athletics told this news organization Thursday.

A source told ESPN that a man who the woman said threatened to have her fired if she didn’t have sex with him is no longer with the football program, although it’s not clear why he left or when that occurred.

The woman’s father told this news organization in a brief telephone interview Thursday that his daughter was “hanging in there.” He referred other questions to the daughter, saying, “she is driving this boat.”

In her post, the student said she was subjected to “ruthless, endless and persistent sex harassment” from the moment she joined the team as a “hydro technician.”

The student says she has withdrawn from school and is seeking therapy to help her deal with the stress and anxiety from her experiences.

“I am still learning to build back my confidence, but have lost months worth of salary from having to quit, plus the therapists and psychiatrists are costing up to $600 an hour,” she wrote. “I am now behind a semester in college, so will have to graduate late.”

In its statement, Cal said it could not address the specific allegations made by the student.

“While we can discuss our process for handling these matters, we generally cannot address any specific case,” the university said. “Allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment by campus employees are confidential unless officials determine policy is violated, and disciplinary action has been decided. Such allegations against students remain private regardless of the outcome, under UC policy and federal law regarding student records.”

The athletic department does not have its own specific conduct process and does not investigate allegations or cases on its own, according to the university. Instead, it follows the university’s policy and works with campus officials who are responsible for those areas.

In its statement, Cal said all employees and students are required to complete sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training. The athletic department also provides “supplementary formal training for coaches, staff and student-athletes in sexual violence awareness and prevention, bystander intervention, and campus reporting procedures.”

Last year Mohamed Muqtar, a longtime official in the Cal athletic department, was fired after an investigation found he abused seven athletes over a period of 20 years.

In 2016, Cal fired men’s assistant basketball coach Yann Hufnagel after he sexually harassed a female reporter.

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