The University of California’s athletic department has referred allegations of sexual harassment to its Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, the school said in a statement Wednesday.
Cal’s response came after a former sports medicine intern in the athletic department outlined several alleged instances of sexual harassment involving unnamed Cal football players, coaches and staff members.
“We are aware of the very disturbing public allegations made on social media,” Cal’s statement read. “Allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment by campus employees are confidential unless officials determine policy is violated, and disciplinary action has been decided.”
Cal student Paige Cornelius wrote in a Facebook post that she has “medically withdrawn from school, seeking intensive therapy and psychiatry for the post-traumatic stress syndrome and anxiety that happened from the time I spent working for the Cal Football team.”
Cornelius outlined several alleged instances of sexual harassment involving players, coaches and staff members, including being told, “I will get you fired if you do not have sex with me” by someone she identified as a member of the coaching staff.
Cornelius later told ESPN in a phone interview she reached out to Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton, football coach Justin Wilcox and other staff members about her experiences last fall but did not receive a response. This was partly the reason she went public with her story, she said.
The man who threatened to get Cornelius fired if she withheld sex from him was a volunteer assistant who is no longer with the program, a source told ESPN. It is unclear what led to his departure from Cal or when it occurred.
Cornelius wrote on Facebook she often was objectified by players and staff.
“If I responded please leave me alone to a [direct message on social media], I was answered back with, ‘I’m going to treat you like the hoe that you are,'” she wrote.
After Cornelius blocked one staff member on Instagram, she said she noticed him following her home. He caught up to her outside her home and suggested they go to the pool together, because he thought she would “look amazing in a bikini.”
“This coach is still employed by Cal Football, just to make that clear,” she wrote.
Last year, an internal investigation by the university substantiated claims of sexual violence and harassment against former athletic department employee Mohamed Muqtar. Seven former Cal student-athletes said Muqtar abused them for nearly 20 years.
“Campus prevention and response efforts have increased in recent years,” Cal’s statement read. “All university staff and all students are required to complete sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training. In addition, the athletic department sponsors supplementary formal training for coaches, staff and student-athletes in sexual violence awareness and prevention, bystander intervention, and campus reporting procedures.”
Cal’s athletics department does not have its own specific conduct process, nor does it investigate allegations or cases on its own, but it follows the university’s policy and works in concert with campus professionals who are responsible for those areas, the school’s statement said.