Vandalism launches Title IX investigation

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Author: Stephen Nemeth|Carmen Triola

On Monday Nov. 10, members of the Occidental women’s water polo team entered the women’s aquatics locker room in the early morning to find trails of ants leading to discarded food in the sinks, bloody tape left in the showers and writing on one of the walls. In black face paint was written the words “squad, squad, gay.” The nature of the wording prompted Title IX Coordinator Ruth Jones to start an investigation that will help determine whether to log this as a crime under the Clery Act.

The mess in the locker rooms was left over from one of the high school football teams that rented out the college’s facilities on Friday Nov. 7, according to women’s swim team captain Aviva Alvarez-Zakson (senior). Food and trash were left strewn about the locker room for over two days, which Alvarez-Zakson says is a frequent occurance. It was the vandalism, however, that prompted members of the women’s water polo and swim teams to report the mess to Athletics Director of Operations Katie Grogan.

“I received two written complaints which involved a possible Clery crime and Title IX concern,” Grogan said via email. “As required I immediately reported the complaints to the Clery administrator [Veronika Barsegyan], Title IX coordinator [Ruth Jones] and the Director of Athletics [Jaime Hoffman].”

According to Barsegyan, the Title IX investigation will help in determining whether the writing on the wall constitutes a hate crime. Under the hate crimes section of the Clery Act the action must qualify as either larceny-theft, simple assault, intimidation or vandalism to be recorded as a hate crime. The writing would most likely fall under the category of vandalism, and could also be considered an act of intimidation, according to Barsegyan.

For the writing to qualify as vandalism, however, it would have to be permanent, and according to Barsegyan the black face paint was easily removable. More information as to the motivation behind the writing must be gathered through the Title IX Investigation in order to declare this an act of intimidation.

The college has rented its facilities to high schools for over 20 years as a way of showcasing the college’s athletics programs to potential collegiate athletes and generating revenue, according to Grogan. When this rental process causes a disruption to the campus, however, the college simply refuses to rent.

“The outcome of the investigation will predict the next steps and if the [high school] will be permitted to rent college facilities in the future,” Grogan said via email. “The school involved does not have any history of concerns or complaints. Additionally there is currently no further contract in place at this time for the school to rent a campus facility in the future.”

Jones said the investigation is currently on the first step of a three-pronged process. If the investigation finds that the high school team that rented the locker room was at fault, she would contact them about the report and begin the processes of mitigation and prevention measures.

“We would inform them of the facts that we have, and they would review within their policy how they would respond, particularly in terms of an educational component,” Jones said.

Jones said that an unsatisfactory response from the high school would jeopardize their ability to rent the locker rooms in the future. She expects the whole process to take no more than a few weeks.

Members of the women’s water polo and swim teams however, think that the main issue is the mess that was left behind, not the writing left on the wall. Alvarez-Zakson said the locker room was “consistently messy—and that’s an understatement.”

“The high school students left the place completely trashed,” women’s water polo member Anna de Groot (sophomore) said via text. “The most annoying thing that I noticed was that there was food left in the sink and there were a crazy amount of ants in the sink which was really gross.”

A single report was filed earlier this year about a mess that had been left in the women’s aquatics locker room, according to Grogan. In that instance, the team that rented the facility was notified of the complaint, and game day staff and cleaning services were notified as well, to ensure that locker rooms were attended to each morning after a rental. Such messes were never an issue last year, according to de Groot.

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