“Win as a team, lose as a team” is an admirable motto — but such sentiments should be left on the ice rink.
The class-action lawsuit filed by members of the 2013-14 University of Ottawa men’s hockey team against their university is warranted, and perfectly demonstrates why it’s integral that the University improve their sexual assault policies.
The University suspended the team until the end of the 2013-14 season last March, after two players allegedly sexually assaulted a woman during a February road trip to Thunder Bay. The school extended the suspension through the 2014-15 season last June.
All members of the team — except for the two players, who were charged with sexual assault in August — are seeking $4 million for damages they suffered to their reputations.
While initially suspending the team for the 2013-14 season was the right call, the University’s extension of the suspension wasn’t. Throughout the University’s internal investigation, reports continuously framed the entire team within the allegations, rather than just the two individuals who were eventually charged.
Extending the team suspension to cover 2014-15 only further prolonged the association that other, innocent players had with an assault they weren’t involved in.
For the anxiety and social stigma these players have experienced, filing a lawsuit is well within their rights, and support needs to be extended to them.
Assault cases can’t be dealt with on an arbitrary basis. Strict procedural policies need to be established not only to protect survivors and those unfairly associated with incidents, but to protect the University itself.
The team’s now-fired coach, Réal Paiement, should be particularly condemned for not immediately reporting the February 2014 incident.
His dismissal was one facet of the investigation that the University got right. Hopefully, in their review of their policies, the school will learn from its larger mistake.
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