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Bd. of Public Works approves $4.1M settlement for UMBC students abused by former coach

University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Valerie Sheares Ashby speaks to the Board of Public Works Wednesday about a $4.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice following an investigation into sexual abuse of students. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $4.1 million settlement Wednesday for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to pay students abused by the former head coach of the school’s swimming and diving team.

UMBC President Valerie Sheares Ashby, who appeared before the three-member body in Annapolis, said the settlement with former members of the school’s swimming and diving team would provide payments of either $60,000 or $180,000. The school will be making the payments, she said, per an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which began its investigation into the former head coach in November 2020.

Sheares Ashby didn’t say how many students were sexually and mentally abused by former coach Chad Cradock, who died in 2021 — or how many would be eligible for payouts. Cradock sexually and verbally abused members of the team for about five years, according to the Justice Department.

“The DOJ, not UMBC, determined who will be eligible to receive financial compensation under the agreement,” said Sheares Ashby, who began her tenure in August 2022. “While UMBC funds will be used for this purpose, no academic programs, or student services, or activities will be affected. Students at UMBC today will not have pay for the misconduct of the past.”

The DOJ investigation focused on the school not complying with Title IX obligations “in its response to known allegations of sex discrimination in its athletics department.”

Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that combats discrimination based on sex among students and employees in education programs and activities.

According to the Justice Department, Cradock began to sexually abuse students on the men’s team starting in 2015. The following year, members of the women’s team were harassed, stalked and subjected to “dating violence” by their male teammates.

A major conclusion of the department’s investigation: some senior UMBC administrators and members of the department knew about Cradock’s behavior but did nothing about it.

State Comptroller Brooke Lierman (D), who serves on the Board of Public Works, is a sexual assault survivor, victimized when she attended Dartmouth College and was a member of the school’s rowing team.

Lierman read portions of the DOJ document out loud, and she said had reviewed it about a dozen times. She highlighted how a male athlete on the team assaulted a female teammate at an off-campus apartment.

“Teammates who overheard the violent attack went first to the Head Coach, as he had instructed them to do,” according to the DOJ document. “The Head Coach directed the student-athletes to not report the incident to the Title IX Office, claiming that when the Title IX Office was involved the last time, it was detrimental to the team.”

“The failures summarized in the DOJ report emphasize that the university failed the students, failed them by not having appropriate measures or structures in place to protect them,” Lierman said. “Parents and students place so much trust in our universities, who have a duty to safeguard their students’ mental, physical and emotional well-being.”

Lierman said more students could have been abused by the head coach but were “scared into silence and not receiving the supports they need.”

Next steps

A few hours after the Board of Public Works meeting, the DOJ released a summary of the settlement agreement with UMBC on Wednesday that includes:

  • UMBC must hire a full-time Title IX Coordinator and a full-time employee to provide confidential emotional support to community members who have experienced sexual assault.
  • By Sept. 30, UMBC must assess the Title IX coordinator’s role, authority and ways to increase that person’s visibility, staffing needs and other resources.
  • UMBC must track all sex discrimination reports and the university’s response in an electronic case management system.
  • The university must train all students and employees annually on the school’s sex discrimination policy that includes employee reporting obligations.
  • UMBC must adopt rules of behavior for coaching staff, with input from student athletes, staff and faculty.

According to the Justice Department, this agreement will remain in place through the 2028-29 school year.

Sheares Ashby, who won praise from Lierman for speaking with her several times about the scandal, said the agreement with DOJ will make the university better.

“It takes multiple layers of resources and expertise and training in order to really ensure that this doesn’t happen,” she said. “The changes we are making, not just in athletics, but across the entire university, will instill a culture of accountability and care…for all members of the UMBC community.”

Meanwhile, the University System of Maryland (USM), which includes UMBC, announced last month it will set up two groups to begin work to ensure rigorous Title IX compliance.

One group would engage external experts to advise the system’s Board of Regents and university leaders on best-in-class practices governing Title IX education and management, policies and procedures to guide reporting, investigation and adjudication and how to best educated students and train staff in compliance.

The second working group, according to a USM addendum, would assess policies guiding how and when university leaders report Title IX cases, any gaps in the reporting process and recommend any improvements to the system chancellor and to the Board of Regents.

The work on Title IX, any audits conducted by member institutions and other improvements must be presented to the Board of Public Works during its Sept. 11 meeting.

Lierman thanked USM Chancellor Jay Perman for speaking with her, but said she hopes workgroup discussions center on students.

“Any work group should not simply be a convening of our state’s most prestigious leaders,” Lierman said. “Adults, faculty and staff need to listen to students. Student athletes and survivors of sexual assault need to be at the table and leadership capacities in any future discussions.”

Perman attended Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting but didn’t speak.

After the meeting, Perman said he needs to look into what the system’s report would entail for the September meeting.

“We are deeply sorry about what happened to the students, and we are totally committed to the health and safety of our students, as well as everybody that works for us,” he said in a brief interview with a reporter.


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Bd. of Public Works approves $4.1M settlement for UMBC students abused by former coach