On February 5, Samantha Simonetta filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit alleging that former Allegheny College Head Football Coach B.J. Hammer ignored reports of sexual misconduct and discrimination while Simonetta was a kicker on Allegheny’s football team in 2018. Hammer is now the head coach of Bowdoin’s team, having been hired in December of 2019 after he left Allegheny.
When asked to comment on this pending case, Bowdoin’s Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan declined to specify whether Hammer would face disciplinary action from the College if found culpable. This silence is deeply concerning. Even if it is complicated for the College to comment definitively on pending lawsuits, a canned statement affirming a lack of tolerance for sexual harassment and assault would have been better than nothing.
In the week since the Orient reported on this matter, we have reflected on the significance of the College’s troubling silence. We recognize that the College is facing unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the shift to remote learning, but that doesn’t mean that it should no longer hold its staff accountable for treating students of all identities with respect and responding appropriately to instances of discrimination.
The College should take seriously similar allegations against any faculty or staff member. In this case, as the coach of Bowdoin’s largest sports team, Hammer sets the culture for 70 student-athletes on campus. His actions, whether past or present, are relevant and consequential, particularly if they betray a lack of willingness to condemn or combat sexual misconduct.
This is not the first time that the College has been reluctant to speak out about individuals who are allegedly associated with or complicit in sexual misconduct. In February, James “Jes” Staley ’79 P’11, CEO of Barclays and a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, was placed under investigation for his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The College chose not to condemn Staley and instead allowed him to remain a member of the Board of Trustees. In February, President Rose stated that Staley “remains a trustee in good standing.”
At a college that claims to take seriously accusations of gender-based violence and harassment, we expect a higher level of accountability from our leaders in these cases. We expect administrators to be the allies and active bystanders that they encourage us to be. We expect a comment and, if Hammer is found liable, we expect disciplinary action.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Orient’s Editorial Board, which is comprised of Emily Cohen, Julia Jennings, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay, Alyce McFadden, Eliana Miller, Rebecca Norden-Bright and Jaret Skonieczny.