Editorial Note: Our Investigative Methods on the Women’s Basketball Head Coach Coverage

RECEIVING THE TIP

In late August, a member of the women’s basketball team at Swarthmore emailed The Phoenix about a post on the Vassar Survivors Instagram page. In the post, a former member of the Vassar women’s basketball team, alleged that Coach Candice Signor-Brown, who had coached women’s basketball at Vassar for a decade before coaching at Swarthmore, had sexually assaulted her. The Phoenix’s Senior Editorial Board (Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editors) immediately reached out to the Vassar Survivors Instagram page to ask if the original poster would be available to speak, and subsequently contacted other former members of the women’s basketball team through personal contacts.

Though The Phoenix’s Senior Editorial Board has known about these allegations since August, we have chosen to withhold our reporting until now so we would have time to ensure the accuracy and verifiability of our story. Following the open letter that a current Swarthmore women’s basketball player wrote to Voices, the petition created for Swarthmore administration to fully and thoroughly investigate the allegations, and the subsequent decision to keep Head Coach Candice Signor-Brown at the college, we have decided to release our comprehensive reporting so that both Swarthmore and Vassar campus communities would be more informed about the circumstances surrounding Signor-Brown’s tenure at Vassar, her departure from Vassar, and her arrival at the college. 

INVESTIGATING THE CLAIMS

In order to thoroughly investigate the women’s basketball team cultures under the leadership of Signor-Brown, The Phoenix reached out to seven current members of the Swarthmore women’s basketball team and spoke to four anonymously on the record. The Phoenix also reached out to 32 current and former members of the Vassar women’s basketball team who played for Signor-Brown and ultimately spoke to eleven of these players, ranging from current students to alums who played for Signor-Brown during her earlier years at Vassar. We conducted interviews and gathered information over Zoom calls, phone calls, and emails. Due to the sensitive and personal nature of our investigation, many of our interviewees have requested to remain anonymous.

We also reached out to members of the college’s administration, including Provost Sarah Willie-LeBreton, Title IX Coordinator Bindu Jayne, Assistant Athletics Director for Recreation and Wellness Max Miller, Assistant Director of Athletics for Internal Operations Tobin Adams, and Acting Director of Athletics Karen Borbee. Additionally, Provost Sarah Wille-LeBreton wrote a Letter to The Editor on Oct. 30 in response to our request for a comment on the Provost’s Office’s decision to allow Signor-Brown to stay on at the college and in response to the articles we would be publishing. We also referred to Signor-Brown’s profile on the Swarthmore Athletics website, as well as The Phoenix’s prior reporting on Signor-Brown’s record as a basketball coach.

In order to publish the most accurate information possible, The Phoenix’s Senior Editorial Board underwent an extensive fact-checking process, combing through each article sentence-by-sentence and ensuring that there are at least two sources to corroborate every claim or account about inappropriate or negligent behavior on Signor-Brown’s behalf. 

CORRECTIONS & FACILITATIONS

The first version of our first article, published on Oct. 16, stated that “the Swarthmore Title IX inquiry into Signor-Brown was inconclusive because the original Vassar Survivors poster declined to participate in the investigation,” which was a statement based on information we’ve received from current Swarthmore players, who, in turn, were recounting the information they’ve received from the Swarthmore Title IX Office. The original Vassar Survivors poster reached out to The Phoenix on Oct. 18 to indicate that she had not received any contact from Swarthmore other than The Phoenix at that point; to the best of her knowledge, nor had any of her friends been contacted by the Title IX Office at Swarthmore. The Phoenix published a correction on October 18, as is preserved below, in response.

October 18, 10:59 a.m.: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Swarthmore Title IX inquiry into Signor-Brown was inconclusive because the original Vassar Survivors poster declined to participate in the investigation. In reality, Swarthmore Title IX did not reach out to the poster.

The Swarthmore Title IX Office has reached out to The Phoenix on Oct. 19 to establish contact with the original poster.

In an email to The Phoenix on Oct. 29, Swarthmore Title IX Coordinator Bindu Jayne responded to the Oct. 18 correction, stating that the Swarthmore Title IX Office had made efforts to reach out to the poster through a third party, but was unable to establish contact. 

The article has been corrected accordingly on Nov. 6. Though it is unclear to The Phoenix how many third parties Jayne has reached out to in attempts to establish contact with the original poster, The Phoenix was one of these third parties.

Nicole Liu

Nicole Liu '21 grew up in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China, but came of age in Boston. She has run out of cool facts about herself. (For more information, consult her bios for the English Liaison Committee, the Writing Center, and maybe the upcoming issue of Small Craft Warnings.)

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