Letter to the Editor: The Provost On the Women’s Basketball Team Inquiry

An Open Letter to the Swarthmore College Community,

The situation involving Swarthmore’s Women’s Basketball team is complex and multidimensional, with a number of different perspectives. There is clearly a deep conflict here, and achieving a resolution is ongoing.

Unfortunately, conjecture and interventions, from the truest feelings to mischaracterizations, abound in the public forum. My colleagues and I have been accused of failing to react to an anonymous instagram post alleging Coach Brown engaged in sexual misconduct several years ago at her former institution. In actuality, within a week of the post, our Title IX coordinator launched a formal inquiry. Through that inquiry, we have been unable to substantiate the anonymous allegations. And though we do not know the identity of the individual who made the claims, we have reached out to them through a third party, and they have so far declined to speak with us. We of course respect that decision and this individual’s privacy.

We take all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously; our Title IX Coordinator looks into these types of accounts diligently. But we will not — we cannot — assume wrongdoing of individuals in our community based on unverifiable information.

No Swarthmore students have raised complaints of sexual misconduct in this case. The complaints that I heard by Swarthmore student-athletes were unrelated to Title IX.

Earlier this month, an anonymous post to Voices by someone claiming to be a member of the Swarthmore Women’s Basketball team called for the administration to “fully investigate all allegations, and take appropriate action.” The post was made after I had notified all parties involved of my plans to share with them the results of a formal inquiry by the end of that week.

I have now shared my confidential findings and recommendations with the individuals involved. Some of our student-athletes are unsatisfied with my report; others are eager to begin the process of healing; all care deeply about their teammates and the fate of women’s basketball at Swarthmore.

I am not naive enough to think that the report won’t somehow find its way into the public’s eye. But I do caution against those who wish to continue speculating in the court of public opinion on what is a complex and challenging set of circumstances; doing so surely hampers our ongoing efforts to engage in the true restorative practices necessary to help the team heal and move forward. And I am deeply troubled by the insinuation that my colleagues and I want anything other than to achieve a resolution that considers the health, safety and fairness of students, faculty and staff. There has been no point at which I have said, “Get over it and move on.” The work of genuine reconciliation is never immediate. And I am appreciative of the dozens of hours Acting Athletics Director Borbee has put toward listening to students, the coach and the assistant coaches.

No single inquiry will get us where we need to be — in this situation or in most of the conflicts that we face with our fellows on and off campus. A willingness to work together to change direction — especially after a season that held pleasure, pride and for some fear, frustration and disappointment — would seem to be well worth our consideration and the collective framing of that work worthy of participation. 

Not everyone in the broader community can or should be involved in the work of healing a specific group that is broken, but everyone can be supportive that such work must be done in order to achieve possibilities for individual and group transformation.

Sarah Willie-LeBreton

Provost and Dean of the Faculty

Letters to the editor reflect the views of their writers and NOT those of The Phoenix staff or Editorial Board. The Phoenix does not edit letter submissions for content or factual accuracy.

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