Over the summer, we learned that former Washington State Cougars quarterback Jason Gesser would no longer be part of the football team’s radio broadcasts, ostensibly to focus more on his role as an administrator, which included fundraising with the Cougar Athletic Fund. It now looks like there might have been another reason.
The Daily Evergreen, the school’s student newspaper, is reporting that WSU’s Office for Equal Opportunity conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Gesser. The central source for the story is documents from the investigation obtained through a public records request.
The story details a number of allegations, ranging from inappropriate advances to sexual relations with subordinates to potential misuse of school funds. The OEO did not find enough information to conduct a full investigation, but did forward the results of its review to human resources.
“No one’s been willing to come forward to make an official complaint,” Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications for WSU, told The Daily Evergreen in an interview. “If no one is willing to come forward, the investigation goes as far as it can.”
Notable in the story is that multiple people interviewed by the OEO said university president Kirk Schulz was aware of the allegations. Schulz refused to be interviewed for the story, delegating his response to Weiler. Athletics director Pat Chun also refused to be interviewed, citing a policy against commenting on personnel matters.
While there was no official finding, some of the comments made during the review are pretty damning, including this one from former CAF director Uri Farkas: “I was really disappointed that not anything had been done anywhere on campus,” Farkas said, according to the records. “Staff is frustrated, I am frustrated.”
Later: “[Gesser’s] reputation with WSU is tattered, regardless of what you find,” Farkas said in the records. “There is work that will have to be done.”
The story is well reported, and much more detailed than this. It’s well worth your time to go read the entire thing, even if it probably will make you squirm.
It’s also worth noting that WSU recently paid out a $31,000 settlement to a former associate athletics director found to have harassed and discriminated against a pair of female employees, which was a Title IX violation. That also was unearthed by The Daily Evergreen, and a large part of the narrative there was that the athletics department was home to a “locker room” culture.
Update: WSU released the following statement from President Kirk Schulz and Athletic Director Pat Chun
“We take any allegation of sexual misconduct extremely seriously. A thorough review was launched by the University’s Office for Equal Opportunity once University administrators became aware of allegations against Mr. Gesser in December 2017. On multiple occasions, investigators interviewed or attempted to interview all those allegedly involved. Following a comprehensive evaluation of the information available, the Office for Equal Opportunity found no violation of University policy.
As per standard practice, the Office for Equal Opportunity shared its report with Washington State University’s Office of Human Resource Services. Human resources staff worked with Director of Athletics Pat Chun to directly address with Mr. Gesser the issues raised in the report.
It is important to reiterate that the University followed its established procedures to review the matter and found no violation of Washington State University policy. The allegations were taken seriously and addressed at the appropriate level.
As part of a separate audit of Mr. Gesser’s travel receipts in his role as an Athletics Department fundraiser, a $39.78 overcharge was identified. Mr. Gesser has since reimbursed the University for the full amount.
If individuals have any information regarding allegations of misconduct by WSU employees, they should call the Office for Equal Opportunity at 509-335-8288 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.”