Earlier this week, we reported that former Virginia wide receiver Aidan Howard filed a lawsuit against the University and members of the administration, football coaching staff, and football players, including wide receivers Doni Dowling and David Eldridge. The lawsuit alleged, among other things, violations of Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act based on claims of bullying and hazing.
According to Howard’s complaint, Howard, who was diagnosed with a learning disability, was frequently called “stupid,” “dumb,” “slow,” and “retarded” by Dowling and Eldridge, who Howard says knew about the disability. The complaint also alleges that Howard was forced to fight another first-year football player as part of “initiation,” in front of other players and coaches, and that as a result, he sustained eye injuries, a concussion, and a broken orbital bone that eventually prevented him from playing football. You can read the full details of the complaint here.
On Friday night, the University released a statement of clarification regarding Howard. According to the statement, the University received a report from the UVA Athletics Department on August 16 regarding the hazing allegations, upon which it reported the matter to the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorneys.
In accordance with University policies and procedures, the University Police Department, Office of the Dean of Students, and UVA’s Title IX office then began investigations into the matter, which included interviews with Howard and his lawyers, as well as other staff and students.
The University’s statement would seem to contradict what the Virginian-Pilot reported, that Howard’s family contacted him in August and that the University did not respond to correspondence and emails sent over four weeks prior to filing the lawsuit.
According to the University, its responses to this case are consistent with its approach to ensure the well-being of its students, which includes an anti-hazing hotline and a “Just Report It” platform. The online platform covers bias, hazing, and sexual and gender-based violence.
The University’s full statement is below:
The University of Virginia places a high priority on the safety and well-being of every member of its community.
Specifically as it relates to Mr. Howard’s legal filing, UVA is conducting a thorough investigation that involves several steps in the fact-finding process.
Upon receiving a report from the UVA Athletics Department on August 16 concerning the hazing allegations, the University reported the matter to the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorneys in accordance with Virginia state law. The University Police Department, the Office of the Dean of Students and UVA’s Title IX office began concurrent investigations consistent with University policies and procedures.
Mr. Howard and his counsel participated in interviews with the University Police Department in August and also have been interviewed by members of the University’s Dean of Students and Title IX offices. Other staff and students have been interviewed in connection with this matter, as well. This investigative review is on-going.
Alleged violations of University policy are investigated to determine appropriate disciplinary and remedial measures, including legal recourse. UVA takes prompt action to provide support services to affected students, review conduct and impose discipline for violations of UVA policy and athletic codes of conduct.
The University’s responses to this particular case are consistent with its approach to ensuring the well-being of our students that include a hazing hotline and its long-standing “Just Report It” online resource.
For more information on the University Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence implemented in July of last year, click here.