Athletics director Stuart Robinson allegedly harassed an employee at the State University of New York, New Paltz’s Athletics Department prior to taking his current position at NYU, public records show.
September 22, 2023
September 22, 2023
Content warning: This article discusses sexual and verbal assault.
NYU’s recently suspended athletics director, Stuart Robinson, was implicated in a sexual harassment lawsuit during his time as athletics director of the State University of New York, New Paltz, where he worked for 28 years before he was hired at NYU.
Robinson was put on administrative leave from NYU’s Athletics Department this summer, following allegations of sexual harassment. Publicly available court records show that two years before he was hired at NYU, Robinson was named in a Title IX lawsuit — a type of case relating to discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions — against SUNY and SUNY New Paltz.
The lawsuit shows that Robinson was investigated over sexual harassment allegations from a coach at New Paltz, and claims his actions contributed to creating a discriminatory environment for student athletes based on their gender.
Elizabeth Student — a former New Paltz lacrosse coach and Senior Woman Administrator, the highest ranking position in the management of women’s collegiate athletics — brought the case in 2018. In the lawsuit, Student claimed Robinson made repeated sexual comments toward her and intentionally provided fewer resources to women’s varsity sports teams at the university.
Director Robinson’s communications on this subject were often sexually crude and puerile, such as the May 2013 email he sent Plaintiff stating ‘Go make babies! WOW! I went there!’
— The complaint
The complaint includes remarks Robinson allegedly made to Student when they worked together at New Paltz. Many of the comments targeted Student’s physical appearance and her decisions regarding when to have children.
“Director Robinson constantly asked Plaintiff when she intended to start a family with her husband,” the complaint reads. “Director Robinson’s communications on this subject were often sexually crude and puerile, such as the May 2013 email he sent Plaintiff stating ‘Go make babies! WOW! I went there!’”
“Director Robinson would state that it was Plaintiff’s responsibility to give her husband children,” another example in the complaint reads. “That she was letting him down by wanting to wait to have children and that it was unwise for her to wait to do so because she would never have a winning athletic program at SUNY-New Paltz.”
Robinson’s alleged harassment repeatedly included remarks on Student’s appearance; the lawsuit claims he told her “Your husband deserves you to be dressed better,” and “Why can’t you look nicer?” among other comments.
The case detailed an instance where, on a car ride back from a conference, Robinson forced Student to play a game of “Fuck, Kill, Marry,” pressuring her to sort the Department of Athletics’s male coaching staff into the three categories.
“Director Robinson made the foregoing and other comments disparaging and harassing Plaintiff on the basis of her gender while traveling with Plaintiff by car. Upon information and belief, Director Robinson intentionally chose to harass and disparage Plaintiff when she was with him in a confined space and unable to remove herself from the situation,” the complaint reads. “So as to demonstrate his power over her.”
In spring 2016, while discussing Student’s alma mater, Robinson said in front of a group of colleagues — “The only thing left of you there was your name and phone number on the men’s bathroom wall saying: ‘Call for a good time’” — according to the complaint.
In the complaint, Student also alleged that as head of SUNY New Paltz’s Athletics Department, Robinson discriminated against women’s teams by refusing to give female student athletes the same resources as their male counterparts.
Student claimed that while she was employed at New Paltz, Robinson refused to plow the women’s lacrosse fields — the team that Student coached. At the same time, his department approved “approximately $400,000 to be used by men’s athletic teams” for improvement of facilities.
SUNY New Paltz chose to protect the abuser rather than their staff and students. NYU either ignored Robinson’s past or was too lazy to do the proper hiring diligence to protect NYU from Robinson. Sadly, Robinson’s victims could have avoided the degradation.
— A former coach at New Paltz
In May 2016, Student brought a harassment complaint to SUNY New Paltz’s Title IX office. The lawsuit claims that Robinson used a department-wide survey to try to identify who had filed the complaint against him, leading Student to take a medical leave of absence in January 2017.
“Although the survey did not solicit the name of the employee filling it out, it requires the employee to identify the sport coached and the capacity served, making the respondent instantly identifiable,” the lawsuit reads. “Director Robinson developed and caused the dissemination of the survey in an attempt to identify the staff member who had reported his discrimination and retaliation and to intimidate such individual and potential witnesses.”
A former coach at New Paltz, who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, told WSN that a lack of accountability at the school allowed Robinson’s behavior to remain unchecked, and criticized NYU’s choice to hire him.
“In a hierarchical system that traps victims, it is a shame that a female coach sacrificed her career in athletics to try to save others from enduring Robinson’s twisted wrath. Still, Robinson was never held accountable and continued destroying people’s careers and lives,” the coach said. “SUNY New Paltz chose to protect the abuser rather than their staff and students. NYU either ignored Robinson’s past or was too lazy to do the proper hiring diligence to protect NYU from Robinson. Sadly, Robinson’s victims could have avoided the degradation.”
Sources familiar with the lawsuit told WSN that Student’s case ended in a summary judgment — a court decision made by a judge without a trial — against SUNY. As a result, New York state paid Student an undisclosed sum.
In a statement to WSN, New Paltz spokesperson Chrissie Williams confirmed the dates Robinson worked for the university, but did not respond to questions regarding New Paltz’s response to Student’s complaint or whether information regarding Student’s allegations was shared with NYU during Robinson’s hiring process.
“The university does not comment on personnel matters or investigations related to current or former employees,” Williams wrote in a statement to WSN. “SUNY New Paltz is committed to creating a safe educational and employment environment for all members of our campus community.”
Robinson did not respond to multiple requests for comment, including multiple emails and phone calls.
NYU spokesperson John Beckman said it is not the university’s policy to comment on personnel matters in a statement to WSN. “At this point we have nothing further to add to our original statement,” Beckman wrote.
Update, Sept. 22: This story has been updated with a statement from an NYU spokesperson.