New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

NYU knew about allegations against former Athletics Director, source says

A former State University of New York, New Paltz student said she called NYU’s Title IX office about Stuart Robinson’s behavior shortly after he was hired at the university.
Qianshan Weng
(Qianshan Weng for WSN)

Content warning: This article discusses sexual and verbal harassment.

Shortly after former athletics director Stuart Robinson was hired by NYU, a former student athlete at the State University of New York, New Paltz, said she called NYU’s Title IX office about his behavior. The student, Rachel Purtell, said she told the office about her own experiences of sexual harassment involving Robinson and the unequal treatment of men’s and women’s sports teams she witnessed at New Paltz under his leadership. 

“I called NYU’s Title IX office to inform them of my own personal experiences and observations of Stuart’s behavior in the hope that having my conversation on record with them would enable them to more efficiently and effectively address his sexist and harassing behaviors when he inevitably repeated them at NYU,” Purtell told WSN in an emailed statement.

NYU recently broke ties with the former athletics director following an investigation into sexual harassment claims against him. Robinson’s departure also comes after WSN reported that he was named in a 2018 Title IX lawsuit, two years before he was hired at NYU. The university has said it had no knowledge of the lawsuit before it appeared in WSN’s reporting.

Purtell’s conversation with NYU’s Title IX office was first reported by The New Paltz Oracle, the university’s student newspaper. New Paltz has not responded to questions on whether it ever received Title IX complaints about Robinson.

“The university does not comment on personnel matters or investigations related to current or former employees,” New Paltz spokesperson Chrissie Williams said in a statement. “SUNY New Paltz is committed to creating a safe educational and employment environment for all members of our campus community.”   

Purtell told WSN that while she was a student at New Paltz, men’s and women’s teams were given unequal resources under Robinson’s tenure and sexual harassment was normalized.

“I observed Stuart’s impact on the department in the forms of disparities in scheduling, facility maintenance, funding, and uniform quality disadvantaging the women’s sports teams,” Purtell wrote. “This was a consensus among the student athletes, as was the fact that sexually harassing behaviors were normalized and condoned within the department.”

After experiencing sexual harassment involving Robinson, Purtell said she reported the incidents to the Title IX office at New Paltz, where Robinson worked for 28 years

“I also had personal experiences of sexual harassment within the department, with which Stuart was involved, and resulted in a great deal of my own emotional distress and mental anguish,” Purtell wrote.

Sources close to New Paltz, who asked to remain anonymous due to employment and privacy concerns, told WSN that multiple complaints were filed about Robinson’s behavior to both the human resources department at the university and to New York State United Teachers — the union representing faculty at New Paltz. They said these complaints went unaddressed. 

One source told WSN a union representative told them that despite overwhelming evidence against him, no action could be taken against Robinson. NYSUT did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

“Several coaches went to our teachers union. We all had complaints about Stu — about how he treated us, gender inequality or verbal harassment, ” one source said. “Our union rep said they had a file that goes back 20 years about him and they said there’s literally nothing you can do. He’s bulletproof.”

Multiple sources close to New Paltz described Robinson’s behavior as harassing and discriminatory. Many said that he made sexual and inappropriate comments toward staff and treated men’s and women’s sports teams unequally. Multiple sources said they left the university as a result of Robinson’s behavior.

“The way that female coaches were treated was unheard of,” the source said. “If that was my daughter I would have hit him with my car.” 

Complaints about Robinson’s behavior started before he became head of the university’s athletics department, the sources told WSN. Some reported taking issue with Robinson’s behavior during his time coaching the New Paltz men’s soccer team, a role he started in 1992. 

“He had been called into investigations within the administration about his behavior,” another source said. “Nothing was ever done with it, and that was very frustrating.” 

NYU declined to comment on this story. 

Contact Ania Keenan at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Ania Keenan
Ania Keenan, Features Editor
Ania Keenan is a sophmore double majoring in Journalism and Data Science. She is from California and loves black coffee, long walks, writing poetry and reading non-fiction. When she is not working on the next features investigation, you can find her running along West Side Highway, listening to audiobooks or complaining about the cold.
Qianshan Weng
Qianshan Weng, Multimedia Editor
Qianshan Weng is a junior studying Media, Culture and Communication and Journalism. You may pronounce his name as "chi''en-shan", or, if it makes your life easier, just call him "Ben." He grew up in Shenzhen, China, and has spent the last five years or so saying that he wants to learn Cantonese. The answers to the questions "when will he finally start?" and "why is this taking him so long?" remain mysteries, even to himself. You can reach out to him at [email protected]

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