San Jose State makes changes in wake of sexual abuse case, reinvestigates 2009 inquiry

Kenny Jacoby and Rachel Axon, USA TODAY
·5 min read
San Jose State University
San Jose State University

San Jose State University announced a series of reforms and hired an outside investigator to review its 2009 human resources investigation that cleared sports medicine director Scott Shaw of wrongdoing after 17 female swimmers said he touched them inappropriately.

A new investigation that concluded earlier this year found Shaw, who resigned in August, responsible for sexual misconduct in many of the swimmers’ cases, as well as for similar, more recent allegations by female athletes he treated in 2017 and 2020, the university confirmed.

“To the affected student-athletes and their families, I apologize for this breach of trust,” President Mary Papazian said in a letter to the campus community. “I am determined that we will learn from the past and never repeat it. We all need answers to questions about the original 2009 investigation and whether the university properly responded to subsequent concerns about that process.”

San Jose State University is reinvestigating decade-old claims of sexual misconduct against its director of sports medicine, Scott Shaw. Seventeen female swimmers alleged Shaw inappropriately touched them during treatments in the 2009-10 season.
San Jose State University is reinvestigating decade-old claims of sexual misconduct against its director of sports medicine, Scott Shaw. Seventeen female swimmers alleged Shaw inappropriately touched them during treatments in the 2009-10 season.

In April 2020, USA TODAY reported on the allegations against Shaw for the first time publicly. Reporters interviewed four of the 17 swimmers and divers who in 2009 said Shaw touched them inappropriately, as well as a water polo athlete and a gymnast who competed around that time and described similar touching by Shaw. The athletes said Shaw touched them beneath their undergarments, massaging their breasts and pelvic areas when they sought treatment for other parts of their bodies.

The university had reviewed the swimmers’ allegations in 2010 but cleared Shaw of wrongdoing, saying that his treatments – which he’d described to the athletes as “pressure point” or “trigger point” therapy – constituted a scientific and accepted method of treatment for muscle injuries.

Shaw was never disciplined, arrested or charged, and he remained in his position as sports medicine director for the next 10 years, during which time he continued to treat female athletes.

Shaw did not participate in the CSU investigation and previously denied any wrongdoing through his attorney, Lori Costanzo.

San Jose State University is reinvestigating decade-old claims of sexual misconduct against its director of sports medicine, Scott Shaw, pictured here in an SJSU promotional video. Seventeen female swimmers alleged in 2009-10 Shaw inappropriately touched them during treatments.
San Jose State University is reinvestigating decade-old claims of sexual misconduct against its director of sports medicine, Scott Shaw, pictured here in an SJSU promotional video. Seventeen female swimmers alleged in 2009-10 Shaw inappropriately touched them during treatments.

San Jose State’s human resources department in the chancellor’s office is now supervising a new inquiry by external investigator Elizabeth V. McNulty “to determine the adequacy of the 2009 investigation and whether the university properly responded to subsequent concerns about that original investigation,” Papazian's letter said.

In addition, Papazian promised the university will adopt a number of survivor-centric resources and policy changes. The athletic department will also adopt a new sports medicine chaperone policy. The Title IX office will be restructured and receive more resources. And the university will add a full-time campus survivor advocate and other confidential support options and enhance its prevention and reporting training.

Athletes, practitioners and chaperones will also receive extra training “to ensure all persons involved in medical, physical therapy, and training sessions share a common understanding of what is expected.”

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is also investigating the university’s handling of the 2009 allegations, four people who have spoken with the investigators told USA TODAY. The people described the topics they discussed under the condition of anonymity out of concern for jeopardizing an ongoing legal matter.

The FBI also launched a criminal inquiry into Shaw’s conduct, two people who have spoken with investigators confirmed. They spoke to USA TODAY under the condition of anonymity for the same reasons. The FBI’s press office declined to comment.

Ten former female athletes have filed tort claim notices with the CSU System, a precursor to filing a lawsuit in California.

Many in the San Jose State community point out that people who were aware of the 2009 allegations against Shaw are still in positions of authority at the university. That includes athletic director Marie Tuite, who has been accused of downplaying the allegations against Shaw and retaliating against swim coach Sage Hopkins, the whistleblower who reported Shaw a decade ago. Hopkins’ complaints prompted the school to reopen the investigation in late 2019.

Steve O’Brien, Tuite’s former deputy athletic director, sued her and the university for retaliation and wrongful termination in March. His lawsuit alleges she fired him a year earlier in part for refusing to discipline Hopkins as part of her effort to discredit him.

In a letter Wednesday, the San Jose State chapter of the California Faculty Association called for Cal State University System chancellor Joseph Castro to place Tuite on administrative leave, along with three other officials O’Brien and Hopkins have accused of aiding in the retaliation.

The letter from the union called for an investigation into SJSU’s “cover-up of the sexual assault and harassment cases.”

In Shaw’s case, the CFA representatives said, San Jose State "ignored persistent complaints by student-athletes and Coach Sage Hopkins. The SJSU Administration engaged in the destruction of evidence, intimidation practices, and retaliatory acts against the people who stood up to protect our students.”

San Jose State on Thursday released a summary of its investigations into Shaw, both in 2009 when swimmers first came forward and its re-examination starting last year.

In a summary of findings about the flawed 2009 investigation, San Jose State said it did not substantiate the claims of sexual harassment because pressure point therapy is a “bona fide means of treating a muscle injury.”

Shaw, that first investigation concluded, “might have done a better job explaining what he was doing and provided athletes an option of not using pressure point therapy.”

San Jose State said Arthur Dunklin, then a human resources administrator, interviewed the swimmers, two athletic trainers and Shaw. Dunklin concluded that investigation in May 2010, and he died six months later. SJSU at least briefly established a diversity award in his name.

During that investigation, San Jose State only considered the complaint of one swimmer and treated the accounts from the other women as witness statements.

Its 2020 investigation into Shaw found eight former and two current female athletes who said Shaw touched them inappropriately. Other women participated as witnesses, the school said.

The investigator found all of the allegations were substantiated.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: SJSU trainer sexual abuse case prompts reforms, new investigation