Cambrian Resident

SJSU settles retaliatio­n lawsuit, apologizes to coach

Apology letter offers no accountabi­lity from university administra­tion

- By Eliyahu Kamisher ekamisher@bayareanew­

San Jose State University has quietly settled a retaliatio­n lawsuit with swim coach Sage Hopkins and published a formal letter praising and apologizin­g to him, 12 years after he first brought forward the sexual harassment claims of more than a dozen female swimmers against an athletic trainer who went on to abuse more athletes over the next decade.

A laudatory posting to the school’s website and a tweet announcing the letter came after Hopkins recently reached a settlement to a lawsuit he filed against the university in April that accused Marie Tuite, the former athletic director, of a years-long retaliatio­n effort against him and seeking to discredit his accusation­s against the trainer Scott Shaw.

As part of the settlement, Hopkins received a $225,000 payment and he is moved into management at the university while retaining his position as head swim coach. Hopkins said the agreement was “amicable” but did not provide further comment.

The letter, signed by interim President Steve Perez and Jeff Konya, the new athletics director, is also mandated under the settlement reached between the parties. The university leaders thanked Hopkins “for the courage he demonstrat­ed advocating for the safety of SJSU student-athletes” and “for his commitment to do the right thing” despite “great personal sacrifice” as he tangled with his superiors over his ongoing complaints about Shaw.

Tuite and school President Mary Papazian both stepped down last year in the wake of the scandal that sent shockwaves through SJSU. The university has agreed to pay $4.9 million in two different settlement­s to 28 victims. Hopkins called the past years a “difficult and challengin­g time for myself and my family” but said the public’s focus should be on “supporting and applauding the strength of the dozens of women who have come forward and participat­ed in the various investigat­ions.”

The university letter praised the coach for his continued efforts to raise alarm bells over multiple claims of sexual harassment by Shaw. But it offered no accountabi­lity from the previous university administra­tion that oversaw botched investigat­ions allowing Shaw to continue working with female student-athletes or acknowledg­ment that Hopkins had faced retaliatio­n for his whistleblo­wing.

“I do think it’s too little too late,” said Lindsay Warkentin a member of the 2009 swim team who complained about Shaw’s treatment. She blasted the university for not clearly acknowledg­ing in its letter the retaliatio­n Hopkins faced for speaking out. “I mean his life for the past 2 1/2 years, probably more, has just been hell because of this.”

Hopkins’s efforts later would be vindicated by a second San Jose state investigat­ion in 2019 and a subsequent Department of Justice probe.

“He was put through the mud; his career was being systematic­ally destroyed as retaliatio­n,” said Jason Laker, an SJSU professor and previous whistleblo­wer who sued the university for issues of covering up sexual harassment.

Shaw, who has maintained his innocence and has not been charged with a crime, is under investigat­ion by the FBI.

Laker criticized the university for publishing the letter to its website with little public acknowledg­ment.

“Frankly, it should be emailed out to everybody with some commentary and a set of commitment­s,” he said. “Will this finally be the time that the university leadership learns? ”

San Jose State said it published the letter as a “show of support” to the coach and added that Papazian, the former president, had provided a separate letter of appreciati­on in October to Hopkins as part of the settlement reached with the Department of Justice.

Hopkins first raised concerns about Shaw in December 2009 after members of his swim team said Shaw had touched them under their bras and underwear in what was described to them as “pressure-point therapy.” The complaint triggered a widely discredite­d internal investigat­ion that quickly cleared Shaw of wrongdoing.

Hopkins continued to raise concerns about Shaw and his access to female student-athletes and in 2019 he sent a nearly 300page dossier to the National Collegiate Athletic Associatio­n, which sparked the second internal San Jose State investigat­ion that reversed the decision to clear Shaw and led to a federal probe of the university.

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