Following the departure of tenured Athletic Director of SUNY New Paltz Stuart Robinson, the New Paltz Daily Digest released a statement applauding him on his accolades throughout his career — one year after reaching a settlement in Student V. SUNY and SUNY New Paltz where Robinson was directly named in allegations pertaining to the sexual harassment of a former women’s lacrosse coach. Now, four years later, Robinson has been let go from his position at NYU for similar sexual harassment claims and is being shown the door with anything but praise.
“NYU breaks ties with athletics director after sexual harassment allegations,” reads the headline of a recent article published by New York University’s student-run newspaper, Washington Square News (WSN) on Sept. 27, 2023. On Sept. 25, 2023 an email was sent throughout NYU’s Athletic Department notifying the staff of Robinson’s removal as Athletic Director, obtained by WSN student reporters. He was removed following an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior. Prior to his removal, he was placed on administrative leave after sexual misconduct accusations within the department.
Robinson served as Director of Athletics, Wellness & Recreation at SUNY New Paltz from July 1, 2001 through July 31, 2020 and part-time at SUNY New Paltz as an adjunct lecturer and coach from Aug. 13, 1992 to May 18, 1994. He began his role as Assistant Vice President and Director of Athletics at NYU on Aug. 3, 2020.
The initial complaint was filed on Feb. 16, 2018 by SUNY New Paltz former head women’s lacrosse coach, Elizabeth Student. She filed the official complaint against SUNY New Paltz for allowing Stuart Robinson to enable gender discrimination amongst athletes, teams and faculty members, as well as sexual harassment claims in the form of written and verbal remarks.
“Shortly after her hire and continuing until her separation from employment, Plaintiff (Elizabeth Student) was the subject of a consistent stream of commentary, jokes and verbal harassment by Director Robinson concerning her gender,” read the case file. “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.’”
“When the Plaintiff responded that she intended to wait until her program was more successful and established before starting a family, Director Robinson would state that it was Plaintiff’s responsibility to give her husband children, 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,” explains the file.
The case highlights that this behavior is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that it is in place to “protect employees and job applicants from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Title VII protection covers the full spectrum of employment decisions, including recruitment, selections, terminations and other decisions concerning terms and conditions of employment,” according to the Federal Trade Commission website.
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice website.
“As a proximate result of Defendants (SUNY New Paltz) having retaliated against her for having advocated against the discrimination and disparate treatment of female student athletes, Plaintiff (Elizabeth Student) has suffered and continues to suffer substantial losses, including the loss of past earnings, the loss of future earnings, the loss of other employment benefits and mental anguish and emotional distress in an amount to be proven at trial,” reads the official complaint document.
Around December 2012, Student was appointed to serve as Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) for SUNY New Paltz — a position which is defined by the Constitution of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) as “the highest ranking female administrator involved with the conduct of a member institution’s intercollegiate athletics program” (NCAA Constitution 4.02.4).
The position was “intended to serve as a role model and resource to student athletes and coaches and a spokesperson for the needs and interests of women athletes and to support gender equality and Title IX initiatives.” Student confronted Director Robinson “concerning the inequitable allocation of resources between the men’s and women’s athletic programs, the training and/or responsiveness of SUNY-New Paltz Athletic Department faculty and staff to issues of sexual assault and harassment of female student athletes and Director Robinson’s accessibility to female student athletes.”
The formal complaint moves on to say “At Director Robinson’s request, in or about Spring 2015, Defendants retained a consultant to provide professional analysis and comment regarding the development of the Women’s Lacrosse team and professional development feedback to Athletic Director Robinson and Plaintiff. In or about May 2015, the consultant retained by Defendants concluded that Plaintiff was an asset to the Athletic Department as SWA and recommended that she continue in that role.”
During the summer of 2015, Director Robinson terminated Students’ position as SWA despite continuing to ask her to perform the responsibilities of the title, without the additional compensation or recognition associated with it.
Student wasn’t the only one to feel the consequences of Robinson’s behavior. Doctor Rachael Purtell, a former SUNY New Paltz women’s lacrosse midfielder who played under Student for the beginning of her athletic career, had noticed the gender disparity between the teams in the forms of field maintenance, game schedule and uniform conditions.
“During my time here, the women’s basketball team was way more successful than the men’s basketball team. The men’s team was ranked last in the division at some point, and I’m pretty sure that the women’s team made NCAA appearances every year I was there,” said Purtell. “Yet the men’s team always had the better time slots. It was also very obvious how often some teams got new uniforms, while others hadn’t.”
With regard to these inequities, Student highlighted in the case file that during her employment at New Paltz, a valued approximation of $400,000 was used to improve the athletic field used by some of the men’s teams. This included resodding the outfield and placing new dirt on the infield of the baseball diamond.
However, according to the case file, it says that “throughout the entirety of Plaintiff’s employment, Defendant refused to plow the snow from the field used by the women’s athletic programs. On those occasions that Defendants provided the women’s athletic teams with indoor practice facilities, they prohibited Plaintiff from bringing in necessary equipment, such as standard goals, and/or forced Plaintiff to conduct practices in cramped or otherwise unsuitable spaces, such as in a racquetball court.”
“I was aware of certain things going on with Stuart at the time, as were other athletes, and there was sort of this consensus among all of us that sexual harassment, sex based discrimination and all that were normalized,” said Purtell. “But there was never a body of evidence or a consistent record of things that he had done. But it was something that we were all aware of, and that we knew we all had to deal with, especially the female athletes.”
In May 2019, during a monthly meeting between The Oracle staff members and former president of SUNY New Paltz, Donald P. Christian, the topic of the athletic department was brought up following an unrelated scandal within the men’s basketball team. After the recorded meeting ended, Purtell, former editor-in-chief of The Oracle confronted President Christian: “So I started saying, ‘I’d be remiss if I didn’t use my platform to advocate for my fellow student athletes, but I want to tell you as I am leaving this institution, in very plain words that Stuart’s the problem.” And usually they walk us to the elevator and say bye but as soon as we left that meeting they shut the door,” recalls Purtell.
“I can confirm that in her last meeting with President Donald P. Christian, Rachael brought up Stuart and her issues with how the school and the athletic department handled it,” says Jake Mauriello, former Managing Editor for The Oracle who served directly under Purtell and was present for the aforementioned meeting.
In the New Paltz Daily Digest announcement notifying the campus community of his departure released on May 28, 2020 (corresponding with the official NYU announcement of his hiring), Vice President of Student Affairs, Stephanie Blaisdell commends Robinson and his achievements throughout his career. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Stuart during the past few years, and in that time he has been generous with his experience and knowledge,” says Blaisdell. “He has worked tirelessly and with innovation, and has served as a wonderful community member within and beyond the college. He leaves a winning legacy in every sense of the word.”
Blaisdell was unable to comment at this time.
Upon hearing the news of his appointment as the Athletic Director and Assistant Vice President at NYU, Purtell, who was completing her Ph.D. in communication at West Virginia University at the time, reported to The Oracle that she contacted the NYU Title IX office directly to alert them about her experience with Robinson.
The case of Student v. State University of New York (SUNY) and State University of New York at New Paltz never went to trial. Instead, the defendants offered to allow a monetary judgment be made against them in the amount of $200,000 to resolve all of Student’s claims. In making that offer, neither SUNY nor SUNY New Paltz admitted to any of the allegations in Student’s lawsuit or any wrongdoing, nor did they accept responsibility for any of the damages she alleged. Student accepted the offer of judgment and the lawsuit ended. The clerk of the court entered a $200,000 money judgment in Student’s favor against SUNY and SUNY New Paltz. Neither the defendants’ offer of judgment, Student’s acceptance, or the entry of judgment is an admission or finding of wrongdoing or liability by SUNY or SUNY New Paltz for the claims or damages alleged in Student’s lawsuit.
When asked to speak on the record about this issue, the Office of Communications and Marketing at SUNY New Paltz released an official statement. “We can confirm Stuart Robinson’s dates of full-time employment at SUNY New Paltz began on Aug. 15, 1994 and ended on July 31, 2020,” said Chrissie Williams, Associate Director of Media Relations. “He served as Director of Athletics, Wellness & Recreation from July 1, 2001 through July 31, 2020. He worked part-time at the University as an adjunct lecturer and coach from Aug. 13, 1992 to May 18, 1994. Beyond that, the University does not comment on personnel matters or investigations related to current or former employees. SUNY New Paltz is committed to creating a safe educational and employment environment for all members of our campus community. ”
Official court records indicate that Robinson as an individual was not named as the defendant, but rather SUNY New Paltz, making the investigation unrelated to both current or former employees or personnel matters.