Former Staffer Says Hofstra Football Players Harassed Her

January 31, 2008

Hofstra University football players subjected a female staffer to sexual taunts and locked her in a bus bathroom, and the coach downplayed her complaints, the woman said in a lawsuit.

Players hollered that they wanted to see assistant athletic manager Lauren Summa’s “boobies,” propositioned her for sex and otherwise assailed her with “relentless sexual harassment” during trips to away games in the 2006 season, according to a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn.

On an October 2006 bus ride back from a game at the University of Delaware, players locked Summa in the bathroom, the lawsuit claims.

When she complained to head coach David Cohen about the players’ conduct, he told her it wasn’t serious, and reporting it to campus authorities “would only draw unnecessary attention to the football program,” according to Summa’s court complaint. A former Miss Teen Pennsylvania and Miss Teen Pittsburgh, according to a Hofstra cross-country team guide from her freshman year, the 23-year-old is now a graduate student in communications at the Hempstead, N.Y.-based university.

Hofstra spokeswoman Ginny Greenberg said the university was “confident that all matters relating to Ms. Summa were handled appropriately.” Cohen declined to comment.

Summa claims she was forced out of the football team job in spring 2007 and denied another campus job because she filed complaints with Hofstra and the state Division of Human Rights. The state agency cleared her to file a lawsuit, according to her court complaint.

“I am devastated by Hofstra’s treatment,” Summa said in a statement. Describing herself as a lifelong football fan, she said in her court complaint that she had hoped the team job would further a possible career in sports journalism.

Her lawsuit seeks reinstatement to her job and unspecified money damages. Summa’s lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, said he would aim for at least $1 million.

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