Brandon University coach on leave after sexually suggestive behaviour alleged
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/09/2021 (627 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The head coach of women’s soccer at Brandon University remained on the job for months despite a school investigation that concluded he acted inappropriately with student athletes.
Last fall, a female student approached BU’s athletic director with allegations about Jesse Roziere, who became assistant coach of the Bobcats women’s team in 2019-20 and — until he went on leave this week — was heading into his second year as top trainer.
The complainant, who spoke to the Free Press on the condition of anonymity, claimed Roziere made sexual advances on players, asked them to be his designated driver home from the bar when he was out, and often sent messages of a suggestive nature, including shirtless photos via Snapchat.
In one instance, he sent a player a video of himself being sexually suggestive with a banana.
Roziere, 29, did not respond to repeated requests for comment this week.
Neither did BU’s athletic director nor head of human resources, who oversaw a harassment investigation in winter and spring 2021 and declined the complainants’ request for a new probe last month to take into account the school’s sexualized violence policy.
In a statement Tuesday, BU said it has asked Roziere to step away from his soccer duties and other responsibilities while a new investigation is underway — as a result of learning new information from the Free Press.
“We have now become aware of information that was not brought to the investigator during the investigation nor to the university at any other time. These new allegations are troubling and require a new investigation,” said a spokesperson for BU.
The spokesperson didn’t elaborate on what new information came to light and said a third party will conduct a new investigation that will begin “as swiftly as possible.”
In separate interviews with the Free Press over the last two weeks, three students — all of whom are in their early 20s — described experiencing or witnessing Roziere’s behaviour, including acts of blackmail.
The women said the coach told players he would bench them or make them run laps if they told anyone about his actions.
Ultimately, the students said the behaviour led to their respective decisions to hang up their cleats. For one of them, that meant losing a scholarship.
“Former players and I from last season all want to continue to represent (BU) by being on the women’s soccer team and strive to win the league and then go on to win nationals and continue to help build the program,” wrote the student who filed a complaint in an email in November.
“But none of us can do that under a coach that has made sexual advances on players, players that are young impressionable females.”
Fourth-year student Lauren Craig, a defender who recently quit the team, said she witnessed the coach act inappropriately, whether it be suggestively or in a demeaning way, towards peers at parties, via message, and in the soccer environment.
Craig said her former coach’s “perverted” behaviour appeared to be part of a pattern of grooming and manipulation of players.
Snapchat, a platform on which users send photos and videos that disappear after a certain time period, was the coach’s main communication platform, said Craig, adding he sent suggestive messages to players late at night.
“You look back and can see where he starts slowly to push the boundaries and at times, trying to see how far he could go,” she said.
Craig said their coach often partied, flirted, and acted suggestively with students. She realized how inappropriate that was only after he became top trainer.
Before the 2020-21 season, she said the line was blurry because he was an assistant coach and worked with the men’s team before that.
Roziere is a well-known coach in Brandon’s soccer community who is currently technical director for the Westman Regional Soccer Association.
Prior to joining the Bobcats in 2017, he was involved with coaching at Vincent Massey High School in Brandon, from where some of the BU players have graduated.
Roziere has helped build BU’s soccer program since he joined the roster. The Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference recognized him as coach of the year in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, he was a men’s coach when the team won the program’s first MCAC championship.
On Jan. 12, two months and several email exchanges after an initial complaint was filed against him, Roziere’s boss updated the complainant.
Emails reviewed by the Free Press show athletic director Russ Paddock told the student he appreciated her feedback, which he said would improve the overall experiences of all student athletes, and indicated he would share her concerns with the human resources department.
Paddock did not connect the complainant with the sexual violence education and prevention office, which is standard protocol when a community member becomes aware of an allegation of a sexual nature under BU policy.
Instead, on Jan. 20, another memo shows the complainant was contacted by a diversity and human rights adviser, who wrote she was concerned about how long it took for the complaint to make its way to her office.
Paddock, the adviser, and the adviser’s boss, Kristen Fisher, acting chief human resources officer, did not respond to interview requests.
Early this year, there was correspondence between the administration with the initial complainant and three other current students (two of whom the Free Press interviewed) who are also former Bobcat soccer players and were brought into the investigation.
Sources said the investigation looked into allegations of inappropriate communication with students, abuse of power, and sexually suggestive messages. It addressed the players’ concerns through the lens of BU’s discrimination and harassment policy, emails show.
The complainant and Craig said they were informed about the conclusion via a video conference call in early May: the university determined Roziere’s behaviour was inappropriate and he would be monitored as a result. Both students on the call indicated they were told the harassment they experienced was not severe enough for the coach to be moved or fired.
In a statement Tuesday, the university said it takes all allegations of “harassment, sexual harassment, sexualized violence, and inappropriate behaviour of any type, extremely seriously.”
The school said it is aware of the original complaint — which “was taken seriously using a survivor-centred approach,” meaning it was received, believed, investigated and that appropriate and proportional actions were taken. It also claimed its investigation was conducted “using the policy pathway that was chosen by the survivors.”
But the students who raised allegations about Roziere said they were not informed about all the options.
Only when they pushed back on the May 2021 findings, and a frustrated parent contacted the school, did they say the human resources office connected them with Carla Navid, the co-ordinator who supports survivors of sexual violence.
Navid declined to comment, saying she had signed a non-disclosure agreement about what happens in her office.
The university’s sexualized violence policy — which was approved in 2017 after BU made headlines for using contracts to silence victims of sexual assault — states Navid’s position can help individuals understand reporting options.
“Any member of the university community who receives a disclosure about an incident of sexualized violence will consult with the (co-ordinator) as soon as possible to ensure that there is a co-ordinated response,” states the policy.
If a complainant does not wish to speak to the co-ordinator, in-the-know individuals must report the incident with few details for statistical purposes.
Before May, the students who came forward with allegations about Roziere had no idea the option was available. After learning they should have been offered support from Navid, they requested BU administration re-do its investigation.
Late last month, BU turned down an appeal for a secondary investigation, citing the fact its legal counsel determined the investigation was “properly conducted and its conclusions were sound.”
“There is nothing that would give rise to the need for a further investigation,” wrote Fisher, acting chief human resources officer, in an email to the complainant on Aug. 30.
Fisher acknowledged the news would be difficult to hear and noted counselling services were available through the school.
The students who spoke to the Free Press said they hoped coming forward would result in changes that would make them feel comfortable about returning to the field.
Instead, Craig said she was devastated about how the investigation was handled, her school’s reluctance to re-do it in line with the sexualized violence policy, and the prospect of putting on her BU-branded soccer gear again.
The defensive player added, “How do you expect us to feel safe if he’s still going to be our coach and nothing has changed?”
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.