Allegations made by seven former Stanford wrestlers that a University lecturer sexually harassed them between 2002 and 2010 are under investigation by the University’s Title IX office.
The investigation, launched this summer, is “nearing completion,” according to University spokesperson EJ Miranda. The Mercury News reported Thursday afternoon that the investigation could be wrapped up as early as Friday.
The wrestlers have come forward against Hung Le Ph.D. ’95, who works in Stanford’s computational and mathematical engineering department. They claim that the lecturer and longtime supporter of the team would stare at them while they were naked in the public locker room and sometimes touch himself, according to the Mercury News.
Le denies all allegations, saying that the accusations were rooted in a misunderstanding. He says that it was merely coincidental that he would shower in the locker room around the same time as the wrestlers.
“I never had any improper behavior,” Le told the Mercury News.
Miranda emphasized that the alleged misconduct was non-physical.
“There have been no allegations, at any time, of inappropriate physical contact with students or others in this matter,” he wrote. “Our commitment is to conduct such investigations thoroughly, fairly and impartially.”
Title IX Coordinator Jill Thomas declined to comment on the matter as of Thursday evening.
The allegations, according to the Mercury News, were made in relation to Le’s involvement with the Cardinal Wrestling Club, a youth program team associated with Stanford’s wrestling team. Le resigned from his position before charges were leveled.
Le had been associated with the wrestling team for 25 years, and was listed as a “Friend of Stanford Wrestling” in media guides. He frequently made donations, hosted dinners and served on the youth team’s board to handle its finances. He did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment Thursday night.
The wrestlers claim, according to the Mercury News, that Le often waited for the athletes to come to the showers after practice, even when training sessions ran late or ended early. The wrestlers also contested that the coaches did nothing to stop Le’s behavior.
“I felt pretty exposed and pretty unprotected by the folks who were supposed to be [guarding athletes’ safety],” said former wrestler Josh Brown ’06 in an interview with the Mercury News. “Any given day where that happened would be the worst day.”
Former wrestler Drew Martinez ’07 told the Mercury News that the coaches at the time, Steve Buddie ’91 and assistant Jay Jackson ’95, knew about Le’s behavior, but the coaches said they were unaware of the allegations.
“It breaks my heart that this comes up now and I am hearing of this,” Buddie, who led Stanford’s wrestling team from 2001 to 2005, told the Mercury News. “I had zero reported to me or brought to my attention.”
Ray Blake ’05, a teammate at the time and a current Associate Head Coach, told the Mercury News that to his knowledge, “nothing inappropriate ever happened, and if it had, I would have reported it immediately.”
Wrestlers told the Mercury News they did not come forward at the time because they were either embarrassed or did not take Le’s behavior seriously.
Although Le claims that the wrestlers never confronted him about being uncomfortable with his behavior, some wrestlers said they witnessed teammates confront him, according to the Mercury News.
Jay Jackson ’95 — assistant coach at the time — referred The Daily to the current coaches for comment, but added that, “There’s a backstory where basically disgruntled former wrestlers [are] trying to create a story that didn’t happen.”
Jackson declined to elaborate further on his refutations of the wrestlers’ claims. The Daily has contacted the wrestling team’s Sports Information Director Regina Verlengiere to receive permission to contact the current coaches.
Matt Gentry ’04, a two-time Canadian Olympian and 2004 NCAA champion for Stanford, also contested the severity of the allegations, although he confirmed that “excessive staring in the shower” did occur.
“To my knowledge, nobody actually felt threatened, harassed or changed their locker room behavior in any way (i.e. didn’t shower),” he wrote in an email to The Daily. “To my knowledge, nobody took this issue to our coaches, and I am confident that if they did, the coaching staff would have taken appropriate action.”
This quarter, Le was lecturing in courses including gateway vector calculus course CME 100, a class hundreds of students take at the outset of their engineering programs. His students were notified on Oct. 23 that he “had to take a leave of absence for personal and family reasons.”
No further details were officially released to Le’s students about the matter. In an official online academic catalog, Le is still listed as this spring’s principal instructor for CME 100.
“Because we were told Hung Le had a family emergency, I hoped that everything was going okay with him,” said Victoria Yuan ’20, a student in Le’s CME 102 class this quarter. “I was really shocked [to hear the allegations].”
According to Miranda, the University launched a separate Title IX investigation in 2010 in response to similar allegations, but concluded that “no violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy had occurred.” Le was told to avoid showers and individual encounters, according to the Mercury News.
University investigations in response to 2010 allegations found no violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy, according to Miranda. The current investigation was opened this summer after the University received further allegations of misconduct during the same 2002-2010 time period.
Le said the previous investigation was informal and that he was never interviewed by the Sexual Harassment Policy Office for it. The wrestlers who came forward with these most recent allegations said they were unaware of the previous investigation, the Mercury News reported.
This time, the Title IX office, which came into fruition in 2014, is conducting the investigation.
In light of the current investigation, the current head coach, Jason Borrelli, said he believed Le did not pose a threat and allowed wrestlers to attend holiday dinners which Le has hosted since 2010. Associate Head Coach Ray Blake, who attended the University at the times around when the alleged misconduct occurred, told the Mercury News that he does not recall anything inappropriate occurring.
But for some wrestlers, the effects of Le’s alleged conduct have had a lasting impact.
“Even to this day I am wary in locker rooms, at least keeping my head on a swivel,” Martinez told the Mercury News.
This article has been corrected to reflect that allegations made against Le in relation to his affiliation with the Cardinal Wrestling Club were made this summer, rather than during the previous investigation. It has also been corrected to state that the Title IX office was created in 2014, not 2011. The Daily regrets these errors.
Contact Gillian Brassil at gbrassil ‘at’ stanford.edu, Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu and Karen Kurosawa at karen16 ‘at’ stanford.edu.