In announcing it has concluded its investigation into the cheerleading team, Coastal Carolina University left unanswered many more questions than were answered during the entire ignominious episode.
The matter is decidedly not a proud one for our regional university, beginning with the anonymous letter of March 8, which brought the suspension of all cheerleading activities and the investigation, which confirmed some – not all – cheerleaders worked in an escort service and were paid $100 to $1,500 a date. The women participating also received purses, shoes and clothes.
The anonymous letter from “a concerned parent” made accusations far more serious and claimed “several girls” quit the team “due to these disgusting issues.” That is, the unproven accusations made in the letter. Investigators learned the identity of the letter writer, a man who refused to be interviewed. Employment as an escort is not illegal per se, although it is hardly an approved activity for college-age women, as far as most parents are concerned. Illegal activities such as prostitution are sometimes connected to escort services. CCU’s code of student conduct prohibits sexual exploitation and illicit drug use.
CCU President David A. DeCenzo defends the investigation, and presumably the suspension of the entire cheerleading team, saying “... we have a duty to investigate serious allegations. We had no choice.”
We beg to differ.
Given the anonymous nature of the allegations, DeCenzo had a choice of ascertaining the name of the accuser, and learning that he would not cooperate in an investigation prior to suspending the entire cheerleading team.
It’s disconcerting that an anonymous accuser initiated the investigation, although many surely appreciate DeCenzo feeling that he “had no choice.” The investigation showed that seven of the 18 cheerleaders were not aware of the escort service, so we also appreciate the view of attorney Amy Lawrence: “... the university’s rush to judgment and use of a broad brush has damaged the many young women on the cheerleading team who had no involvement with this website.”
The service operated through seekingarrangement.com, a legal dating website.
DeCenzo also cites CCU’s “No. 1 priority and obligation to protect the safety and well being of our students.”
Protect them from what? Employment as escorts? Or, for the women not involved, from association with those who were involved? How does that work? Would the entire football team be sidelined if half the members were male strippers?
Does the statement “No further action is being taken by the University” mean there has been action beyond the suspension and the investigation? Have any cheerleaders been dismissed from the institution? On what grounds? Will the suspended cheerleaders be allowed to compete for the 2017-2018 cheerleading team? Tryouts are scheduled July 23-24.
No doubt, DeCenzo and others at CCU want the case closed, saying administrators “will not be granting interviews regarding this matter.” Still, questions remain. And they need to be answered.