Penn’s athletic department has canceled the remainder of the women’s volleyball team’s season after announcing the discovery of “vulgar, offensive and disrespectful" signs in the team’s locker room.
The announcement, made Wednesday evening, said the signs were found “earlier this week.” It gave no details about what was on the signs or how they were displayed.
Athletic director Grace Calhoun said in a statement, first reported by The Daily Pennsylvanian: “The behavior exhibited by our women’s volleyball student-athletes is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We expect our student-athletes to represent the University of Pennsylvania in a first-class and respectful manner at all times, and in this case, our women’s volleyball student-athletes did not meet that standard.”
Calhoun added that the incident has been reviewed “with the appropriate University partners,” and any additional actions would be determined "in the coming days and weeks.”
The team’s remaining games were to be road contests Friday against Yale and Saturday against Brown.
Penn’s volleyball program has been in tumult for a year-and-a-half, dating back to the hiring of current coach Iain Braddak in April 2018. Since then, eight players have filed formal grievances with the athletic department over his alleged conduct. Braddak did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In May, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported that three of the grievances were “Braddak telling an assistant coach to hit a player in the face with the ball in practice, Braddak accusing the team of bullying over a misplaced jacket, and the coach telling a player that her lack of playing time could be worse; they could become addicted to heroin or commit suicide.”
A few weeks before that story, the DP reported that when players attempted to meet with Calhoun last spring, the athletic department did not grant them a time slot on her calendar. Instead, players initially met with senior associate athletic director Rudy Fuller and associate athletic director Matt Valenti. According to the DP’s report, Valenti said the players’ grievances were “valid, but not actionable.”
On Thursday afternoon, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Inquirer that the players did ultimately get a meeting with Calhoun in the spring, at which time their grievances and other aspects of their experiences on campus were addressed.
A few hours after this story was initially published, Penn’s athletic department issued a new statement to The Inquirer: "We want to make it explicit that the decision to cancel the final two games was in no way connected to the grievances submitted last season by volleyball student-athletes. If this behavior had been exhibited by any of our 33 intercollegiate teams, there would be similar consequences.”
None of the team’s players could be reached for comment.
Penn recently moved to strengthen oversight of its university-wide mental health efforts. On Tuesday, it announced that the campus’ counseling and psychological services program was moved under the umbrella of the provost’s office, along with oversight of other health and wellness programs.