BERKELEY (CBS SF) — A former student member of the Cal Football medical staff took to social media late Wednesday night, publishing a Facebook post filled with stunning allegations of repeated sexual harassment by members of the coaching staff.
University of California, Berkeley student Paige Cornelius said in her Facebook post she had “medically withdrawn from school, seeking intensive therapy and psychiatry for the post traumatic stress syndrome” because of the harassment.
In a statement, the Cal athletic department said it has asked its Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination to investigate the allegations.
“We are aware of the very disturbing public allegations made on social media,” the athletic department said in its statement. “As is our policy when such assertions are made, we have immediately referred the matter to the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, which is responsible for investigating such assertions.
“These allegations go against the very core of our values. Cal Athletics is and will always be committed to fostering a culture where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected.”
In her post, Cornelius said her looks drew the attention of players and coaches alike.
“Maybe because I am a new face in the sports medicine squad, but maybe for other reasons, I was being stared at up and down, by coaches and players alike,” she posted.
“Hours after practice my Instagram begins to blow up, DM’s with creepy messages, asking me to come over, inviting me to parties. I’m in college this is normal, or what has been normalized, and I expected to get this from the players.”
But what stunned her, Cornelius claims, was the attention given her by members of the football coaching staff.
“What I did not expect was the ruthless, endless, and persistent sex harassment from the coaches,” she posted. “Practices are cold in the morning, so I was wearing black leggings. I turn around and three coaches are in a huddle staring at my butt. I did not know what to do, I was so embarrassed. I am a financial aid student, I am here to make money not to be some object to look at.”
She claimed the attentions of one coach in particular intensified.
“I would hold water and gatorade bottles at practice, and one coach would only come up to me, out of all the other employees, no matter what side of the field I was on,” she wrote in her post. “He would stare at me, wink, and ask me to guess what he wanted. He would grab my arm and look at me with knowing eyes, and I would get so scared I would toss a bottle at him and runaway.”
But, Cornelius claims, it wasn’t just one coach.
“Another day, another coach found my Instagram, and liked all the pictures where I was wearing a bathing suit, even from years past,” she wrote in her post. “A player had given him my name, snapchat, and basically all forms of contact. When I did not reply to his messages, he would try to humiliate me in front of the players, yelling at me to do a job I was already doing.”
Cornelius went on to describe other instances in her post and ended with “I hope to everyone ignoring my phone calls and emails, that you will see that I do not back down. Females to not back down. This is our time to change the game.”
The university said it could comment no further.
“Athletics does not have its own specific conduct process nor does it investigate allegations or cases on its own, but follows the University’s policy and works in concert with campus professionals who are responsible for those areas,” the statement from Cal Athletics read. “While we can discuss our process for handling these matters, we generally cannot address any specific case.”
“Allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment by campus employees are confidential unless officials determine policy is violated, and disciplinary action has been decided. Such allegations against students remain private regardless of the outcome, under UC policy and federal law regarding student records.”