SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Top officials at San Jose State University are accused of covering up allegations of misconduct, including sexual abuse, as well as retaliation against whistleblowers, according to a former university employee.
In a tort notice, obtained first by USA Today, San Jose State former deputy athletics director Steve O’Brien alleges university president Mary Papazian, athletic director Marie Tuite, senior associate vice president for personnel Joanne Wright and senior asociate athletics director Eileen Daley were involved in his “unlawful” termination.
In the notice, O’Brien said that Tuite retaliated against an employee who came forward with allegations of one student athlete gambling on sporting events — a violation of NCAA bylaws — then retaliated against the same employee, accusing him of “racial profiling” after he came forward about a student athlete’s drug use.
O’Brien also claims that the university tried to cover up more than a dozen sexual misconduct allegations, dating back to 2009, against the university’s director of sports medicine.
O’Brien said he was fired in March when he refused to discipline the whistleblowers who had come forward.
“I think it’s amazing when whistleblowers find that energy,” said San Jose State University associate professor of Justice Studies, Sang Hea Kil. “They’re heroes, in my mind.”
Kil said she was also a whistleblower in 2013 when she was just a junior faculty member and her former department chair openly gave favors to certain people.
“Money to his white friends who were faculty,” Kil said. “I’m going up for my promotion for the fourth time because I’ve had three failed promotions and I do think that it is directly related to my whistleblowing.”
Kil said she believes there is a pattern of retaliation against whistleblowers at the university that will likely not change, even after O’Brien stepped forward with his own allegations.
“His statements are very accurate to point the finger at the president because that’s a great source of where much of this corruption is getting its momentum,” Kil said. “When I whistleblowed, I was told that the stakes would be retaliation.”
A San Jose State University spokesperson said in a statement to KPIX, “Although we disagree with many of Mr. O’Brien’s assertions, it is our practice not to comment on personnel matters.”
“I think that what they’re going to do is they’re going to wait for things to become quiet and hope that they create enough climate of fear and intimidation to thwart the next whistleblower,” Kil said.