Agency says MU cheerleader's sexual harassment case not its problem

By John O'Brien | Aug 11, 2006

CHARLESTON - The state's Higher Education Policy Commission received a copy of a former Marshall University cheerleader's complaint that she was sexually harassed.

According to its motion to dismiss, the HEPC isn't sure why.

Filed July 14 by attorney Ed Kowal of Campbell Woods in Huntington, the motion declares, "There is no mention of what, if anything, HEPC did wrong in this case. The complaint acknowledges that coach (Donna) Dunn was an employee of Marshall University. The complaint does not set forth any affirmative action in which HEPC engaged and which purportedly caused harm to Plaintiff."

A former cheerleader who identifies herself only as "K.C." filed a lawsuit June 13 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the Marshall Board of Governors, her coach Dunn and the HEPC, claiming she was sexually harassed during her one year as a Thundering Herd cheerleader.

In the complaint, she claims male members of the squad exposed themselves, rubbed their genitals on the female members' faces and called the females "bitches, whores" and other derogatory names, including one typically used to refer to female genitalia.

She adds that several cheers had code names of a sexual nature, and that longtime coach Dunn was partly to blame. She says Dunn even instructed the girls to act in a sexually provocative manner at a golf fundraiser.

The HEPC says its inclusion in the complaint, which was filed by Charleston attorney Mary Downey, was incorrect.

"HEPC does not supervise, in any way, the day-to-day activities of Marshall University or its governing board," the motion says. "Inasmuch as HEPC has no governance role in cheerleaders or cheerleading squads or coaches at Marshall University, it should be dismissed from this action.

According to its Web site, the HEPC was created to be responsible for developing, establishing and overseeing the implementation of a public policy agenda for the state's four-year colleges and universities.

In the motion, it says it does not have the power to discipline, control, supervise or manage personnel employed by Marshall.

"Thus, unless HEPC is specifically assigned a governance function, it has no duty or responsibility to implement any particular activities at any institution of higher education," it says.

Also, Kowal says if his motion is denied then the case should be transferred from Kanawha to Cabell Circuit Court.

He says there is obvious precedent.

"In 2004, the Legislature of our state explicitly decided that actions against Marshall University shall be brought in the circuit court of the county where the cause of action arose," the motion says.

Dunn and Marshall's Board of Governors have yet to reply to K.C.'s allegations.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-1123

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