Although Brandeis prides itself on holding a strong commitment to inclusivity and diversity, the athletics department has faced several allegations of racism in the past six years, most recently against the head coach of the women’s basketball team, Carol Simon. 

On April 2, the Athletics Department and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosted a “community gathering” in the Napoli Room in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center. This gathering was a space for the Athletics community to share their frustrations and anger regarding the recent reinstatement of Simon. Director of Athletics Lauren Haynie sent an email on March 29, detailing the results of the recent Office of Equal Opportunity investigation. The email stated that the investigation found Simon “not in violation of Brandeis standards,” but her history of alleged racism and abusive behavior stems from the complaints and witness statements of players.

An initial OEO investigation concluded in May of 2023 that Simon did violate Brandeis standards regarding those allegations. Her alleged racist comments and actions to players, assistant coaches and colleagues have persisted for years. Following this investigation, an article detailing the allegations and their results was published by Deadspin on July 31, 2023. This article prompted another investigation, which resulted in Haynie’s recent email on March 29 that concluded that Simon did not violate any Brandeis policies.

Simon was reinstated as head coach of the team in late March of 2024 after almost a year of paid administrative leave. The women’s basketball team was informed of her reinstatement in a Zoom meeting on March 28 with Haynie, and the Vice President of Student Affairs, Andrea Dine.

When asked for comment, Dine responded in an April 8 email to The Justice saying “My colleagues and I are aware of the concerns that have been expressed by the members of the women's basketball team and we have been endeavoring to support the team as much as possible. Due to employee privacy rights, we cannot comment on the specifics of the situation.”

While Simon was on leave, assistant coach Jill Latanowich stepped up as Acting Head Coach to fill the role. She was the head coach for the 2023-2024 season, and when emailed by The Justice on April 3 she stated, “I’m proud of them. They continue to navigate and persevere—- and I am here to support them through times of uncertainty. They deserve to be heard.” This response was received on April 4.

Simon has been the head coach of the Brandeis team since 1987. Over her 37-year career, she has received many honors, including an induction into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. Her current superior, Associate Director of Athletics Lynne Dempsey, was previously a student-athlete on her team. Simon is a well-known legacy in the department and holds a respected voice, and her reinstatement comes when another one of her former players was just hired as the next Director of Brandeis Athletics.

Many rumors regarding Simon’s inappropriate behavior have been filling the halls of Gosman. According to the Deadspin article, inappropriate statements and actions have been primarily based on racism against Black players on her team and fostering a toxic environment for all players. Simon has allegedly used the n-word and other racist terms when speaking about Black men. Witnesses have also stated that she utilized offensive gestures. According to the Deadspin article, Simon did not apologize following this incident where she said the alleged racial slur. The article also reported that she has also been heard mocking Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and in general, speaks negatively about Black people in a way that is not comparable to how she speaks about white people. According to a witness in the Deadspin article, Simon also has a reportedly better relationship with the white players on the team.

Selenya Gonzalez ’24, a Black student-athlete, is the final player left from the class of 2024. Her class started with six players and all but Gonzalez have either quit collegiate basketball or transferred to another university. 

During the April 2 gathering, the women’s basketball team presented a united front and read from impact statements and letters that were sent to the Brandeis Board of Trustees. The statements were read with emotion and the room was filled with fellow student-athletes, Haynie, coaches and other athletic administrators. These statements related frustration over the mishandling of the situation by administrators Dine and Haynie.

The impact statements were read with emotion and the room was filled with fellow student-athletes, Haynie, coaches and other athletic administrators. Other student-athletes spoke out in support, and the team iterated that they would collectively quit if Simon were to come back and coach.

Throughout the gathering, there was confusion as to who carried the jurisdiction on the recent decision. Haynie reported that “it is a group decision” and it falls on the Board of Trustees, other administrators and President Ronald Liebowitz to fully reinstate Simon. However, the confusion and lack of transparency on the decision stems from clear miscommunications between higher administrators, players and the Brandeis Athletics Department. While Haynie has had some responsibilities and played a direct role in these issues, she did not have all of the answers and did not receive direct or clear communication from her superiors.

On Feb 29, the Women’s Basketball team met with President Liebowitz for answers regarding the then-ongoing investigation. The entire team was present and was met with vague statements, uncertainty, and unclear steps for the future. The purpose of the meeting was to educate the University President on the matter and advocate for the team’s needs, and the gathering on April 2 had the same purpose. Following the gathering, there was a sense of optimism amongst the team, according to Forward Molly James ’26 — many more people were made aware of their struggle for equitable coaching and the near abuse they have endured.

A copy of the impact statements sent to the Board of Trustees and a request for a third OEO investigation, based on gender and racial discrimination under Title IX, were given to The Justice, and we thought it prudent to highlight more experiences of racism the team spoke about. 

According to the players’ statements, the 2022-2023 season saw five players quit mid-season, and Simon fostered a harmful environment through her toxic relationship with then-assistant coach Aseem Rastogi. The Justice reached out through a colleague of Rastogi, but he did not send a comment. In an April 6 interview with The Justice, James said there was a “lack of trust” between coaches and players, and “that player-to-coach dynamic is not at all there with [Simon].”

Simon told the last Black upperclassman of the team, Gonzalez, that she would “never recruit an all-Black team” which Gonzalez had never requested her to state, but Simon “proudly and intentionally” expressed it according to Gonzalez. Players spoke of misery, anxiety, a lack of equality, and a failure of the administration to hold those accountable despite captains and players voicing concerns earlier in the season, mid-season, and during the investigation.

Forward Brooke Reed ’26, voiced her frustrations and anger with the Brandeis administration for turning a blind eye and “neglecting” the needs of the team. In Reed’s eyes, the “insensitive” return of Simon caused her to state “I am not [Simon’s] player, I refuse to wear the Brandeis name on a jersey while it remains synonymous with the utter dismissal of racial insensitivity and a lack of care for women.”

Racism violations and complaints are not a new challenge for the Brandeis basketball community to face. Previous head men’s basketball coach, Brian Meehan was fired by the university in 2019 due to his verbal abuse and racist remarks.

Following these remarks, the Office of Equal Opportunity was founded and athletic administrators, including Dempsey, were demoted or fired. An extensive investigation was conducted and this concrete action has not been mirrored in the current issue at hand with the women’s team. In fact, the former Vice President of Human Resources, Robin Nelson-Bailey, was found to be collateral damage in the Meehan investigation and was successful in her lawsuit suing the University for $2.46 million dollars. Nelson-Bailey was partially blamed for the lack of investigation into the allegations of racism against Meehan when she had no role in it and accused the school of racism towards her. In a previous Justice article covering the lawsuit, “she was one of three people demoted, all of whom were women, and was the only non-white woman. Nelson-Bailey was also the only Black woman to hold an upper-level position at Brandeis at the time.”

The women’s basketball team submitted a Human Resources complaint that calls out National Collegiate Athletic Association and University Athletic Association standards. Both their OEO and HR complaints filed on April 2 demanded equitable coaching staff in comparison to the Brandeis men’s basketball team. 

Experienced and completely new coaching staff are integral to the demands of the team, as the men’s team’s coaching staff reportedly has 40 years of experience, whereas the acting coach Jill Latanowich only had one year of experience and assistant coach Lauren Rubenstein has no prior coaching experience according to player’s statements. The Title IX violation at stake is that the team was denied equitable coaching and was not given the same resources as the men’s team.

Simon’s coaching statistics are listed below, as seen in the team’s HR Performance Management complaint of her: 

“Since 2010, 132 wins, 171 losses (win ratio of 43.5%)

Over the last 10 years, 111 wins, 142 losses (win ratio of 43.8%)

Over the last 5 years, 47 wins, 76 losses (win ratio of 38.2%)

In the UAA conference:

Since 2010, 43 wins, 125 losses (win ratio of 25.6%)

Over the last 10 years, 37 wins, 103 losses (win ratio of 26.4%)

Over the last 5 years, 14 wins, 56 losses (win ratio of 20%)

Over the last 3 years, 7 wins, 35 losses (16.7% win ratio)

Over the last 2 years, 4 wins, 24 losses (14.3% win ratio)

The last season Coach Simon coached 1 win, 13 losses (7.1% win ratio)

The data reveals a concerning trend of declining performance under Coach Simon’s leadership.  Most concerning is the lack of improvement over time and instead just the opposite, indicative of systemic issues in coaching and team management.”

The team repeatedly expressed feeling “unprepared,” “humiliated,” and not set up for success in the 2023-2024 season, and James said that meetings with Haynie and Dine about Simon’s performance in the past year did not yield the support and action they had hoped for. New York University sits at the top of the UAA women’s basketball standings, reflecting the resources and success that a four-member coaching staff, plus a Director of Basketball Operations and a manager brings to the team.

Throughout all of their impact statements, players continuously stated their passion and love for basketball, as seen in guard Lulu Ohm ’25’s statement “Basketball isn’t just a passion for me. It’s a part of who I am. The sacrifices that both myself and my teammates made and continue to make for this program are not reciprocated.” Ultimately, however, the majority of the team is prepared to walk away if Simon returns as the head coach of the program. 

The language around her return remains unclear, as Haynie said in the April 2 gathering that it is Simon’s choice to return, but in her email inviting student-athletes to the gathering said “The investigator interviewed multiple witnesses and gathered and reviewed evidence over the course of six months. Upon the completion of this investigation, it was determined that Coach Simon had not violated any Brandeis policies. As a result, she is being reinstated as the Head Coach of Women’s Basketball.”

The overall theme of the team’s experiences is summed up in the ending of forward Mollie Obar ’25’s statement, where she wrote, “We are all exhausted. We are exhausted from being ignored and treated like trash by this university. We deserve better.”

Gonzalez reiterated the team’s exhaustion, but determined fight for justice, saying in her impact statement “For me, silence has never been the answer, and neither is quitting on this fight. As I’ve said before, I am exhausted, but while attempting to heal from an environment that has scarred me, I am unwilling to witness more generations of young women encounter the same experiences.”

Gabe Haithcock ’25, the President and Co-Founder of the Brandeis Student-Athletes of Color Group and member of the men’s varsity soccer team, commented “As a student-athlete of color, it brings me a lot of distress to see the university’s decision to bring Carol back. I’d like to say that the university does a great job of supporting racial diversity and equality throughout the campus but it’s decisions like these that undermine those ideas and highlights the racist and discriminatory undertones that many universities are founded upon. It’s embarrassing that the University can’t take definitive actions against Carol, whose actions have harmed the well-being of our students. Our students are in a vulnerable state because the University has failed to protect their virtues, beliefs, and values that we as a Brandeis student body stand for.”

When asked for comment, the President of the Student Union, Noah Risley ’24, stated that they “stand behind the women's basketball team completely and do not want to see Coach Simon reinstated. If there’s anything I can do in my last few days in office, I’m happy to help. Every student-athlete should feel comfortable with and supported by their coach, and it’s a shame that hasn’t been the case for WBB the past 2 years.”

The Board of Trustees met on Monday, April 8 and meetings are confidential so The Justice was unable to obtain any results or further information from the Trustees.

As of press time, The Justice reached out to Carol Simon for comment as well as to President Liebowitz and OEO. None of the parties responded with a statement and Simon’s automatic email replied that she was out of the office.