SUBJECT: Update on the Independent Investigation of Women's Basketball
FROM: Madeleine Dassow, Chair, Lenoir-Rhyne Board of Trustees
CC: Dr. Fred Whitt, President
Dear Lenoir-Rhyne Community:
Thank you for your patience as Parker Poe law firm conducted a thorough independent investigation of the facts regarding claims of racism in the women's basketball program at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
Over the last two months, the experienced investigative team at Parker Poe has worked diligently to find facts and get answers. Their thorough investigation included hundreds of hours of work, 25 interviews with current and former women's basketball players, members of the men's and women's basketball coaching staff, trainers and administrators, as well as a comprehensive review of all public statements and documentation related to this matter. The attached letter from Parker Poe investigators outlines the independent law firm's specific findings. It is important to note that the report in its entirety is bound by the strict confidentiality rules to protect student privacy under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The summary of the findings concluded:
- Based on the interviews conducted and materials reviewed during the investigation, Parker Poe concluded there is no evidence that the current women's basketball coaching staff promotes or facilitates a culture of racial insensitivity;
- Coach Grahm Smith's communications and decisions relating to non-returning women's basketball players were motivated by legitimate reasons unrelated to race or social justice issues; and
- Coach Grahm Smith's decision to dismiss Laney Fox from the women's basketball team was based on a loss of trust and what he perceived to be her lack of commitment and buy-in to the women's basketball program.
While we are disappointed that Ms. Fox and some non-returning women's basketball players declined multiple opportunities to be interviewed, investigators carefully reviewed extensive evidence including transcripts from tape-recorded conversations, social media posts, text messages, videos, letters, emails and other information relating to the concerns of the claimants.
As members of the Board of Trustees, we take our solemn responsibility as fiduciary trustees of Lenoir-Rhyne University seriously, especially when it comes to ensuring that Lenoir-Rhyne is a community that is welcoming and inclusive. We are encouraged by the recent organizational changes and initiatives President Whitt has announced that will promote and advance issues of diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. We look forward to building on this progress together. We will continue to work diligently to ensure Lenoir-Rhyne is a place that our students, faculty and staff feel welcome and accepted.
Madeleine Dassow, Chair
Board of Trustees
- Executive Summary & Findings from Independent Investigators (PDF)
- News Story with Update on Independent Investigation and Findings