Ex-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to Lead Independent Investigation Amid Northwestern Hazing Scandal

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Northwestern University is bringing on former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to lead an independent review of its existing reporting mechanisms amid on ongoing hazing scandal that led to the firing of head football coach Pat Fitzgerald and several lawsuits.

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University officials on Tuesday announced Lynch has been hired to examine the “processes and accountability mechanisms” already in place to detect, report and respond to potential misconduct across the NU athletics programs.

“Hazing has absolutely no place at Northwestern. Period,” university President Michael Schill said in a statement. “I am determined that with the help of Attorney General Lynch, we will become a leader in combating the practice of hazing in intercollegiate athletics and a model for other universities. We will provide all of our students with the resources and support they need and do whatever is necessary to protect their safety and ensure that our athletics program remains one we can all be proud of.”

Lynch, now with the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, was in charge of the Department of Justice when it entered into an agreement with the city of Chicago that would launch a court-enforced consent decree aimed at reforming the Chicago Police Department.

According to the university, Lynch will engage faculty, staff, students and alumni in order to examine the “culture of Northwestern Athletics” to ensure it’s consistent the university’s “mission and values as a leading academic institution.”

The results of her review will be made public.

The review is one of several steps Northwestern officials announced in the wake of the hazing scandal. Since Fitzgerald was fired last month, several former student athletes have sued the university, claiming they were subjected to hazing that allegedly included what Schill has called “sexualized acts of a degrading nature.”

A former NU women’s volleyball player has also filed a hazing lawsuit, and the university last month also terminated its men’s baseball coach Jim Foster amid separate allegations of “bullying and abusive behavior.”

“The Athletics Department welcomes this review as a critical tool in identifying the additional steps Northwestern can take to eradicate hazing,” NU athletic director Derrick Gragg said in a statement. “By making the results of her review public, we hope our entire community will be better informed and guided as we all work to address this critical issue in college athletics.”

Attorney Ben Crump and the Chicago-based law firm of Levin & Perconti, who represent multiple former student-athletes suing the university, said Lynch’s hiring “raises more questions than answers.”

“We have to wonder if this is nothing more than an effort to counteract negative press, and more importantly, the growing number of former Northwestern football players filing lawsuits against the University,” Crump said in a statement.

Northwestern previously launched an investigation last year that preceded Fitzgerald’s termination, which was led by former assistant U.S. attorney Maggie Hickey. While Northwestern released an executive summary of that probe, the full report has not been released.

Crump on Tuesday asked if this new review “means the University believes the first investigation which led to the firing of former Wildcats head football coach Pat Fitzgerald was flawed, or not thorough enough? And if the University is dedicated to transparency as they say, then why are the findings of the first investigation yet to be made public?”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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