fb-pixel Skip to main content

‘This is a sham:’ Harvard faulted for response to abuse claims in women’s hockey program run by Katey Stone

After receiving student complaints, Harvard conducted an internal review of Katey Stone and decided to retain her as women's hockey coach.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Harvard’s handling of misconduct allegations in coach Katey Stone’s women’s ice hockey program signals that the university has prioritized concerns about its image and financial liability rather than a transparent examination of abuse its student-athletes may have endured, according to specialists in student rights and safety.

Less than a year after Harvard retained Stone following an in-house review of complaints about her program, the administration responded to investigations by the Boston Globe in January and The Athletic in March by privately engaging a law firm to conduct an “independent review” of the allegations.

Harvard has not publicly acknowledged the review. Several of Stone’s current and former players who have been contacted by the law firm said they have been given no indication of the scope of the inquiry, no assurance they will receive any emotional or psychological support during the process, and no guarantee they will be informed about the review’s findings or recommendations.

The law firm that Harvard hired, Jenner & Block, has told the players that its interview requests do “not create an attorney-client relationship.” Jenner & Block’s client is Harvard, not the women who allegedly were harmed in Stone’s program.


In addition, Harvard has allowed Stone to remain on the job rather than place her on administrative leave, as many universities do when coaches and their programs are under review.

“This is a sham,” said Rachael Denhollander, an attorney who has handled collegiate abuse cases and a former gymnast who in 2016 was the first of hundreds of women to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State physician, of sexual abuse.

“It’s an exercise in obfuscation, an attempt by Harvard to discover where they may have liability and to make sure it stays hidden under attorney-client privilege,” Denhollander said. “There is absolutely no transparency as to this process.


“What Harvard is asking survivors to do is to come forward and lay bare the most traumatic portions of their lives with no guarantee at all that anything is going to come out of it in the end.”

Harvard declined to comment.

Stone, who arrived at Harvard in 1994, is one of the most renowned coaches in the history of women’s collegiate ice hockey. But criticism of her program’s culture has intensified in recent years.

Nearly 20 of Stone’s former players, including team captains, have alleged to the Globe that she has emotionally harmed team members with her coaching practices since at least 2000. The Athletic corroborated many of the Globe’s allegations and reported others, nearly all of which, if substantiated, would violate Harvard and NCAA policies governing the well-being of student-athletes.

Harvard has known about possible problems with the culture of Stone’s program since at least 2019, when a survey of players commissioned by the school’s faculty ranked her team last among the university’s 42 varsity sports programs in the quality of its student-athletes’ experiences.

Several players who responded to the survey said they have since seen no improvement in the program’s culture.

“It appears Harvard has acted too little and too late,” said Tyler Fox, a Cambridge attorney who represents victims of sexual harassment, abuse, and other violations of civil rights.

The complaints about Stone’s program include her allegedly denigrating players so severely that they sought mental health care; minimizing the psychological issues; pressuring players to return from concussions and other injuries; shaming their physiques; and adversely impacting their academics.


Women who played for Harvard during much of Stone’s tenure described hazing episodes that included forced alcohol drinking and sexually-charged role playing. One player said she reported the hazing and other complaints to Harvard in a signed document and never heard from anyone in the administration.

Stone has not responded to the Globe’s interview requests. No one has alleged that she was directly involved in hazing, but anti-hazing specialists say coaches are responsible for protecting student-athletes in their programs from bullying and hazing.

In one troubling ritual, Stone’s players reportedly engaged in “naked skates,” in which freshmen some years were told “to do a ‘superman’ slide on the ice that left some with ice burns and bleeding nipples,” The Athletic reported. “The most recent ‘Naked Skate’ occurred the day following the publication of the Globe story.”

At least 14 players Stone recruited to Harvard have left her program since 2016. Notable among them: two Indigenous North Americans, Taze Thompson, the 2021-22 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and a starting defenseman, Maryna MacDonald, who both departed last year after Stone allegedly demeaned their heritage by accusing the team of devolving into a collection of “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”

Stone’s assistant coach, Sydney Daniels, a former team captain who is Indigenous, also quit after the offensive remark. She has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.


When MacDonald complained to the administration, Harvard launched the in-house review. Players said they shared additional allegations, but athletic director Erin McDermott informed the team in an email after a six-month inquiry that Stone “will remain our head coach.”

“The findings of the review affirm that decision while also identifying opportunities for improvement, particularly with communication across several areas,” McDermott said.

Harvard shared none of the review’s findings or recommendations with the players or public.

“The fact that Harvard did a review in-house is an initial massive red flag because you need outside expertise and accountability,” Denhollander said.

What’s more, Fox said of Harvard retaining Stone, “This slap on the wrist resulted in continuing allegations.”

Some experts said that Harvard, by keeping Stone on the job, could inhibit her players from fully participating in the outside review.

“Given the timeline and number of complaints, at the very least Stone should be placed on administrative leave,” said Dr. Amy Saltzman, a physician who founded and directs Spot a Spider, a program to prevent abuse in sports and other settings.

Saltzman said Stone’s players “should be assured not only that there will be no retribution for speaking up, but that they will be supported by the coaching staff, the athletic department, trauma-sensitive mental health providers who understand all types of abuse, and the extended Harvard community.”

Bob Hohler can be reached at robert.hohler@globe.com.