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Syracuse Settles Harassment Suit

March 26, 1999

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Two former Syracuse tennis players who filed a sexual harassment suit against the school reached a settlement Friday, three days before the trial was to begin.

The amount awarded to Dacia Kornechuk, Kirsten Ericson and their families was kept confidential.

Ericson, who graduated last year, and Kornechuk, a senior, were seeking $762 million in damages in the lawsuit, which was filed last May in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Both women quit the tennis team in 1997 after they filed a complaint with the university’s sexual harassment office against women’s coach Jesse Dwire.

Kornechuk, of Peabody, Mass., and Ericson, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., alleged that Dwire harassed them in the two ways forbidden by the university’s sexual harassment policy _ hostile environment harassment and quid pro quo harassment, in which a superior demands sexual favors in exchange for job or academic benefits.

The main issue: Massages repeatedly given by Dwire in his office and when the team was on the road. The two former players said that Dwire gave them massages that were unwelcome and sexual in nature, and that Dwire behaved inappropriately throughout their time on the team, conducting sex-related conversations about their personal lives.

Dwire, 52, has never commented on the allegations against him, but he denied the massages were sexual in nature and said his physical therapy experience was one reason he was hired by the university.

The university denied virtually all of the allegations.

Dwire was suspended by the university when the charges were filed. After an investigation by the school, a five-member hearing panel found that statements made by Dwire in one instance violated the school’s sexual harassment policy and in another violated its discrimination policy. The panel found that other accusations against Dwire did not constitute violations of university policies.

The panel also voted 3-2 to suspend Dwire without pay for two years. But Neil Strodel, associate vice president for human resources, shortened the suspension to three months, citing among other things the absence of other allegations of harassment during Dwire’s tenure.

That suspension ended in September 1997, and Dwire, after accepting counseling, returned to coach the team.

Both women appealed Strodel’s decision, calling the hearing process ``a total sham.″ According to Ericson, the appeal was rejected by Eleanor Gallagher, vice president for human resources and government relations.

Seven other former members of the Syracuse women’s tennis team have since come forward, alleging they also were sexually harassed by Dwire.

The women described incidents of harassment dating back to 1978 _ the year Dwire became coach.

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