Northwestern Cheerleader Files Harassment Lawsuit, Says Officials Ignored Her Complaints

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Hayden Richardson filed a federal lawsuit against Northwestern University on Friday, detailing repeated instances of harassment while a member of the cheerleading program, according to the Chicago Tribune's Elyssa Cherney.  

Per the 58-page complaint, Richardson experienced being groped by drunken fans and alumni at university-sanctioned events. The program's head coach, Pam Bonnevier, apparently required women cheerleaders to "mingle" with donors for the school's financial gain.

“It became clear to [Richardson] that the cheerleaders were being presented as sex objects to titillate the men that funded the majority of Northwestern’s athletics programs,” the lawsuit read, per the Tribune. “After all, the happier these men were, the more money the University would receive from them.”

Richardson says that in 2018 to '19, older men touched her breasts and buttocks over her uniform, picked her up without her consent and made “sexually-charged comments” about her appearance, per the Tribune. Despite being underage, Richardson says men offered her alcoholic beverages and asked to meet with her later at said events. 

The lawsuit suggests Richardson's complaints were ignored by numerous university officials. It also states that Bonnevier told cheerleaders to socialize independently despite requests to visit donor tailgates and events in pairs. The women team members were required to take photos with fans, regardless of whether the fans acted inappropriately. 

Bonnevier left Northwestern last October, but the circumstances behind her departure are unclear, as stated by a university spokesperson in the lawsuit.