Over three weeks into a hazing scandal at the school, Northwestern University has hired former United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch to lead an independent review its athletics program.

In a news release this morning, NU says Lynch, who now is with the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, will review “processes and accountability mechanisms in place at the University to detect, report and respond to potential misconduct in its athletics programs, including hazing, bullying and discrimination of any kind.”

The school says Lynch will conduct the review with feedback from and engagement with faculty, staff, students and alumni and that the results of her review will be made public.

“Hazing has absolutely no place at Northwestern. Period,” said Northwestern President Michael Schill.

“I am determined that with the help of Attorney General Lynch,” Schill added, “we will become a leader in combating the practice of hazing in intercollegiate athletics and a model for other universities.”

Vice President for Athletics & Recreation Derrick Gragg added, “The Athletics Department welcomes this review as a critical tool in identifying the additional steps Northwestern can take to eradicate hazing.”

Lynch’s review is part of a series of immediate actions the University has taken in response to the findings from the independent investigation of allegations of hazing in the football program, which were announced July 7. Those actions include:

  • Monitoring of the football locker room.
  • In-person anti-hazing training led by outside experts for all University sports teams, coaches and staff. The first session begins Aug. 3 for the football team — its first day of fall practice — with training for other teams to follow.
  • Enhancement of the University’s existing reporting resources with the development of an online tool for reporting complaints of hazing, bullying and other misconduct.

Lynch will begin her review immediately and will provide updates to both President Schill and the Board of Trustees’ Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee.

Lynch served as U.S. Attorney General from 2015 to 2017. Since returning to private practice as chair of her firm’s Civil Rights and Racial Equity Audits practice, Lynch has led numerous sensitive investigations for corporations and non-profit organizations.

Update 3:30 p.m.: Attorney Ben Crump, who’s representing some former players who have sued the university, issued a statement asking whether the new move by the university means the school’s first investigation “was flawed, or not through enough.”

“And if the university is dedicated to transparency,” Crump added, “then why are the findings of the first investigation yet to be made public?”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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