After 85 years as an all-women’s undergraduate school, the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Conn. announced in 2017 that it would begin admitting men for the 2018-19 academic year. Almost immediately after creating men’s athletic programs and hiring a coaching staff for those programs, the Division III school’s athletic department became a “male-dominated, hostile work environment,” former associate athletic director Jaclyn Piscitelli says in a sex discrimination lawsuit filed against the small Catholic university in federal court in Connecticut Wednesday.
In the 13-page complaint, Piscitelli says former longtime UConn basketball coach and Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun—hired by Saint Joseph to start the new men’s basketball team—and his assistant Glen Miller “transform[ed] the work environment in the athletic department to one that was openly hostile and disdainful to women and where women were treated as second-class citizens.”
The complaint describes an incident in which Calhoun knocked Keurig “K-cup” pods onto the ground and stepped on them to make a mess of coffee grounds before insisting that Piscitelli clean them up and saying that “if he made such a mess at home, his wife would clean up after him.” When Piscitelli discussed this with athletic director Bill Cardarelli, who also witnessed it, the lawsuit says Cardarelli told her that he found the situation “amusing” and “did not see anything wrong” with it.
The lawsuit also says Calhoun and Miller commented frequently on Piscitelli’s physical appearance. On one occasion, Calhoun referred to her as “hot,” the complaint states. On another, the lawsuit says, Miller told Piscitelli he would “swipe left” on her after criticizing her for not smiling enough. According to the complaint, in a conversation between Calhoun and Piscitelli in the summer of 2019, Calhoun also referred to Mary Cooper, the only other female employee working in the Athletic Department office, as a “bitch” and said “when Mary asks me what to do with work I hand her, I want to tell her to ‘shove it up her ass.’” Piscitelli says she feared retaliation, given Calhoun’s renown, but reported these comments to Cardarelli, who took no action. The lawsuit says Cardarelli also told the female women’s swim coach to “calm down” after she complained that sports information director Josh Ingham was not writing timely post-game recaps of women’s sporting events, and instead prioritized men’s teams.
When Piscitelli told Saint Joseph’s vice president of student affairs Ken Bedini that male coaches and staff routinely interrupted her in meetings and refused to communicate with her about matters within her purview, noting that the athletic department had become a “boys club,” the complaint says Bedini took no action, suggested Piscitelli was causing trouble and told her she “better not fucking be here” the following year, when she told him she was considering seeking employment elsewhere in the spring of 2019. In June 2019, Piscitelli was fired and told by Bedini that the school was “moving in a new direction,” when she asked whether she had done something wrong, per the complaint.
The suit seeks Piscitelli’s reinstatement, back pay, and other compensatory damages. The full complaint is below: