Star-Crossed Student Athletes Torn Apart By Title IX Witchhunt at USC
Zoe Katz comes forward to clear the name of her boyfriend, former USC football star Matt Boermeester.
A nosy neigbor's word was apparently all it took to get a University of Southern California (USC) student kicked out of school for abusing his girlfriend—abuse she vehemently denies ever took place.
According to recent USC graduate Zoe Katz, the inquiry that prompted USC to expel Matt Boermeester, a former kicker on the USC football team, was "horrible and unjust." Katz said she is coming forward now to clear Boermeester's name and push for changes in the way Title IX investigations are conducted.
In a statement provided to the press through her lawyer, Katz alleges that Boermeester was "false accused" of abusing her after a neighbor saw them roughhousing in her front yard.
The two seniors had been dating for more than a year at that point; from the looks of Katz's recent social media posts, they're still together. Katz was a star on the school's tennis team, and Boermeester was the football player who had kicked the game-winning field goal for USC in this year's Rose Bowl.
According to Katz, the neighbor told his roommate what he thought he saw, who told a coach in the USC athletic department, who reported the incident to the school's Title IX office (the unit tasked, per federal mandate, with investigating suspected incidents of sex-based discrimination and violence). The school began an investigation into the allegations in February, at which time Boermeester was suspended from the football team and from school.
At the time, Katz tweeted: "I am the one involved in the investigation with Matt Boermeester. The report is false." Since then, she was mostly silent on the issue in public, until this week's statement. In it, she states unequivocably that she has "never been abused, assaulted, or otherwise mistreated by Matt."
But the school refused to believe her, says Katz. Instead, investigators immediately cast her as someone in an abusive relationship who was too afraid to tell the truth about her situation.
The Title IX crew was "dismissive and demeaning," said Katz. They told her she "must be afraid of Matt," a charge she denied. In classic witch-hunt style, any protestations on Katz's part were taken as further evidence of the exact opposite of what she was saying:
When I told the truth about Matt, in repeated interrogations, I was stereotyped and was told I must be a 'battered' woman, and that made me feel demeaned and absurdly profiled. I understand that domestic violence is a terrible problem, but in no way does that apply to Matt and me.
Ultimately, Katz felt "misled, harassed, threatened and discriminated against" by the school's Title IX office.
During Boermeester's suspension, he was barred from returning to campus and from having contact with Katz. Eventually, he was told not to return.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, USC would only say that it had concluded its investigation and could not comment further. "Per the register, [Boermeester] is no longer enrolled at the university," it said.