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Song Girls coach Lori Nelson’s response to 2016 Title IX complaint

Team portrait including Adrianna Robakowski (third from right in bottom row) and Josie Bullen (second from right in top row).

Team portrait of USC song girls including Adrianna Robakowski (third from right in bottom row) and Josie Bullen (second from right in top row).
(Benjamin Chua)

Former USC Song Girls coach Lori Nelson has defended her record running the famed collegiate dance squad that was the subject of a Title IX investigation in 2016 following accusations of harassment and retaliation.

A Title IX investigator found insufficient evidence Nelson violated university policy, but she did refer the matter for human resources for further review.

Nelson’s attorney, Ryan Saba of Rosen Saba LLP, released the following statement to the Times:

The USC Song Girls program and longtime coach Lori Nelson were the subject of a 2016 Title IX investigation, which turned up insufficient evidence that Nelson violated university policies.

“For over 50 years, the USC Song Girls have purposefully and consistently maintained a proud and principled tradition as ambassadors for the University of Southern California. Being a Song Girl is an honor and a privilege. The experience to perform in Los Angeles Coliseum, perform at athletic, university and alumni events, travel to away football games, Bowl games and basketball tournaments, and worldwide travel with the Trojan Marching Band are some of the many benefits. Almost all of the 290 Song Girls understand and appreciate these benefits. Unfortunately, there are a very few who did not. Any news story that focuses on a few outlier Song Girls is an incomplete and unfair portrayal of the totality of the Song Girl program.

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“Lori Nelson led the Song Girl Program for over 30 years. In 2016, one former Song Girl made a complaint to USC In response to that complaint, USC conducted an internal investigation. The complaining party was considered an outlier Song Girl who was rude, disrespectful and disruptive at practice after she suffered an injury. After a thorough investigation, and interviews of witnesses, USC’s Office of Equity and Diversity and human resources department did not find that Ms. Nelson violated any university policy in her treatment of this Song Girl. Ms. Nelson was not disciplined, nor should she have been. Ms. Nelson never discriminated or harassed any Song Girl in her entire tenure.

Ten former USC Song Girls described to The Times a toxic culture within the famed collegiate dance team that included longtime former coach Lori Nelson rebuking women publicly for their eating habits, personal appearance and sex lives.

“Ms. Nelson vehemently denies that she mistreated any Song Girl. Instead, she should be applauded and hailed for leading the Song Girl program at USC to national prominence. The Song Girls are as integral as the athletic participants in the fabric of NCAA sports experiences. The complaints of a handful of disgruntled and subpar Song Girls does not justify tarnishing the tremendous reputation of the hundreds of Song Girls who participated and represented USC in a proud manner. Any suggestion that USC or Ms. Nelson did anything wrong is a fantasy.”


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