In an exclusive interview with The Equinox, Keene State College President Anne Huot responded to questions surrounding the suspension and non-renewal of Athletic Department personnel including Pete Thomas (cross country and track and field coach) and Charlie Beach (softball coach) as well as the ongoing investigation of Eugene “Gino” Vallante.
Huot explained her stance on the investigations.
“You have a right when you come to KSC to a supportive, respectful environment that you can live and learn in, always. What I try to think about in my role as a steward of that environment, [is] what is the mission of the college, what are our values, [and] what do you have the right to? When allegations come to my attention, my own personal value system, as well as my obligation to [KSC students], is to look into things and act appropriately,” Huot stated.
As the fall semester began, Huot acknowledged that the Vallante investigation, “probably is not going to conclude for another three or four weeks.”
With many still-unanswered questions regarding accusations and consequences surrounding Vallante, Huot stated, “We are still investigating the Vallante case.”
When asked about the reason why Thomas is on a paid administrative leave Huot said, “I cannot talk about an active-investigation and I cannot give you any details about any personnel matter at the college because our employees have a right to privacy in that matter.”
Huot continued, “I will say that it is standard protocol for employees to go on leave when we are doing an investigation. It’s in their best interest, it’s in the investigation’s best interest, because we want to be fair and we want a fair and unfettered review.”
President Huot confirmed coach Thomas’s investigation is ongoing.
According to President Huot, Thomas met with Director of Athletics John Ratliff, Director of Human Resources Kim Harkness and Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Kemal Atkins.
The meeting took place the day Thomas took his leave.
Huot stated Thomas’s leave had, “nothing to do with whether or not he is a winning coach.”
Huot responded when asked if Thomas is allowed contact with students while on leave, stating, “There are parameters around being on leave so that the investigation can happen in a free and unfettered environment. That is as much in the interest of Coach Thomas as it is for any of our schools.”
Huot also confirmed that Professor Emeritus Beach has not had his “annual agreement” renewed.
“Coach Beach retired from our faculty a number of years ago. He has been on an annual agreement with the college to coach the softball team. We opted not to renew that agreement,” Huot stated.
Huot confirmed she made the decision to not renew Beach’s coaching agreement.
“He was informed that his agreement was not going to be renewed by the Director of Human Resources and my chief of staff,” Huot said.
“He was given the reasons why his agreement was not being renewed,” Huot stated.
President Huot could not provide the details surrounding Beach’s non-renewal because she cannot disclose personnel matter.
President Huot continued to speak to the professionalism of the Athletic Department.
Huot said, “We have a great athletic program—an absolutely terrific athletic program. I am a huge Owl fan. I get myself out to as many games, meets, competitions as I can.”
Huot continued, “I don’t want you to draw a line between particular investigations and whether or not we have a good athletic program. Our coaches are, by and large, very concerned with your [KSC students] welfare, and I think, by and large, they do a great job.“
“As I have come to know our campus and come to think about how it is that I provide stewardship for the myriad of things that fall under my portfolio, I have focused intensely on you [KSC students] and your experience. That includes your education, your personal development and the environment that you live, learn and compete in,” Huot said.
David Walsh can be contacted at email@example.com