A former UCLA Spirit Squad director is asking a judge to set aside findings that led to her 2019 dismissal after a Title IX investigation of her role in allowing a donor to escort UCLA dance team members to a live show in Las Vegas in 2018.
Mollie Vehling brought the petition Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court against the regents of the University of California and the UCLA Title IX Office.
“Respondents failed to grant (Vehling) a fair Title IX hearing, failed to proceed in the manner required by law and committed a prejudicial abuse of discretion in that respondents’ decision is not supported by the findings and the findings are not supported by the evidence,” the petition states.
A UCLA representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Vehling headed the UCLA Spirit Squad for almost two decades. She was put on leave in December 2018 and fired in May 2019.
“Ms. Vehling has spent an impressive 19-year career developing the Spirit Squad into what it is today and has never received a negative performance review,” the petition states.
The Spirit Squad attends basketball and football games to cheer on UCLA’s teams, but the squad’s responsibilities extend beyond just dancing or cheering in that they also are ambassadors for UCLA who help maintain positive relationships with high-profile UCLA donors, the petition states.
Vehling was accused of directing a half-dozen members of the squad to accompany former state Sen. Alan Robbins to the “Absinthe” show at Caesars Palace in November 2018 while the team was in Las Vegas for a men’s basketball tournament. Robbins, a Democrat who represented his Los Angeles-area district in the state Senate from 1974-91, is a UCLA graduate and longtime donor.
Vehling reviewed the Caesar’s Palace website and perceived the show to be a Cirque to Soleil-type of event and she sent a GroupMe text asking the squad members if they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity during their free time, the petition states.
No Spirit Squad student was required to “attend the opportunities offered by Mr. Robbins or any other donor, and Spirit Squad members (were) told repeatedly to immediately leave any situation in which they (were) uncomfortable,” according to the petition.
When notified via text from part-time squad coach Tiphanie McNiff, who was messaging with a Spirit Squad captain at the “Absinthe” show that some students were uncomfortable with the show, Vehling texted that they should leave immediately with a friend, the petition states.
“Ms. Vehling was never told nor made aware of any student’s distress over the `Absinthe’ show and was only told by Tiphanie McNiff that the students did not like the show,” according to the petition.
In November 2018, UCLA’s Title IX office was notified that several members of the Spirit Squad said they had experienced harassing behavior when they attended the show with Robbins, the petition states.
Several female UCLA Spirit Squad members thought that Robbins was “creepy” and were uneasy dealing with him, but his alleged conduct was improperly used to justify the actions taken against Vehling, her petition states.
“Respondents improperly abused the … Title IX investigation and adjudication procedure in order to find Mollie Vehling responsible for sexual harassment of Spirit Squad members due to Alan Robbins’ alleged conduct in Las Vegas, while at the same time clearing Alan Robbins of sexual harassment for that same conduct,” the petition alleges.
Vehling brought her petition “not only for her own interest, but to protect the rights of other individuals and members of the public who have been subjected to wrongful and unfair Title IX proceedings at the University of California and other institutions of higher learning,” the petition states.