Editorial: The UA athletics department needs to directly address sexual misconduct
The case of Craig Carter, the former UA assistant track and field coach accused of sexually assaulting a student athlete, raises concerns about the growing normalcy of sexual assaults and misconduct occurring within the UA athletics department.
In the scenario involving Carter, a UA student athlete alleges that crimes were committed against her by someone who should have kept her safe — her coach.
There was also the case of former UA men’s basketball player Elliott Pitts, whose departure from our school and his team was chalked up to a “personal issue” by UA officials; Pitts’ departure came only after accusations of sexual misconduct and stalking a fellow student.
And yet, in another incident altogether, former football running back Orlando Bradford is awaiting trial for 10 felonies and five misdemeanor charges involving domestic abuse allegations made by multiple women. Bradford’s circumstances may not be rooted in “sexual misconduct,” but make no mistake: these are incidents of men within the UA athletic department exercising violent and harassing power over women, all coming to light over the span of barely one year.
The university is responsible for keeping every student safe, both morally and legally.
Part of that responsibility includes knowing when an internal institution within the university is ignoring if not perpetuating a culture of violence and harassment against women.
Inside college athletic departments around the country, a culture of keeping quiet and protecting those involved with college sports is becoming more and more prevalent. Cases of alleged sexual misconduct at Michigan State University, Baylor University and the University of Oregon have dotted the landscape in recent years, and, sadly, there is nothing that says the University of Arizona doesn’t belong on the same list. At the UA, there is simply not enough transparency about how the athletic department has handled these situations in the past, and what it plans to do moving forward. The UA community deserves to know what has changed, if anything, in light of a lack of procedure for athletes and UA students facing sexual harassment, assault, domestic violence and stalking, etc.
What methods are in place at the athletic department for recording and addressing sexual assaults?
In the case involving Carter, and others, the athletic department has failed to address these claims as specified by UA policy. A mere relationship between a coach and a student is a fireable offense, but university officials didn’t speak with the student athlete directly, opting instead to send her a couple emails that she never answered. In a meeting with former athletic director Greg Byrne regarding the relationship in question, Carter simply denied it and it was not discussed again. He would later admit to holding a box cutter to the student and threatening to cut her face. How unhealthy does a prohibited relationship need to be for the university to take action on their own?
There is no time like now for the UA — equipped with a brand new athletic director in Dave Heeke and a brand new president in Dr. Robert Robbins — to get ahead of the problem and truly investigate this culture on our campus. Baylor University responded to a huge sexual assault scandal in its football program with a self-commissioned investigation into the sexual violence that was occurring. There would be nothing more transparent than a self-audit by the UA into the policies, history, frequency, training and priority given to addressing the current culture of sexual assaults.
In a press conference, UA football head coach Rich Rodriguez commented on the post-allegation discipline procedure for former student athlete Orlando Bradford. “There ain’t one,” Rodriguez said. “We have a rule. You put your hands on a woman, you are done. That's it. There ain't no sit down and talk."
We can certainly see what Rodriguez means here in relation to Bradford; but there’s something telling about the way he worded it: there needs to be talk. Not Bradford trying to get back on the team, but rather the rest of us — the UA community — talking about revisions that need to be made to athletic department procedures, policies and outcomes. There needs to be accountability. If the department of intercollegiate athletics or the UA administration is already working on an action plan, these officials should be transparent.
*** Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat Opinions Board and are written by its members. They are Editor-in-chief Chastity Laskey, Managing Editor Courtney Talak, Multimedia Editor Logan Nagel, Arts & Life Editor Kathleen Kunz and Opinions Editor Jamie Verwys.
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