As I watch this week in Knoxville unfold, I can’t help but wonder how someone like Mark Emmert, who tore up the NCAA rule book to go after Penn State, can quietly remain on the sideline in the face of widespread allegations of sexual violence not just at Tennessee, but across the country.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights currently is investigating 204 cases of sexual violence at 164 colleges and universities. That means that, at 164 schools, administrators have been accused of mishandling their response to sexual violence, be it ignoring complaints or fostering an environment where “rape culture” is tolerated, if not encouraged.
Tennessee is just this week’s poster child, albeit a particularly nauseating one.
So where is Emmert? He’s the guy who opened the Pandora’s Box. And he’s the guy who’s going to have things like this thrown in his direction with every new scandal, and deservedly so:
When the attitude toward women is so toxic, so hostile, so threatening as it as at Tennessee – or Notre Dame or Baylor or Florida State or almost any other school, really – the antidote needs to be just as formidable: Create an autonomous office to handle misconduct.
Hire someone like the NFL’s Lisa Friel, a former prosecutor with a background in sexual assault, and let him or her investigate and adjudicate complaints involving all students without interference or influence. From anyone.
And to ensure that no one’s tempted to skirt the system, fine any university employee who knows about a complaint and either doesn’t report it or tries to quash it a third of their salary. Eliminate any bonuses for five years, too.
If there’s a second offense, suspend them for a year. Fire them if there’s a third.
Harsh? Too bad. Rape and sexual assaults are far more serious than recruiting violations, and it’s time they were treated as such.
Yeah, that’s gonna happen real soon. Old habits die hard. And tolerating boys being boys is a very old habit, particularly when it interferes with winning games and making money.
Title IX went into effect on June 23, 1973. Baylor hired a Title IX coordinator in November of 2014. For 43 years, Baylor neglected to actively enforce a law that stood for equal treatment under the law of women in higher education. In 2011, the NCAA sent a reminder to its lagging participants to hire Title IX coordinators if they had not. Baylor lollygagged their way to hiring someone about four years after that, opening the door for this string of sexual assaults. The NCAA poked and prodded them, but never actually sanctioned the school. What good does coaxing schools to hire someone do when you’re allowing countless violations of the rights of women on campus?
There is no recovery for this organization. There is no “whoops, we’re sorry.” There is no going back — not for the women whose lives were harmed by this negligence, or by the money-hungry organization that promoted it. The only way to amend these wrongdoings is to replace. Not with more men in charge, who cannot possibly understand the horror of going through a situation like this, but with women, and with people who have had formal training in diversity and sensitivity and handling sexual assault. The model of hoping that the rich white men in charge of large sports organizations will figure things out has failed enough times for me to pretty certainly say that it’s going to continue failing…
You made your bed, Mr. Emmert. Now sleep in it.