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Our daughters deserve better treatment from college athletic departments

 

By DERON SNYDER

I have two daughters, one at Morgan State.

The other goes to Michigan State.

But no matter where my girls attended college – be it Mississippi State, Montana State, Missouri State, or a school that doesn’t have MSU for initials – I would be just as concerned about them and other female students on campus.

Having spent part of my young adulthood in dorms and at college parties, I understand the dangerous situations young women can face at institutions of higher education. Being away from home and on their own – surrounded by mind-altering substances and men often with one thing in mind – is risky enough.

The peril only increases when those young men are athletes in revenue sports.

Regular students are subject to regular policies, routine processes and well-defined consequences when complaints are brought against them. Maybe, if a parent is a big-time alum or donor with the right connections, a case might be treated differently. Otherwise, special handling and privileges are pretty much nonexistent.

But as we’ve seen in instance after instance, that’s often not the case when members of an athletic department are involved. Administrations value and tend to protect those guys.

Conversely, the girls who come forward with complaints are viewed as encumbrances and threats to the school brand.

We’ve lost count of all the schools accused of cover-ups and pseudo probes when athletes are accused of sexual misconduct. Just off the top, there’s Tennessee, Florida State, Baylor, Vanderbilt, Colorado and maybe Your State U., too.

Now, Michigan State has a horrendous, two-way distinction. Not only did officials allegedly aid and abet a faculty member accused of abusing more than 150 women and girls – the hideous Larry Nassar – allegedly they have done likewise for athletes dating to 2007.

According to an ESPN report last week, MSU officials from campus police to the athletic department have demonstrated “a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of (sexual assault, violence and gender discrimination) allegations.”

Former Michigan State sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede said she resigned in 2015, after seven years at the school. She attributed it to frustration over administrators’ handling of cases, which routinely were investigated within the department and sometimes handled by coaches.

“Whatever protocol or policy was in place, whatever frontline staff might normally be involved in response or investigation, it all got kind of swept away and it was handled more by administration [and] athletic department officials,” Allswede told ESPN. “It was all happening behind closed doors. … None of it was transparent or included people who would normally be involved in certain decisions.”

Former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, who resigned two days before ESPN’s report, said she had to accept blame for the Nassar tragedy because it was “politicized.” She said she was proud of how campus police handled the issue and she insisted “there is no cover-up.”

That’s what they all say when their cover is blown.

I just don’t how understand how grown men and women can be so callous. Even if they don’t have daughters of their own.

Adults at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics clearly were more interested in protecting their reputations instead of Nassar’s victims. School officials apparently had the same misplaced priorities when choosing between athletes and students claiming abuse.

“As a Big 10 university with high-profile football, basketball and hockey programs, they want to protect the integrity of the programs – don’t want scandal, don’t want sexual assault allegations, or domestic violence allegations,” Allswede said. “It was very insulated, and people were a lot of times discouraged from seeking resources outside of the athletic department.”

One of the saddest aspects of this story is the lack of surprise.

Too many former employees at too many schools have described how athletic departments unduly influence investigations, inserting themselves into cases that have nothing to with sports and everything to do with student conduct and/or criminal law.

Yes, the NCAA takes in close to $8 billion a year and, yes, 24 schools make at least $100 million annually from their athletic departments. The bulk is generated primarily through young men who often are semigods on campus, worshiped by adoring and eager-to-please students (as well as sycophantic adults).

Most of these teen celebrities enjoy the perks of stardom without entering the realm of assault and nonconsensual activity. But some, blinded by their status, believe that “no” never applies to them. They believe they’re too valuable to face consequences or be concerned about a fellow student’s protestations.

Unfortunately, the villainous student-athletes often are correct.

Victims essentially are told that their personal, dreadful experience was collateral damage. The intercollegiate industrial complex must be fed, even if that means chewing up a few coeds.

I’m sorry, but we owe our daughters more than that. They deserve better.

— Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

 

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