Friday, July 25, 2008

Oh, Iowa

According the Title IX Blog, the University of Iowa athletic department is in trouble--again.

Several years ago there was Pierre Pierce incident in which the star basketball player was accused of sexual assault against a female student-athlete. His coach, Steve Alford, came to his defense long before any evidence was in. Turns out the evidence did not quite exonerate Pierce who, regardless, got off lightly--to put it mildly. Not too long afterwards he was involved in another criminal offense and this time he was out.

Now a couple of members of the football team have been accused of assault and harassment of a female student-athlete who was told not to come forward with her allegations because it would handled from within. Except that it wasn't, of course. The harassment continued despite assurances from football coach Kirk Ferentz and AD Gary Barta that things would be taken care of.

I mentioned this case to someone not as familiar with athletic department culture who was incredulous that the female victim would believe these men. Maybe she did; maybe she didn't. (She certainly doesn't in hindsight.) But how much of a choice did she have? She is a member of the athletic department herself. The life of a DI athlete these days can be fairly insular unless one makes a conscious attempt (and sometimes that doesn't even work) to branch out beyond the athletic department. In other words, there's some loyalty there and there's fear. It's not as if society has been all too kind to women who report sexual assault generally and even less kind words are reserved for women who tell on athletes.

Though everything seems to be out in the open now with trial dates set, the board of regents is ticked that they were not informed of evidence--letters from the victim's mother advocating on behalf of her daughter who was not receiving any kind of support. And new president Sally Mason is in the hot seat.

Good. Earlier this year Mason refused to (re)address the issue of the pink visiting team locker room entrenched in the football stadium. Granted, it was a situation she inherited but still...

Are we really surprised that a department which actively demeans women and all things feminine--and the institution which supports this--is in some serious trouble over issues of sexual assault? When a culture of misogyny is so blatantly perpetuated there are consequences. Usually they are reserved for women, but now the perpetrators must answer for their (in)actions.

1 comment:

Gender Blank said...

I strongly suspect these two cases would've been handled very differently in the Christine Grant era. When the men's and women's athletic programs were separate, female athletes had a lot better advocates in their corner.