Title IX - An Athlete's Voice
By Benjamin Noel
In the past weeks, a group of sexual assault survivors has come out with their personal stories of cases being mishandled by the school. Some anonymously reported stories included lack of a proper investigation, and even being silenced with nondisclosure agreements for the sake of protecting a student-athlete. An interview with an anonymous student-athlete, and brief statements from others, unveil the attitudes of student athletes.
Although he’s not too familiar with the movement, and the cause for the outcry, save a conversation in his seminar, the anonymous student-athlete provided great insight on the matter.
He first commented, “I’m not surprised the school is covering it up.” There is precedent for schools covering up sexual assault cases, and Saint Mary’s is not the first to do so in recent times. Most recently, students of Santa Clara University and the University of San Francisco have come forward claiming the school protected student, in particular, athletes, from sexual assault accusations.
What happens in the dark is often neglected, and this movement led anonymously under the banner “SMC Survivors,” seeks to bring light to the issue. However, this student-athlete acknowledged this movement did not come as a surprise to him as, “It happens at colleges everywhere.” In many ways, St. Mary’s distinguishes herself from other colleges, providing quality education, nurturing students in mind and spirit, and creating strong connections. But this “Survivors” movement shows the school denies students more basic needs lower down on Maslow’s hierarchy. Safety and Security. “Everyone deserves the right to feel safe while getting their education, not having to worry about getting attacked or groped”
“Makes me feel really sad… I can't even begin to imagine the trauma these women (people) have gone through, and to be swept under the rug is horrendous”
The athlete explained that there is a financial incentive to silencing allegations against student-athletes. St. Mary’s D1 programs, especially men's basketball, bring in lots of money for the school, and the scandal and detriment to the team’s performance after “losing a star player is a big deal.” This can also lead to losing recruits scared to be associated with a team with a tainted history. As a result, schools act in favor of their financial interest to keep allegations quiet.
After explaining the demands of the movement, which include suspending an athlete who is under investigation, my interviewee was hesitant to agree. After some thought, he said he believes in “Innocent until proven guilty,” so students accused of sexual assault should not be punished until the investigation is concluded. He emphasized his point was, “Not to say an accusation should not be taken seriously,” but that cases “should be investigated thoroughly and quickly.” He still understood how the assumption of innocence could be taken advantage of as “there is an incentive to slow down the investigation [in order] to allow a player to continue playing.” After some pondering on a more appropriate process, the interview moved on without a conclusive solution.
Another athlete claimed he was extremely uncomfortable with the manner in which his teammate described to him his sexual encounters as if they were conquests. Yet another explained the team’s mandatory Title IX training would do little in the way of preventing someone from committing sexual assault, as at our age, a person is already set in their ways.
Concluding the interview, the athlete expressed his final thoughts on the movement of survivors rallying together remarking, “It’s very empowering. These women [survivors] are bad-asses.”
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Ryan Ford '23,