Home Social Justice Opinion: UT sets the bar for what not to do in combating sexual assault

Opinion: UT sets the bar for what not to do in combating sexual assault

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Colleges across the United States do not take sexual assault seriously enough. One college in particular is joining the fraternity of ignorance: the University of Tennessee. A recent lawsuit filed against the university alleges that football players of the school committed sexual assaults. Additionally, the lawsuit alleged an unsafe culture and lack of discipline by athletic officials.    

Among the allegations, there have been various reports of UT head coach and former University of Cincinnati coach Butch Jones acting in an unprofessional manner. Jones called out former player Drae Bowles for aiding a female who alleged that two football players raped her, according to a report by The Tennessean. Jones allegedly spoke in reference to Bowles, saying he “betrayed the team.” Jones denies the allegations.

Bowles faced more hardship from his team for aiding the woman following events in the locker room, where his former teammate Curt Maggitt allegedly punched him in the mouth.

The school itself issued a statement this week, stating “The university is issuing this statement to lessen the potential harmful effects narrative in the amended complaint has on the university’s continuing efforts to encourage survivors to come forward and report sexual assaults and its efforts to educate students about the issue of sexual assault. The university will not allow this lawsuit to detract from those efforts.”

This is truly appalling. UT needs to be held accountable for not taking swift action against the team. Like many college campuses in the U.S., UT simply turned its head away from allegations instead of taking action. Due to the nature of college athletes in the Southeastern Conference, players receive praise for their abilities on the football field. Athlete’s’ abilities shouldn’t prevent them from the consequences of wrong-doing,

Coaches of various sports at UT held a press conference this week to defend the culture at UT. Coaches took turns chirping in about why the school is safe and how the culture is great at the university. One comment in particular caught me off guard.

“We talk, just as you would your daughter, don’t go out alone at night, know where you’re going to parties, those types of things,” Holly Warlick, women’s basketball head coach, said. “I think as coaches we’re in an environment here that’s a safe environment, so it’s up to us to let them know that. ‘No, you don’t walk down the street by yourself.’ It’s up to us. We are their mother, we are their father, and wherever we go, we’ve got to portray safety. If I had a daughter, I would not hesitate one bit for her to come on campus.”

These comments to me are a classic example of victim blaming.

Think about the contradiction of these words. Warlick states there is a “safe environment.” Yet she basically implies why it is not okay to walk down the street by yourself. How is the environment safe, then? Females should not feel pressured to walk in groups. Women should be able to walk anywhere without having to worry about being sexually assaulted.

UT suffers from the same culture that exists on numerous college campuses. Until administration learns to step up its game on college campuses with regards to combating sexual assault, these issues will increase. UT needs to keep predominant members of its community in check. There is no need for a women to have to fear walking down the street. There is no reason a football player should be abused for helping a female who is in need. We as a society can learn a lot from the University of Tennessee in regards of what not to do in combating campus sexual assault.

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