Saturday, August 21, 2021

When "Not Guilty" Shows the Defendant is REALLY Guilty

Curmie is way behind on writing. Let’s start his return with a story that received far too little attention when it broke a couple of weeks ago. The NCAA announced a slap on the wrist penalty for Baylor University’s athletics programs after a years-long investigation into allegations that “Baylor shielded football student-athletes from the school’s disciplinary processes and did not report allegations of misconduct by football student-athletes” over a period of several years in the early 2010s. 

Despite finding the university’s “failings to be “egregious,” the NCAA handed down a series of rather mild sanctions, the most serious of which is four years of probation.  (Lets face it: a $5000 fine isn’t going to make a very big dent in Baylor's annual budget of about $800 million.)

How we ought to react to this announcement depends very much on where we focus our attention. The NCAA has long been a contender for the world’s most corrupt and incompetent sports organization, vying with the IOC and FIFA for that dubious distinction. (The International Handball Federation may have achieved a fair amount of well-deserved derision for their monumentally sexist insistence that female competitors wear bikini bottoms instead of shorts, but really, who cares about beach handball, which is virtually unknown in the US and isn’t even an Olympic sport?) 

So for the NCAA, with a reputation for over-reaching to dizzying degrees, to admit that they can’t punish Baylor without being able to point to a specific NCAA rule the university broke is something of a breakthrough. True, it took them years to come to this decision, but… baby steps… baby steps. Still, the rationale behind the decision is more than a little chilling. Here’s the key section of the report:
The panel found that those instances of non-reporting did not constitute impermissible benefits to football student-athletes because of a campus-wide culture of nonreporting. That culture was driven by the school’s broader failure to prioritize Title IX implementation, creating an environment in which faculty and staff did not know and/or understand their obligations to report allegations of sexual or interpersonal violence. Because the culture of non-reporting was not limited to cases involving student-athletes, the panel could not find that these instances resulted in impermissible benefits. (emphasis added)
In other words, the university escapes significant penalties for failing to report incidents of sexual violence by football players because they also couldn’t be bothered to report similar cases in which the perpetrators were non-athletes. 

To be sure, there are those who would disagree with the assessment that football players weren’t treated differently than other students would have been. A lawsuit alleged that no fewer than 52 rapes were committed over a six-year period by Baylor football players. That’s a lot. It doesnt mean they all happened, of course, but it's a pretty damning statistic.  Another suit filed by a former volleyball player who claims to have been drugged and gang-raped by football players alleges that the Baylor program was such that “football players became increasingly emboldened, knowing that they could break the law, code of conduct, and general standards of human decency with no repercussions.” That comment, too, seems to me to be pretty specifically about football players.  (That suit, in case you were wondering, Gentle Reader, was settled out of court with no details released; the unidentified young woman transferred to another school.)  

In this case, by the way, the police, who ought to be the ones investigating the allegations, weren’t even notified. It is reasonable to argue universities not ought to be involved in investigating and reporting serious crimes at all, but Title IX demands that they do so, and the law is the law. But because the university argues it violated federal law on a consistent, across-the-board basis, they cannot be punished by the NCAA for violating the statute as respects felonious jocks, who according to this logic received no special treatment. 

This means, of course, that Baylor will be able to receive millions of dollars in television rights, post-season payouts for bowl games, etc., because they were even worse than previously imagined, creating a truly horrific culture in which not just pampered athletes but the entire student population is insulated against the repercussions of their actions. 

Art Briles: $15 million buyout 
for being an unethical ass
Curmie sees little evidence of contrition on the part of the university. True, they got rid of football coach Art Briles (they also paid him over $15 million as severance, hardly an agreement designed to teach him lesson in ethics!), athletic director Ian McCaw, and university president Ken Starr (yes,
that Ken Starr). There were many pious proclamations, stopping just short of clichés about a new sheriff in town. And a couple (but far from even most) of the culprits were indeed brought to trial and convicted. But it’s difficult to believe that more than the names have changed; the culture simply ran (and runs) too deep. 

Baylor was found not guilty of the most serious offenses. They should be far more ashamed of the strategy employed to get that result than of any guilty verdict.  Should be...


Jack Marshall said...

I don't understand this at ALL, except for your statement. “The NCAA has long been a contender for the world’s most corrupt and incompetent sports organization.” That, I guess, could explain this ridiculous result.

Using the culture of the university as a whole to be lenient to the football team stinks of a desperate effort to avoid punishing a team when punishment is called for. Its not the NCAA’s job to police Baylor. It’s jurisdiction is the sports teams, and if the University’s culture is corrupting the sports teams, nailing the sports teams hard is a good way to focus attention on the larger problem.

So it appears that the NCAA is actually less committed to stopping its members from enabling sexual abuse than when it punished Penn State. Good to know.

Anonymous said...

Given we have little to not actual descriptions of what the alleged sexual or physical violence was (at a time when it's considered impossible for a girl to truly consent on campus if she has as little as one sip of a drink of alcohol) it's very hard to judge this.
The Obama "Dear Colleague" letter was an Abomination and , arguably, unlawful on its face.
The Campus culture of the past 30 years has been very much "Believe the woman", heck I was reading newspaper articles of a 'clothesline of shame' at University of Maryland in the mid 90's. Basically, if your name was on there (often put there anonymously) it meant, as a male, that you were accused of being a rapist or otherwise conducting a sexual assault. And athletic teams and individual athletes (but esp football as it is the largest sports program and many feminists hate it for the attention it gets and the money it gets that they feel female athletes should have) have long been accused of being rapists or getting special treatment. Far as I can tell sometimes that's been true, and sometimes not (but there's never an apology no matter how much damage the accusations do to a program or a player). I don't trust anonymous accusations as far as I can shake a stick at them, which means its hard for me to condemn anyone at this point. If this stuff was serious, I would say the people involved (mostly young ladies) have had tremendous resources made available to them over the past 30 years to report it to the appropriate authorities either campus police or the larger 'civilian' police forces. They can even report anonymously at a sexual assault hotline. Since that was not apparently done, I'm just going to continue to be skeptical at both the seriousness of this and the veracity of it.

manjushri924 said...

The point is that it doesn't matter whether the alleged assaults took place. As a mandatory reporter, I am required by law to report any such allegations to the Title IX office. This is true even if I don't believe the alleged victim, and even if she (usually, not always "she") begs me not to do so. It is a requirement that obviously has its downside, but it is the law.
What happened at Baylor is that the women (again, I presume at least mostly women) in question did tell someone with a "duty to report," and that person didn't report. Again, one could make a good case that the alleged victims should have gone to the police instead of to university officials, but the reasons why they would not choose to do so are also manifold, not least of which being the way women who make such claims are treated by police.