Mac Engel

Michigan State is the new Baylor representing a broken system

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announces his retirement Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Mich. Hollis is the second university official to step down in as many days amid sharp criticism over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announces his retirement Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Mich. Hollis is the second university official to step down in as many days amid sharp criticism over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar. AP

Surely, after what happened at Baylor, it could not happen again. No one would be so dumb as to deliberately try to cover up a sexual assault. Or sexual assaults.

Here we sit — Michigan State is Baylor.

Since the administrators are too busy to learn, the students themselves must.

The standard operating procedure for an NCAA student athlete who is a victim of sexual assault is to report it to a university official. Don’t do it.

Effective 10 minutes ago, the policies and procedures should change, and the victims need to find someone else to tell. Someone who doesn’t receive a check from the school.

“At this point, I don’t see how anyone would go to the school with an assault charge,” said one high ranking Division I athletic director from a Texas school, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Not after all of this.”

Girls/young women, find someone else to report the crime, because these university officials who are paid to assist in protecting the students can’t be trusted, even if they are entirely trustworthy.

The system is shattered beyond recognition, and there should not be a parent alive who is not afraid of the checks and balances that exist in name only. How do you trust a system that is shared by virtually every major college and university in this country?

Because this is not just a Penn State issue. Nor is it just specific to Baylor. Or USA Gymnastics. And it’s not just Michigan State. Or the NCAA.

The problem is the deliberate efforts of covering up sexual assaults by the people in charge who long ago forgot their mission and made wealth preservation their priority, and placed protecting the image of the brand ahead of protecting the student.

“That’s exactly it,” UT Arlington athletic director Jim Baker said. “There is a process here (in the University of Texas system) that works for us, and I would hope the majority of colleges have it. I do believe the process works.”

The business of colleges, of higher education and that of Division I athletics has overrun the mission statement of preparing, and at least trying to protect, young adults as they prepare to enter “the real world.”

If something happens, God forbid, to my daughter, the first person I want her to call is her mom or dad. The second person is someone who is, at least on paper, has no conflict of interest in the matter.

The police might not be perfect, but they are not on the payroll of the local university.

Why take the chance?

At TCU, all student-athletes went through a training exercise at the beginning of fall with a professional defining sexual assault and stalking. Included in this was an interactive exercise where the student-athletes would text in responses that would appear on screen in front of the room regarding certain situations.

Some of the texts were typical college jokes, but in such poor taste the leader of the discussion finally had to tell the room that there were survivors of sexual assault present.

What young adults are learning at places such as Michigan State and Baylor is that the real priority is ensuring the status quo remains unobstructed, no matter what happened, and to hell with their well being.

The tragedies of deliberate oversight at Michigan State University where administrators butchered sexual assault claims are another example of a school that had the system in place only to completely ignore it.

Penn State was caught. So was Baylor. USA Gymnastics. Michigan State, and the NCAA, too.

They each had sexual assault awareness education and policies in place.

The policies include the victim reporting an assault to an employee of the school who then starts the plan of separating the two parties, addressing the needs of the student, and investigating the matter.

All of these institutions ignored the policies.

These are the institutions we know about. Certainly, there are others.

As a result of their failures and negligence, parents and students can’t trust a system that most schools use as standard practice. A system that can be influenced by powerful coaches, or athletic directors, whose interests can be bought, or swayed, too easily.

“I would think this would be a hot topic the next time we meet,” Baker said in reference to the annual athletic directors meeting. “With (the incidents at Michigan State) happening this is going to be at the forefront. I would hope that our athletes would know. We are up front with them at the very beginning, and we go over all of this at the start of each year. We have a (school) president that makes this a priority for all of our students.”

As he should. Because most schools and universities follow the policies and procedures to try to protect a student.

Then there are those that do not.

How do you trust them?

You can’t. Not after what happened at Penn State, Baylor and now Michigan State, too.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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