By Jillian Gilchrest, Age 33
There I am minding my own business on my phone while my husband is watching the UCONN/Maryland men’s basketball game and all of a sudden he says, “Oh, I think that’s the guy who raped two girls and got transferred.” [Sound of screeching tires] Come again? I’ve done quite a bit of work on campus sexual assault policy and am passionate about preventing sexual violence, so obviously, he got my attention.
University of Maryland player, Rasheed Sulaimon was accused of sexual assault on two separate occasions by two separate students while playing for the Duke Basketball team, and yet, after getting dismissed from the Duke team, here he was playing for Maryland. While at Duke, campus personnel, Duke’s legendary Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K), and campus administrators became aware of the student’s allegations. They did nothing with that information for nearly 10 months until word of the sexual assaults leaked to media. Although both students never made an official complaint to the university in fear of retaliation, based on Title IX and guidance from the US Office of Civil Rights, the campus had an obligation to investigate two allegations made against the same student, Rasheed Sulaimon.
In January of 2015, once the accusations were leaked, Coach K dismissed Rasheed Sulaimon from the team, the first player ever dismissed from the Duke men’s basketball team under Coach K. Unfortunately; it isn’t uncommon for institutions of higher education to protect male student athletes at the expense of campus safety. As recent as 2014, the Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight found that more than 20% of institutions of higher education nationwide give the athletic department oversight of sexual violence cases involving student athletes, a special carve out not afforded to other students on campus. Talk about a conflict of interest!? This is a pretty big deal considering that less than four percent of college students are athletes, but student-athletes are involved in 19 percent of sexual assaults reported on college campuses.
Unfortunately, I haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet…the transfer of Rasheed Sulaimon to the University of Maryland. After doing a quick google on what went down at Duke I looked back up at the tv and asked, who the hell is the University of Maryland coach? Who on earth would recruit a student athlete who had been dismissed from another university after being accused of sexual violence?
Meet Coach Mark Turgeon. When I googled his name, I came across a CBS Sports article about his turnaround from the “hot seat”. The “hot seat” are rankings of coaches in all different men’s sports, both professional and collegiate, based on how close they are to getting fired. Coach Turgeon was extremely close to getting the boot, but now after recruiting a number of new players, including Rasheed Sulaimon less than three months after he was dismissed from Duke, he is poised to win the NCAA title this season. In the CBS article praising his comeback, Turgeon shared that his son caught wind of his ranking on the “hot seat” and asked if his father was going to be fired. Turgeon responded, “Do you believe in your Dad? Do you like living here? Then don’t worry about it. There’s no chance I’m getting fired. No chance. We’re going to get it done.'”
Wow…glad maintaining your family’s lifestyle ranks higher than protecting female students from getting raped. And this shit gets you off the “hot seat”?! Oh, and apparently, this isn’t the first rapist that Coach Turgeon has recruited. Maryland added a previously dismissed player accused of a sexual assault just three years ago. He isn’t the only coach to do this either. It’s such a big problem that late last month the SEC, one of the collegiate athletic conferences, adopted a proposal that would prevent conference schools from accepting transfer students with histories of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Both the SEC and the Big 10, of which the University of Maryland is a part of, are partners in the “It’s On Us” campaign against sexual assault on college campuses. “It’s On Us” ‘is a rallying cry, inviting everyone to step up and realize that the solution begins with us. It seeks to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it.’ While I commend athletic teams, collegiate conferences, and sports networks for airing ‘It’s On Us’ commercials during sporting events and on the jumbotron, their message is diluted when those same entities ignore a player’s history of violence against women, ranking winning above women’s safety.
In order to truly step up and help reframe the conversation, athletes who commit violence against women must be condemned, not transferred. And, if the remaining collegiate athletic conferences won’t follow the SEC’s lead, universities must abide by Title IX and prioritize their student safety over men’s sports teams. How ironic that Title IX, most often thought of as the great sports equalizer, is now being completely disregarded when preventing violence against women might jeopardize a men’s team’s winning record.
Well, I too took the ‘It’s On Us’ pledge, and I call bullshit. Campuses shouldn’t knowingly accept a rapist, and if a coach recruits one, his ass should definitely land on the hot seat. To learn more about what’s being done federally, check out Off the Sidelines, a campaign to flip the incentives so that colleges and universities will protect students.
Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at Michelle.Noehren@cga.ct.gov.