New sexual policies do not go far enough

When scandals occur, the first impulse is to leave the devastation behind as soon as possible. This impulse is misguided, however, and can lead to endless repetition of the same problems. The University administration’s response to the investigation of misconduct relating to charges of sexual and domestic assault is a start, but to truly deal with the problem University administrators must delve deeper into the situation.
University investigators released Friday the report on misconduct. While no evidence of clearly illegal behavior was revealed, there was a plethora of cases in which University athletic officials acted in an unethical manner, creating a clear impression of many conflicts of interest.
In response to the report, University President Mark Yudof issued a number of policy changes. They include prohibiting men’s athletics officials from contacting victims of alleged sexual misconduct, requiring the Office of the General Counsel to approve any informal mechanisms of resolving complaints and automatically suspending any student-athletes charged with sexual assault or domestic abuse.
These measures are appropriate and welcome. However, it is unclear what punishment would be levied if the new procedures were disregarded. Given the strong interest coaches have in keeping star players on the team, the changes will ultimately do little good if the only consequence of ignoring the policies is a slap on the wrist. A true shift in University policy requires severe consequences for coaches who interfere in investigations of sexual misconduct.
Yudof has taken the first step in preventing further misconduct by University athletics officials. However, the rhetoric issued from Yudof and others has not indicated a large amount of distress about the misconduct that has already occurred. Although a number of the coaches implicated in the charges have already left the University, many still remain.
It is clear from the report that a number of University athletics officials are unsure about why interfering in sexual misconduct investigations is inappropriate. Merely codifying rules against unethical conduct is not enough; University administrators must also create policies that train officials in the significance of ethical conduct. As role models who interact with their athletes on a daily basis, it is vital that coaches do not create the impression in their athletes’ minds that sexual assault is acceptable.
Yudof undoubtably wishes to move on from the number of scandals that have recently arisen. In order to truly move on, however, the roots of the scandals must be unearthed. The punishment for unethical conduct should be clearly outlined and strong enough to serve as a deterrent, and coaches should be trained in the importance of teaching their athletes the difference between appropriate and inappropriate conduct. Only then can the University truly leave this scandal behind.