and Nicole Vulcan
About 40 demonstrators gathered Monday to protest the University’s alleged cover-up of incidences of sexual violence by athletes. Among them was a former tutor whose recent allegations of sexual harassment sparked the protest.
Demonstrators stood on the steps of Morrill Hall just outside the offices of University administrators, including the office of McKinley Boston, with signs reading “No More Cover Ups,” “U Officials: Stop Campus Rape Culture,” “Stop the Privileging of Men’s Athletics” and “Fire Clem Haskins.”
Rebecca Fabunmi, a former tutor for the men’s football team, attended the protest and spoke to onlookers about her experience. Fabunmi came forward last week with allegations that a football player masturbated in front of her while she was tutoring him.
She said she went to former football coach Jim Wacker and then-athletic director McKinley Boston with her accusation, but felt she was further victimized by Boston’s treatment of the case. Boston is now the vice president of student development and athletics.
“What the young man did was awful, but what McKinley Boston did was way worse,” Fabunmi said. “When he said he was looking out for my best interests, I can honestly say he was not.”
Fabunmi said she doesn’t plan to pursue her case, but came forward for other victims.
“I allowed them many occasions to deal with it and they didn’t,” she said, pointing toward Morrill Hall. “I’m only one person and I know there are plenty more (victims).”
Matt Strickler, a College of Liberal Arts junior who helped organize the protest through the Gender Liberation Action Front, also spoke to onlookers.
“All of our safety and all of our needs are equally important,” he said. “Administrators need to take this seriously.”
He outlined the protesters’ four demands:
ù A full and equal investigation of all acts of sexual violence;
ù An end to victim blaming by University spokespersons;
ù An effective system of checks and balances to end secrecy in matters of alleged misconduct; and
ù A public apology from University officials to all victims.
“The current allegations against University officials are a slap in the face against victims of sexual violence … and all students on campus,” Strickler said. “If they’re protecting athletes, then they’re not putting students’ safety first.”
University President Mark Yudof and other University officials plan to meet with protesters later this week.
“Certainly the issues that were addressed need to be dealt with,” said Tonya Moten Brown, Yudof’s chief of staff. “These are allegations that are very serious, even more than the allegations of academic misconduct.”
If investigators find a systemic problem within men’s athletics, Brown said Yudof will consider a range of options including restructuring and disciplinary action.
“That’s a really great start,” said Rebecca Dreke, another protest organizer, “but I’d like to see a Universitywide open investigation of all the involved officials.”
One CLA senior expressed his concern that protesters were focusing too much on the problem rather than the solution.
“If your first conversation is a person within the athletic department, then you’re in a lot of trouble,” Ryan Pacyga said. “Coaches are naturally going to protect their athletes.”
Other students milled around the area, but did not join the protesters on the steps of Morrill Hall.
Some thought the protest would have little effect. Others supported the protest, but were reluctant to be filmed by television crews.
Ayshel Peterson, a CLA sophomore, said she knows some of the athletes who have been implicated. She said she believes the women making accusations, but doesn’t want to believe her friends would do what they have been accused of.
“I’m in shock,” she said. “I’m confused and I don’t know what to think.”