Schneider: UMN football player’s lawsuit diminishes the severity of sexual misconduct

Football players are suing the University of Minnesota over racial and gender discrimination in mishandling of 2016 sexual misconduct case.

Ellen Schneider

In 2016, at least 10 University of Minnesota football players were accused of lining up at an apartment in Dinkytown to await their turn to have sex with just one woman. Condoms and wrappers were allegedly strewn across the bedroom floor, as the men took videos of their conquests and cheered one another on.

A scandal of seismic scale ensued upon the leaking of the University’s report, which detailed the alleged assault in gruesome and vivid detail.

While 10 players were allegedly involved and engaged in sexual contact with the woman, none were ultimately charged with having assaulted her. However, the University continued its own discipline of the players and ultimately expelled four of them.

In June, nine of the players, all of whom are black, filed a lawsuit in federal court for racial and gender discrimination in the University’s handling of the sexual misconduct case. A move that is typical of the entitled culture rampant throughout college athletics.

The University is finally handling sexual misconduct cases with the severity and seriousness required, and in doing so, there will and should be consequences for those who violate the Student Conduct Code, as well as basic expectations of human decency.

Taking this case with the gravity that is necessary does not inherently mean there was any bias against the players. The notion that, in handling this case, those who did the victimizing became victims in the process is not only a stretch, but a blatant dismissal of the severity of their actions and the consequences they must face for them.

I do not mean to disregard or gloss over racial bias on college campuses because it does exist. It exists in all of academia, and it certainly exists here. However, it’s not news that athletes, particularly football players, are among the most privileged on college campuses. These students are handed everything – their educations, their clothes, even mopeds because god forbid an athlete has to walk to class.

As many may remember, in response to the players facing the consequences of the alleged gang rape, the Gophers football team entered a boycott. The boycott is the perfect example of how fostering an indulgent culture creates entitled players who don’t know how to face consequences for their actions or feel remorse for them. 

The players boycotted in response to the University’s decision to discipline players, despite them not being criminally charged. Yet I believe it is fully within the right of University to hold players accountable to a higher standard than that of the law.

The University has a lower burden of proof, and you do not need to violate a law in order to violate its code. The University expects more of its students – as it should – particularly the students who are receiving free tuition and representing the school on the lionized football field.

The lawsuit alleges that the players were treated differently from their white counterparts accused of misconduct. I can’t speak to this. I’m unsure of the treatment of others who have violated the student misconduct code. However, the athletics department went too long brushing sexual misconduct under the rug.

There has also already been an outside investigation of the handling of the case. The University commissioned a review, and both attorneys found that the U had followed both the law and its own policies. This is a case of misplaced anger, as these students grasp at straws to restore their sordid reputations.

Regardless, finally treating this issue, rape, with the magnitude and solemnity that it should be handled with does not incite bias against these players.