Universities target athletes through new NCAA sexual assault policy

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After years full of salacious sexual assault allegations the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has adopted a new policy requiring student athletes, coaches and athletic administrators to complete an annual sexual violence prevention education program.

This comes as a reiteration and hardening of the NCAA’s 2014 resolution where the committee released a statement on, “sexual violence prevention and complaint resolution.” Although it is not surprising, the NCAA felt the need to reiterate its stance on sexual assault given the high profile cases being brought to the forefront of news.

Scandals involving that of Baylor University football players accused of rape and individuals such as Brock Turner, a former Stanford athlete found guilty on three different charges of assault, have pushed the organization to make its stance clear. While the idea of an organization with as much power and influence as the NCAA taking steps to prevent sexual assault is incredible in theory, their policy means too little and says too much at the same time.

It is up to Pacific University to properly implement programs like that included in the new NCAA policy and by focusing the teaching of such assault prevention on student athletes exclusively is a major misstep. The NCAA is not alone in its attempts to make college campuses a safer place. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education outlines very similar statutes in their handbook for “Campus Safety and Security reports” A federal law, the Clery Act, already requires all institutions to provide students and employees “primary prevention and awareness programs” that cover topics such as dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault.

Why these types of required programs — programs that call for the same teaching — are not integrated ultimately seems clumsy. Many Pacific athletes were unaware they had to take these classes until they received an email regarding the new “sexual abuse training” sessions required of them nearing their season.

In partnership with Campus Wellness student athletes are required to attend a “Step Up Bystander Workshop” and complete both pre and post tests on the material covered. The hour and a half long presentation focuses on providing these student athletes with tools for bystander intervention: aiming to prevent assaults, drug and alcohol consumption and other harmful behaviors.

While the presentation reads as a very informative and beneficial opportunity for students, the issue is that it is only being taught to student athletes. The NCAA can only impose such policies upon student athletes, but it is up to Pacific to decide how it enforces such legislation.

Given laws such as the Clery Act are already in place, students are obligated to take such courses the NCAA is trying to enforce on student athletes in particular. Pacific, like every other colleges, has students take online courses and attend seminars as freshman before starting their first year of college. Why doesn’t Pacific integrate these new “Step Up Bystander Workshop” seminars required of athletes into its classes or orientation week?

It can be difficult to gather students together, but first year seminar courses present the perfect opportunity for all university members to be subjected to sexual assault prevention training. Ultimately, it is beneficial to all students to be inclusive with sexual assault educational materials.

Instead of just furthering the NCAA’s targeting of student athletes on college campuses to make their image appear better to the public, Pacific must make these presentations available and advertised to all students — not just those who fill a roster.


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