Florida Title IX Handling Feels Normal, and That’s The Problem

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A University of Florida Title IX case seemingly stacks the deck to save its own skin ahead of a hearing, filed by one of its students.

The woman accusing two Florida Gators of sexually assaulting her is boycotting the hearing after a Florida booster was appointed by the school to handle the hearing.

This is an absurd conflict of interest, of course. It’s also apparently the new normal (or old normal, which is even scarier to think about) in terms of how schools handle Title IX cases when revenue sports are involved.

Baylor allegedly threatened to rat out women who reported sexual assaults by hitting them with honor code violations. Tennessee recently settled for nearly $2.5 million to make its own Title IX lawsuit go away.

The details surrounding how the school — and head coach Butch Jones specifically — handled the investigation are horrifying, if true. Most notably, one former player said Jones called him a traitor for helping a victim get to the hospital.

Florida State’s handling of its football-related sexual assault case is murky (at best), most notably how it handled the Jameis Winston accusations. The school later paid the accuser $950,000 to drop the suit, on which Tallahassee police declined to formally charge the Heisman winner Winston.

And now, Florida is seemingly joining an all-too-crowded fraternity, whose mantra is “We must protect this institution” rather than “We must protect our students.”

Why a school handles any investigation against itself, let alone Title IX, is an entirely different conversation. However, until schools are mandated to hire outside investigators, they will continue to keep everything in-house.

That’s a problem.

The Florida case is an example of a university being either tone-deaf, nefarious, or inept. I have a hard time believing no one thought about the optics of appointing a booster to handle the hearing. That leaves only one of two more sinister options.

Sexual assaults are seemingly on the rise at schools around the country. What does it say to women around the country when school’s stack the deck against them in Title IX cases, after they’ve been assaulted? And for what? So the team keeps its players on the field? If it’s not about keeping players on the field, then what it is about — reputation?

A school’s reputation isn’t worth jack if it’s all a facade. Just ask Baylor.

Baylor all but condoned sexual assault when it failed to give a crap about case and case being brought to its attention. Tennessee quickly paid $2.5 million — relative chump change for a major SEC school — to have its case go away.

Florida is putting a booster in charge of adjudicating a case against a star player, wide receiver Antonio Callaway. It seems as if all that matters is keeping the football or basketball machine going so school’s can print money. And what’s most disturbing is how normal it feels. This happens so frequently, we cannot muster the necessary outcry to force change.

When Nick Saban allows Jonathan Taylor to transfer into his school after Taylor choked and beat his girlfriend, what message does that send to women on campus? When Dan Mullen passes the buck on whose call it was to admit 5-star freshman Jeffrey Simmons after a video showed him pummeling a woman, what does it tell girls on that campus?

Play ball good? Come on down!! Never mind you treat women like trash. We’ll hire the best lawyers and then stack the court to ensure you can get back on that field!

After reports highlighted the obvious conflict of interest in Florida having a booster run the hearing, this was the school’s response:

The University of Florida is prohibited to comment on the existence or substance of student disciplinary matters under state and federal law.

However, I can tell you that our student conduct process may be handled by a hearing officer, who could be a university employee or an outside professional, or by a committee of faculty and students.

Any hearing officer and all committee members are trained and vetted for their impartiality. A hearing officer or committee member would not be disqualified or lack objectivity simply because he or she had been a student athlete decades earlier or purchases athletic tickets as more than 90,000 people do each year.

The bold part is my emphasis, because I wanted to highlight what some PR whiz clearly missed in the vetting process of this statement. Florida wants you to believe that a season ticket holder that contributes more than $5,000 annually AND was a former Gator athlete isn’t biased. 

Seriously. How stupid do they think we are?