DePauw Athletics Board discusses possibility of a sexual assault policy

Final decision to be made in the fall

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According to the IndyStar, on April 12, Indiana University approved a new policy that prohibits athletes with a history of sexual or domestic violence from being part of an athletic team.

DePauw University’s Athletics Board, chaired by Kent Menzel, sat down to discuss IU’s new policy after Professor of Computer Science Douglas Harms sent Kent Menzel, chair of the Athletic’s Board, an email about IU’s new policy.

Harms was curious about what DePauw’s policy was and has hope the athletics board can impact sexual assault issues on campus. “The athletic board is in charge of athletics and they could actually set the standard for other programs. I think campus wide we could have more awareness of our role as faculty and staff and coaches in recognizing and helping to support this causes,” Harms said.

However, the meeting did not result in a new policy for DePauw, and no decisions will be made until the fall. “It’s all kind of pushed to the fall, but actively in everybody’s attention,” Menzel said.

Menzel said the board did not decide on a new policy, but did discuss possible consequences for students, but that it is challenging. “It’s a hard issue because,” Menzel said, “the athletics department and the coaches are blinded to anything that might happen along these lines on this campus, related to student judicial process and Title IX.”

He said that because athletes at DePauw are involved in more extracurriculars, that sexual assault issues should not just be dealt within athletics. “At DePauw, sexual assault is a very complex issue and involves a lot of different groups on campus, so while we know athletes can be leaders, it’s probably more important to get this message out to leadership of all sorts on campus,” Menzel said. “Were we to enact a policy for the department of athletics, would we solve the problem at DePauw? No, absolutely not.”

Menzel also believes that DePauw and IU athletes are not the same. “An athlete at DePauw, while an athlete, is more student than athlete and so if an athlete were a member of a social group on campus, that person’s role as a member of that social group is almost as prominent as his role as an athlete,” Menzel said. “Whereas at Indiana [University] the athletes can be stars on campus, but at Indiana they can also be stars at a national level and recognizable from coast to coast.”

Football player and first-year Ryan Dickison agrees with Menzel that at IU there are different circumstances. Because of their Division I status, athletes there play for scholarships and DePauw’s Division III status means that is not usually the case. However, he does not think that should be the biggest factor when deciding sexual assault policies.

When Dickison arrived on campus last year for his athletic orientation, he said that sexual assault was an important part of the conversations the team was having. “Especially with football, which is always treated as you’re trying to teach boys to become men, and so there are also big talks about that, but that [sexual assault] has always been one of the big things,” Dickison said. “You’re representing your team, the campus, so you have to hold yourself to a higher expectation and sexual assault and sexual misconduct is one of the things they really touch on because it is unfortunately a really big problem.”

Dickison believes that a sexual assault policy should be applicable to all organizations and clubs on campus, and he was surprised DePauw did not already have a sexual assault policy for students.

Currently DePauw organizations do have a sexual sexual misconduct policy, written in the Student Handbook. If a student were to violate the Sexual Misconduct and Interpersonal Violence Policy, depending on the severity, they could be suspended, reviewed, or given a formal warning.

Menzel knows the athletics board is not the only place where conversation and education can start, but hopes they can make a difference. “The athletic board has definitely demonstrated a willingness to do whatever it is we need to do to increase awareness and also whatever we could do to reduce occurrence,” Menzel said.

Therefore, while no policy has been set in place, the board discussed ways to educate incoming and current athletes. “One thing that we can always take action on and that is in educating and playing on the idea that the coach is a leader certainly to educate athletes both male and female as to what behaviors to look out for, behaviors to avoid, what’s right what’s wrong, particularly the concept of consent,” Menzel said.

The board might start looking more closely at student’s social media with the possible new policy. “Anything that occurred in social media that contributed to problems on DePauw’s campus would be something that we would want to take a look at and to create a policy that would prevent that from happening,” Menzel said, “or a policy that would say that if something like that did happen that there would be consequences to that.”

Harms said that even though he does not believe that sexual assault is only an athlete issue, he does hope to see a policy specifically from the athletics department. “My vision would be to have an explicit policy within athletics that says among other things, sexual assault will not be tolerated and one found guilty of violating a sexual assault policy will not be allowed to play,” Harms said. “It takes a long time to craft a policy so this may just be a start.”