Last week students returned to campus with a seeming lack of energy despite the opportunity to recharge during spring break. While this slow start to the second half of the semester is likely related to students’ overall sense of fatigue, our staff discussed the overwhelm students might be experiencing in light of the SF Chronicle article that detailed sexual misconduct on the part of USF’s baseball coaches.
As students, reading the Chronicle story was overwhelming and upsetting in so many ways. Learning the details of this specific situation and knowing the events unfolded right here on our campus is deeply unsettling. USF is a relatively small school, so even before the Chronicle article came out, there were rumors going around related to the assistant coach losing his job. Getting factual information that confirmed the reasons and patterns behind his firing as well as the head coach losing his position (both of whom had a long career at USF) speaks to the toxic environments hidden behind closed doors in college athletics departments across the country.
Our hearts go out to the players who filed these lawsuits and we commend their bravery for stepping forward and speaking out. It’s also heartbreaking to think about the countless players that have been affected by these coaches, experiencing their abuse in silence for fear of retribution or losing their scholarships. It’s scary to think that those who perpetuate this kind of behavior hold leadership roles on campus.
What kind of culture does this create for the team as a whole if those they turn to for guidance are serving this kind of disgusting example? How can the team be an entity that respects others of the USF community and beyond if it can’t respect its own players? It was only a semester ago that members of our soccer team were exposed for absolutely degrading misconduct, and with more sports allegations it makes us wonder how this keeps happening. How do these environments get made, and who lets this conduct slide? This is beyond “boys will be boys” or “locker room talk.” How does this cycle keep repeating?
It is concerning to think about the culture that is being fostered in our Athletics Department, and the amount of effort students have to put in to see any changes or acknowledgment of these situations from a reluctant and ignorant administration. USF has had two major scandals involving sexual harassment in a time span of less than a year. If this speaks to a more pervasive predatory culture within our sports teams, which is what this pattern is alluding to, then we hope this is the beginning of a major reckoning within our Athletics Department.
USF markets the idea of being a school dedicated to social justice, and “changing the world from here.” However, how can students change the world from an institution that hesitates to change its practices, diligence, and administration to actually reflect a sense of justice? Under vulnerable circumstances, these students found the bravery necessary to change the world, starting here. Our institution’s cracks are showing, and the student’s revealing this kind of harm on campus are the one’s really instigating change. We hope USF takes some of their own advice and makes positive changes to fix this negative culture.
The “It’s on Us USFCA” Instagram account recently posted something in response to the Chronicle story that resonated with us. They spoke about how this situation proves that it is not just one group or another that is perpetuating a culture of sexual violence on campus, but that it impacts everyone. There is no group immune to sexual harassment – even the men on a sports team. There needs to be systemic change in the way sexual misconduct is addressed on campus, both for students and staff. The University needs to invest more in assault prevention and education strategies, as opposed to going into debt buying new buildings. They need to address the issues at hand instead of looking to increase property and wealth. There are real student lives at risk, and this story is another in a long line of misconduct.
It is shameful that there is space for this kind of predatory behavior at USF but we hope our articles help accelerate change and awareness surrounding this very extensive problem, not just at USF, but in sports culture everywhere.
As student journalists, the article inspires us to continue being thorough in our roles as reporters on campus. The Chronicle exposed something that had been kept quiet for too long. What might have just been a rumor has been rooted in fact and we can react with certainty in the discourse surrounding the situation. We want students to trust us to provide them with facts so they can form their own opinions with confidence. We need to watch out for our fellow and future students and shed light on the unjust and appalling actions of sexual predators who have infiltrated our school.