Professor connects sports, sexual assault, and higher education

Nicholas Polinsky, Herald Contributor

Gender equity on a college campus is both an administrative goal and a law that must be followed. This issue falls under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender regarding all academic programs and activities, including college sports.

Anne Blaschke, a professor at College of the Holy Cross, gave a presentation on Nov. 7 regarding the topic of Title IX and sexual harassment. She discussed each of these topics from their implementation to the present, with a focus on the 1990s.

Although Title IX now promotes “equity in sports” and “addresses the right to a safe campus,” it was not always this way, Blaschke said.

Upon its creation in 1972, Title IX only addressed equity in sports and had no protections against sexual harassment or assault. This caused quite a bit of harm to collegiate athletes.

Women, both inside and outside of sports, were harassed and/or assaulted. If the perpetrator was an athlete, people would often sympathize with them and let them off the hook. Blaschke said that people in the 1990s “largely supported the perpetrators” and would often punish the women who spoke up about their attack. She added that many of these cases would be dismissed with the common phrase: “boys will be boys.”

Blaschke spoke on the case of Jamie Naughright, who said she was harrassed by former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning in 1996.

Manning was a student athlete and Naughright was an athletic trainer at the time. As she was treating Manning, Naughright alleges that he asked her personal questions that made her feel uncomfortable and exposed his genitals to her, holding them in Naughright’s face.

Naughright sued the school and reached a $300,000 settlement. Manning was ordered to run early in the morning and banned from the athletics facility dining room, both for a two week period of time.

Not only that, but the incident, as Blaschke said, “became reframed as a harmless prank,” as Manning said he was simply “mooning” a teammate. But, the American population seemed to ignore Nauright’s voice.

As women’s sports became increasingly popular, the collegiate athletes would hold demonstrations and speak up about the sexual harassment and/or assaults that they had witnessed or experienced in the efforts to make the public care more about these issues that they face.

One such demonstration was that of the Yale female rowing team. After facing much harassment from their male counterparts, they decided to bring it to the athletic director. Each team member wrote “Title IX” on their body, and then stripped in front of the director while they read their grievances.

By 1986, in part due to the murder of Jeanne Clery, the prevention of sexual violence became much more important to the public.

At the end of the presentation, when asked about progress when it comes to sexual assault, Blaschke expressed mixed feelings. On the plus side, she said, “men who are assaulted… are reporting [their assaults] more than ever.” However, Blaschke added that, since more people are reporting these attacks than they had in the past, it is hard to know if the rates of the attacks have truly risen or fallen.

Freshman Zach Santoro summarized Blaschke’s presentation by saying, “she did a very good job giving the history of Title IX. My only problem was that she did not give an in-depth description of Title IX [itself].” Santoro felt that a stronger description of Title IX would have made for a more effective presentation.