A hand-lettered sign says NO means NO!

Dawn Norwood

Dawn Norwood

One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. In an online survey of U.S. college students published last year, more than half of male athletes admitted to raping their partners.

Startling statistics, sex scandals at high-profile universities and recent changes in how Title IX complaints are handled have prompted Wingate University’s Master of Arts in Sport Management program to host a presentation and discussion for students, athletes, faculty and the public. A distinguished-panel lyceum, “Above the Law: Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence in College Athletics,” is set for Oct. 26, on Wingate’s main campus. The program will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Austin Auditorium. Admission is free.

“Coming on the heels of everything that happened at Baylor University with their athletic program, and also with other football programs where athletes had charges for domestic violence – sometimes not just at one institution, but had a charge at one, were put off the team and then easily picked up by another team – we thought this would be a good topic to examine,” says Dr. Dawn Norwood, director of the MASM program at Wingate Ballantyne.

Renae Myles

Renae Myles

Hank Harrawood

Hank Harrawood

Norman Spencer

Norman Spencer

She said the first event in the MASM Sport Speakers Series is tailored for men and women ages 18 to 24 but will also benefit a broader audience.

“This will be informative, not just to students, but to coaches, faculty and staff alike, because everybody will potentially play some kind of role in reporting a sexual-assault claim,” Norwood says. “It’s important to understand from a legal standpoint what you are supposed to do, but also from a moral and ethical standpoint.”

It’s in the moral arena that Norwood says things can get “muddied.”

“I often say that it’s unfortunate but as the financial stakes go up in college athletics, the moral and ethical values go down,” she says. “It’s vital that students, both men and women, feel safe and protected on campus and that they are knowledgeable about what to do if they find themselves in an unfortunate situation involving sexual assault or violence.”

On the Lyceum panel will be L. Renae Myles, senior associate athletic director for internal operations, chief operating officer and senior woman administrator at Winthrop University; Norman Spencer, volunteer coordinator for the Sexual Trauma Resource Center at Safe Alliance; and Hank Harrawood, an attorney and director of compliance at UNC-Charlotte.

Norwood expects that, in addition to discussing victim services, Spencer will address male athletes to help ensure that they understand what it means to have “consent” from a partner.

“Being very clear is important so they can protect themselves,” she says. “I definitely want to make it clear that this event is not about attacking any particular party, but it’s about being really honest about where we are with this issue.”

Harrawood will give information related to Title IX and outline best practices about how athletic directors should handle sexual-assault or domestic-violence reports, and Myles will share expertise from her two decades of experience in intercollegiate athletics.

Before the moderated panel discussion gets underway, the winner of the MASM program’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award will be announced. Then a series of video segments from a documentary called “The Hunting Ground” will set the scene for the panel presentation, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Norwood expects the topic of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ recent announcement about Title IX complaints to come up. A federal law passed in 1972 to prohibit sex discrimination in education, Title IX has been used to protect girls and women from the threat of sexual assault or harassment while pursuing their educations. Under former President Obama, the Office of Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter ordering colleges and schools to investigate Title IX complaints more aggressively than in the past, orders that DeVos has since rolled back. Last month the Department of Education said it would begin a public notice and comment process to craft new regulations.

“That’s what is up in the air,” Norwood says. “If you have undone the Dear Colleague letter, what are you putting in its place that will offer equal protection for men and women?”

She invites anyone interested in the topic to attend the panel discussion and get involved in the issue.

Oct. 9, 2017