With a weekend to reflect, here are three things that we know about the sexual assault accusation against former Vanderbilt football player Charles Wright (and by “know” I mean they’re corroborated by other sources):
- A Vanderbilt student (who also happened to work for the football team) filed a sexual assault complaint against Wright in February 2018;
- Said complaint was found by the university’s Title IX office to be substantiated in October 2018, with Wright’s appeal denied in February 2019, and the end result being Wright’s expulsion from the university and ban from campus; and
- Wright participated in Vanderbilt’s pro day in March 2019, almost a month after he was officially banned from campus.
There are lots of other sordid details and inferences in there as well, like the fact that Wright continued to play while the investigation was ongoing and that, while Wright did not play for Vanderbilt after the initial ruling, he was still allowed to use the athletic facilities while his appeal was ongoing. (And, keep in mind, the victim worked for the football team.) But you just have to know the three corroborated facts above to know that Vanderbilt messed up here. Vanderbilt appears to have prioritized the professional future of a football player who was likely a rapist over his victim, a level of depravity that is sadly par for the course in college football.
In other words, that’s going to need a better response than this.
“I am aware of the reports made about current and former Vanderbilt student-athletes, and I am heartbroken to hear them. To any individual who has endured the trauma of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, you have my full support and my assurance that Vanderbilt Athletics does not condone or tolerate such behavior. As a former student-athlete myself and someone who has dedicated herself to this university, I have no greater duty than making sure that all of the young people who come through Vanderbilt stay as safe and healthy as possible, and are able to succeed. To be clear, we take any and all allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct with the utmost seriousness. As is the case for any Vanderbilt student, these allegations are handled by our Title IX and student accountability offices and we fully respect their process and the outcomes of their reviews and decisions. We are committed to following that process, which is designed to be thorough and fair to all students. We continue to clearly communicate our values and expectations to our student-athletes, educate them, and we take immediate and decisive action if conduct is determined to be inconsistent with our requirements. Further, individuals found to have violated Vanderbilt’s Sexual Misconduct Policy are held accountable. I can say with the utmost confidence that sexual assault and sexual misconduct are not issues we ignore. My commitment and that of our coaches, staff and student-athletes to addressing these issues is as firm as ever.”
Yeah, this isn’t it.
To recap: Somebody thought it was a good idea for a football player who had been expelled and banned from campus because of a sexual assault to participate in Pro Day on Vanderbilt’s campus, and this is Vanderbilt’s response?
No. At this point, we need to know who green-lighted this at the very least, and that’s even before we get into allegations of sexual assault against at least two other players (one current, one former.) Something is wrong here, and this response isn’t going to cut it.