Surprised again

When convicted sex offender and former radio personality Adam Ritz was brought to speak at the University of Minnesota in October 2011, the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils apologized to their community.

When he visited Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, in that same month, the school newspaper criticized him for equating his rape of a college student he had hired to babysit his children with “poor decision making.”

When he visited the University of Southern Indiana in October 2011, the student newspaper took the Activities Programming Board (APB) and Phi Delta Theta fraternity to task for “paying a convicted lifetime sex offender $1,800 to speak on campus.”

But when Ritz was paid $4,000 in May 2013 to provide “alcohol awareness and sexual awareness training” to University of Oregon football players, we didn’t even know he was here.

Athletics at UO, as elsewhere, is pretty much a closed system. Efforts by people who know a thing or two about sexual assault prevention and sexual violence to provide educational efforts have long been met with a defensive wall of silence. Athletics departments provide training to athletes, advocates around the country have been told, and they know better than anyone else how to reach student-athletes.

I think we all know better than to believe that at this point, especially in light of investigative reporting on sexual assault in college football in particular, like the New York TimesWalt Bogdanich‘s coverage of sexual assault at Florida State University.

Athletics departments and Greeks around the country made poor decisions in bringing a sex offender and media personality to campus whose only credential (aside from his ability to work the media) was his crime (there are plenty of testimonials from football players on his website, but it’s not clear how that translates into effective educational content).

We need to start demanding more information about how education about sexual violence is being conducted within campus subcultures that are most at risk like football, basketball, Greek systems, band, and debate, to just name a few.

We’re universities, for heaven’s sake, where we have some of the brightest minds in the country working on and researching these very issues. Why not bring some of them in to talk to students in at risk subcultures rather than a sex offender turned campus lecture circuit speaker whose main argument is that raping a baby sitter can happen to anyone?

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