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The growth of campus violence policies: Constructive or cosmetic?

For student athletes, their past may become career-ending prologue.

Recent high-profile criminal allegations and civil litigation across multiple campuses nationwide shined a bright spotlight on campus violence. Those incidences and increased awareness got the attention of the University of Illinois’ athletic director.

Stating that, “There is nothing more important than the safety of our students,” Josh Whitman announced that he is overseeing the finalization of a policy that would ban student athletes with a history of sexual assault or domestic violence.

The prohibition mirrors steps Indiana has already taken. Their policy specifically states that the Hoosiers would not accept "any prospective student-athlete — whether a transfer student, incoming freshman or other status — who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony involving sexual violence."

Multiple incidents have apparently forced the hand of Illinois and other educational institutions. A lawsuit against Baylor cited 52 rapes by football players. Neighboring Michigan State dismissed four football players charged with sexual assaults. Stanford swimmer Brock Turner gained nationwide infamy for a “slap on the wrist” (three months in jail) following a conviction of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

Supporters see Illinois as setting the standard for putting safety and security of women on campus over winning games and championships. Whitman and former basketball coach John Groce put their words into action by dismissing guard Kendrick Nunn after an arrest for domestic battery that resulted in a guilty plea to misdemeanor battery.

As another Big Ten college takes proactive steps, the conference overall has resisted making policy that would govern all of its schools, leaving it up to the individual institutions. In 2015, the Southeastern Conference implemented prohibitions against transfers dismissed from their previous schools for sexual or domestic violence.

The NCAA has also resisted a more global effort as well.

One by one, colleges are putting campus safety over wins and championships. It’s as delicate a balancing act as placing their image and revenues over the rights of the accused. Facing life-changing, career-ending criminal charges requires skilled legal counsel to help even the odds for those accused of horrific crimes.

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