This past summer, allegations of sexual assault and gang-rape related to several San Diego State University football players came to light. A civil suit has been filed against three former football players, one of whom has just been released from the NFL due to the case. The alleged assault occurred in October 2021, but it has taken this long for the university to conduct an investigation as well as alert the campus community. At the time, rumors circulated around campus claiming the victim had been left “bloodied and bruised” at a house party. In response to this heinous crime, SDSU responded with less than the bare minimum required of them by federal law. Currently, there have been no arrests or criminal charges. Alongside the other scandals plaguing California State University’s Leadership, this the latest in a long line of signs that the administration does not care about violence enacted on and by its community.
As of now, the defendants have escaped any possible consequences by the university since they are now graduated and no longer under SDSU’s purview. Justice would be, at the very least, a trial, but without that, it was on the university’s shoulders to protect their student body by looking into these claims. In this regard, they failed enormously. For a crime such as this, the guilty parties should have faced life reckoning consequences, although SDSU seems to disagree.
The complete lack of any investigation, however, while disappointing, is hardly a bombshell. Law enforcement often asks that outside institutions refrain from conducting investigations in cases such as these. The president of SDSU, Adele de la Torre, has released multiple statements claiming that this was done in order to guarantee justice and keep the official investigation uncompromised. The validity of this decision, especially considering that no criminal charges have been brought up, is questionable and has been challenged by a number of experts. Additionally, despite denials, the then campus police chief, Josh Mays, contacted the university official who oversees sexual misconduct investigations, Jessica Rentto, on Oct. 27 recommending that the university launch an internal investigation. He is quoted as stating: “I suspect your team may be able to gather info that will only help SDPD. We have stood by long enough.”
The university has undermined public trust in the already scandal embroiled CSU system as they repeatedly only release information after it had been reported by other news entities. It was also revealed that one of the current defendants, Matt Araiza, was the subject of an anonymous student-athlete report on a portal that was overseen by Rentto and the executive associate athletic director, Jenny Bramer. It’s currently unknown what was done with that information while football coach Brady Hoke stated that he was not made aware of any allegations related to the civil case being brought against the athlete. The SDSU athletic director, John David Wicker, has claimed that the football program did not cover up sexual assault allegations, but with public trust in CSU staff and institutions at an all time low and conflicting information, it’s unclear why anyone should be inclined to believe that. Especially since during this time, the SDSU football team was in a winning season largely due to the award winning punter and defendant, Araiza. With all of these inconsistencies adding up, it’s not a shock that the public is questioning whether or not the athletic department and the university as a whole was engaged in a cover-up.
The most egregious violation on the part of SDSU was their failure to disclose the event to the campus community as required by the Clery Act. The Clery Act mandates that universities “collect and publish information about safety and security-related policies and programs, as well as information about certain crimes reported on campus (or other Clery Act geography) and fire safety.” The university’s claim that disclosing the alleged crime was a violation of federal law is tenuous at best. In a statement from the U.S. Department of Education, it is clearly stated that “A school may issue timely warnings for crimes occurring outside a school’s Clery geographic boundaries.” The university could have, even if it actually believed they were prohibited from issuing a Clery warning, released an overarching statement regarding the incident such as the one released by De la Torre in June.This is not a demand for details or to invade the privacy of a possibly very traumatized young woman. This is also not an accusation of guilt or innocence on the part of the defendants. It is an accusation of negligence on the part of SDSU as they failed to take even basic steps to prioritize the safety of their campus community for reasons that are simply not good enough. It’s being shown to abusers that their actions will be met with absolute indifference by educational institutions such as SDSU, giving them carte blanche to enact violence. Everyone involved owes the student body their resignations and apologies. Their actions were the equivalent of looking students in the eye and saying that the system and administration does not care about them and doesn’t plan to start.