MOSCOW, Idaho – In a Wednesday night meeting that lasted more than three hours, the Associated Students of the University of Idaho Wednesday approved a resolution calling for the resignation of athletics director Rob Spear following his acknowledgment that he and others at the UI mishandled sexual assault and harassment complaints by a former Vandals diver and a cross country runner against a former football player in 2013.
Following recent media reports of the events after former diver Mairin Jameson told her story in a blog posting early this year, UI President Chuck Staben this week put Spear on a 60-day administrative leave while the UI conducts a review of its sexual assault and harassment complaint policies.
Despite Staben’s action, the ASUI resolution called for “the immediate resignation or removal of Rob Spear from his position at the University of Idaho.
If Spear does not resign and is not fired, the resolution asks that “a legally binding last-chance agreement” be immediately added to Spear’s contract, as well as any others that have a proven track record of mishandling Title IX violations.
This would allow Spear to be summarily fired if any other complaints are inadequately dealt with. Football coach Paul Petrino’s contract was included in an earlier draft of the resolution, but ASUI senators later voted unanimously on an amendment to have his name removed.
The resolution also calls for the formation of a task force to develop a comprehensive, anonymous survey of UI female athletes in the past decade on their interactions with Spear, athletes and others in the athletics department, their access to sexual assault and mental health counseling, and their opinion about the athletics department culture surrounding sexual assaults and sexual misconduct.
The events involving the former UI diver, Jameson, have touched off a wave of campus concern about sexual assault and harassment that radiated to encompass about a dozen more claimed sexual assaults and harassments that were not adequately dealt with by Moscow Police or UI officials. These were provided to ASUI senators as anonymous written statements. Other such statements referenced a former faculty member, Ernesto Bustamante, who shot and killed a UI student, Katy Benoit, in 2011.
Sarah Solomon, co-founder of the group Students for Accountability and Safety, which is calling for Spear’s removal, said she has talked with Jameson, who is hopeful her situation will become a watershed event at the university.
“Mairin’s outlook is one of hope” that her story would “bring fundamental change on this campus,” according to Solomon.
Spear spoke to the student government before the vote. He gave ASUI senators a lengthy account of the events involving Jameson that portrayed UI athletics officials following what they believed to be appropriate protocol, even as he acknowledged “much mass confusion about policy.”
Spear said a Moscow Police liaison with Idaho informed him that since the incident in which former football player Jarhie Level inappropriately touched Jameson took place off campus at a Moscow bar, it was not subject to the student code of conduct. Jameson’s choices were to seek criminal charges or internal athletic department discipline for Level, Spear said.
Spear said he vividly recalled asking Jameson if she wanted to press charges, in hopes of initiating a criminal investigation.
His interpretation of the event runs counter to a narrative presented by Solomon. She cast Spear’s question whether Jameson wanted to press charges as dismissive of her complaint. Solomon said Spear told Jameson and her parents, “If you and Mairin believe a sexual assault occurred, then you need to press charges.”
About two weeks after the assault, when police made available to UI officials security video from the bar that confirmed Jameson’s account, Level was removed from the football team and later expelled.
A new Title IX policy adopted on an emergency basis for six months in 2012 would have allowed UI to pursue the incident that took place off campus as a code of conduct violation, but Spear acknowledged he was unaware of it at the time. Subsequently, he said, he researched the timeline involving Title IX guidelines and learned that while the temporary guideline was rewritten for permanent adoption in February 2013, it was not approved and moved out of the university general counsel’s office until March 2014 and not put in place until June 2014.
Spear suggested the 2013 events were a catalyst that drove UI athletics officials to greatly improve the Title IX training for athletes, coaches and staff. He said there is no policy confusion now.
Spear also noted he had a daughter at UI in 2013. He said sexual assault complaints “are personal for me. … I am not going to tolerate that behavior.”
In response to a question from ASUI’s Nicole Skinner on whether Spear believes the UI adequately supports sexual assault victims, Spear replied, “I do think we offered support in every one of these situations.”
He added of Jameson: “I am remorseful the individual did not feel supported and did not have a great experience at the University of Idaho. That hurts me.”
When Skinner pressed him, Spear said he remains proud of the support the UI offered Skinner. But he acknowledged, “We probably should have done more.”
THIS STORY WAS UPDATED to reflect that Idaho football coach Paul Petrino’s name was removed from the ASUI resolution at the end of Wednesday’s meeting.
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