With the explosion of the #MeToo movement there is a great deal of focus on addressing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, on campuses and in athletics. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the University at Buffalo's Athletics Department and Law School are teaming to host a conference this Friday at Hodgson Russ.
The title of the conference is "Playing by the Rules: Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Issues in Employment, Education and Athletics”.
"Old locker room talk - or whatever you might have heard 20 or 30-years ago – this is an opportunity for us to teach the values of respect is how I look at it,” said Mark Alnutt.
Newly named UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt. He will be sharing his experience at the conference from his work in the NCAA. He started his post at UB this past spring after serving as a deputy director of Athletics at the University of Memphis.
"It's about when you run into those situations -- how do you handle those situations -- there's the right way - and the wrong way to do it. And there’s been some times where we could have done a better job. We learn from our mistakes and minimize those...again it's about how you respond to them,” remarked Alnutt.
“I think he just hit the nail on the head there,” said Drew.
Nellie Drew is professor of sports law at UB's School of Law. Drew tells WBFO News they are responding to an epidemic of problems in universities and institutions across the country with sexual harassment, discrimination in employment and education -- and especially within athletics.
“Of problems that we’ve seen in campuses across the country, typically the problem has been a situation or two or three that were not handled appropriately and that’s reflective of a culture is not responsive to that type of concerned and that’s when it becomes a much bigger problem,”
Most recently, Drew referred to the Title IX case at Baylor University. The NCAA investigation has been looking into reports of rapes and if opportunities and treatment were given to certain student-athletes. This Friday's local conference will have an emphasis in Title IX.
“Title IX’s a mess,” declared Drew. “Why?” asked Buckley. “The actually language is very straight forward – the statue itself is very straight forward. It’s been the regulatory morass that has developed over the years since Title IX was first passed,” answered Drew. “In particular we have the Betsy DeVos lack of definitive standard to be applied in sexual harassment cases. It’s very difficult to get your arms around for every for trained professionals for attorneys to understand exactly what the mandates are. People tend to think of Title IX as being solely with respect to athletics – it’s not – it applies to the entire institution.”
“You’re never going to eliminate these situations, but hopefully bring in the right people with character that recognize the issues that are out there and kind of keep us ‘out of the spotlight’ so to speak,” Alnutt replied.
Friday's conference is designed to help education administrators, attorneys and athletic directors focus on current issues surrounding sexual harassment and discrimination.