Vandal Family Values

University of Idaho mascot Joe Vandal marching with the marching band behind him.
University of Idaho mascot, Joe Vandal, and the marching band

By Brianna Love

When I was a prospective student for the University of Idaho, I was told that U of I was safe. I was told that this is a great school because we are “one big family.” On the web site it says,

“UI is committed to creating a safe environment for the UI community and those who visit.”

I thought that the university cared about me as one of their students. I thought that I was seen for who I am–not just as a dollar sign. So, in my pre-college mind, if I were to be harmed in any way as one of their students, I assumed the U of I would be there for me.

When incoming freshman start their journey at U of I, they are essentially moving to a new home. They become part of the “Vandal Family.” (At least that is how they feel.) It’s exactly how I felt. U of I was my new home. The Vandals were my family. I would never expect one of them to intentionally hurt me, and if they did, I expected the university to handle it properly…

If we are a family, why wouldn’t you want to protect and stand up for every member?

 

Recently, the news has shed light on Mairin Jameson’s testimony and how U of I mishandled her experience here.

Mairin was a student athlete for U of I who was sexually assaulted by Jahrie Level–another student athlete. Mairin reported it to the athletic department, who said they couldn’t do anything about it because it happened “off campus.”

First of all, the athletic department had every right to deal with Level because he was an athlete. Whether or not the assault happened on campus.

Secondly, they failed to report the incident to the Dean of Students Office. If reported to the Dean of Students Office, the hope is that the situation would have been taken more seriously.

 

What upsets me the most is that the head football coach and the athletic director, whom Mairin initially reported the incident to, are to this day still employed at the University of Idaho.

In my opinion, they did not do their job and they broke the law by not adhering to Title IX. Therefore, they should no longer have their jobs.

Mairin later went to the UI Women’s Center to talk to somebody about it. The Women’s Center immediately reported it to the Dean of Students Office. Who then launched an investigation. (This is what I, as a student, expect would happen if one of my “family members” was assaulted.)

Around the same time, Mairin reported the incident to the Moscow Police. The police found rock-solid evidence of the assault and presented it to the UI athletic department. It wasn’t until then that Level was released from his team.

Level left the University of Idaho. But, he didn’t go back to his hometown. He transferred to Stony Brook University in New York, where he continued to play football. It doesn’t seem like a fair punishment to me.

This all happened in 2013. So, why is it being brought up this year?

Well, Mairin posted about her experience on her friend’s blog titled “I Wasn’t Even Raped.” The Idaho Statesman caught wind of it and looked into what happened.

The athletic department now “took responsibility” and “educated the department about how to deal with these things.”

 

Where is the apology?

 

Where is the sympathy?

 

 Where the compassion?

 

Where is the Vandal Family I was told that I was joining?

 

When a brother pulls his sister’s hair or pushes her around, the brother is not simply told that it’s “bad behavior.” The sister is not initially asked what she did to entice him. There is usually a ramification for the boy. That is how a family works when harmful actions are demonstrated.

 

But wait!

It gets worse.

 

This is not isolated to just the University of Idaho, and it is not just this one case.

Universities hushing up sexual assault and rape victims are very common activities on campuses across the country.

The documentary The Hunting Ground shows how common it is.

A young woman reveals that when she reported her sexual assault to her university, she was told the following:

“Rape is like a football game Anne, and when you look back at the game, what would you do differently in that situation?”

Rape is like a football game…

 

Wow. How could anyone say that? It’s nowhere near true. It’s a false metaphor that compares RAPE to a sport.

That is absolutely disgusting and appalling!

Questions such as,

 

What were you wearing?

What were you drinking?

How much did you drink?

Did you pregame?

Did you say no?

How many times did you say no?

How did you say no?

Etc.

 

Are all about victim blaming.

 

In most situations, universities take action against the victim rather than the perpetrator.

What is wrong with our society?

Who in their right mind would protect someone harming others and breaking the law, rather than protecting the ones who are being harmed?

When these victims feel as if they have no one standing on their side and supporting them, they feel as if they have no one to turn to. As a response, some fall into a deep depression, some reach out to others on campus who’ve experienced the same, some drop out and never return to school, and some take their own lives. These reactions are exemplified in The Hunting Ground. 

So, what would I have liked to know before I started college?

 

“Universities are protecting a brand.”

 

Contrary to how we feel when we attend a college…Contrary to how safe the universities make prospective students and their families feel…Contrary to what they tell us…Contrary to the “family” ideals they present to us and would have us believe.

Sadly, we must look at universities (and our homes away from home) the same way we look at corporate businesses. They care about the money and their public image.

After all,

A university’s first priority is to protect the institution from harm.

 

 

If you wish to sign the petition to remove Rob Spear as University of Idaho Athletic Director, please visit this link: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-idaho-president-chuck-staben-university-of-idaho-students-for-the-removal-of-rob-spear

2 thoughts on “Vandal Family Values

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m hoping that this starts the beginning of change. While the university is taking great preventative measures, we still need to improve how we handle the situations that do come up.

      Like

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