You are my second favorite school, next to my alma mater. Despite the fact that somehow you have to walk uphill going and coming from your football field, and despite your team’s tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, some of my favorite memories of the early courtship of the Mister and I involve road trips for KU football games, back before Tiny when we could afford season tickets.
When Tiny was around two and a half, we took him to visit Lawrence, and to see his daddy’s (and his grandparents) alma mater. He ran through the lush, green lawn in front of Phog Allen Fieldhouse, squealing with delight as he threw his brand new football around. He knew the Rock Chalk Chant nearly as early as he knew “Mama” and “Dad-Dad.” He’s a member of the Junior Jayhawks club and just got a birthday card from Baby Jay.
My husband’s family can count generations who have attended KU. Every year, we donate to the Williams Fund, without fail. I can look out my front window right now and see a KU flag waving on our front porch in honor of the school’s basketball team appearing in yet another NCAA tournament.
But nowadays you’ve made it nearly impossible to love you – and it has nothing to do with your football record, and everything to do with the fact that one of your football players raped my friend.
One of your football players raped my friend, and then later tried to rape another girl, which makes him a serial rapist. And when I found out, since it’s what I do for a living, I began looking harder at KU.
KU has a rape problem. We know that KU is among 95 institutions with pending Title IX sexual violence investigations by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. But we don’t know for sure how big of a rape problem, because in one news report has an official with the school’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access saying there were 169 reported rapes in 2015 and 89 in 2014, but the school’s most recent Clery Report only reports 14 rapes and 10 cases of fondling in 2014. An examination of the KU campus police department website reveals that two students are registered sex offenders, as well as a current alert regarding an assault that happened in late February.
But this isn’t peculiar to Kansas, I am finding out. A study (whose lead researcher, Corey Rayburn Yung, is a law professor at KU) revealed that many schools downplay the reported sexual assaults found in their Clery reports. In fact, Yung found that schools only try to get a more accurate picture of sexual violence on campus when they’re actively being audited by the federal government. Once the auditing process is over, schools frequently begin underreporting again.
Those Clery reports are becoming more frequently referred to by parents who are helping their children choose their schools, especially now that campus rape has become a more scrutinized issue in the media. But yours – and many other schools’ – are not accurate pictures of the safety of your campus.
I mean, 14 rapes in a school as big as Kansas doesn’t sound as horrible as 89, right (unless you were one of the 14 raped or one of the other 75 who were apparently not counted)? If I hadn’t specifically searched for the phrase, “rapes at University of Kansas in 2015,” and then clicked through a few pages, I would’ve never found this story with that bigger, more alarming number.
My friend, Daisy Tackett, left KU in January. She was raped during her freshman year, and stayed silent for months until teammate also said the player tried to rape her. When Daisy reported it to the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access at the beginning of her sophomore year, her rapist began harassing her and stalking her on campus to the point that Daisy only left her dorm room to go to class or rowing practice.
And now that she’s left and is trying to enroll in a new school, the school continues to make it difficult. According to her mother, who is also Tiny’s godmother and was my matron of honor at my wedding, the family was forced to wait for months for the school to release her transcripts so she could begin the transfer process to another school. Kansas only just now released those transcripts. Just now. Today.
When Daisy announced she had signed with KU, we celebrated with her. My husband was over the moon for her, and we – along with her parents – were confident that this was the start of great things for Daisy.
Now, as I watch Daisy and her parents struggle with the weight of what has happened, as I watch Daisy bravely shed the veil of anonymity offered (for good reason) to sexual assault survivors by the press so she can help other students, I can’t in good conscience entertain the idea of our family legacy continuing through Tiny’s attendance at KU. A lot would have to change. So much.
In the days, weeks and months that pass while the Tackett’s class action suit (which, by the way, has little do with money and more about forcing Kansas to accurately report its crime statistics to prospective students) winds its way through layers of lawyers and courts, please know I will be watching. I will be listening. I don’t know if we can in good conscience continue to monetarily support a school that allows a student’s rapist to follow her and threaten her while continuing to play – and even start – in a sport. I don’t know that we can in good conscience recommend other students place their lives in peril by attending a school whose answer to trauma is bureaucracy and subterfuge.
Please do the right thing. You have the opportunity now to effect real change across the NCAA, to be a leader, not a school that was dragged kicking and screaming to the right side of history. Set up real reporting. Honest reporting. Work hard to inculcate not only consent and all it entails to your students, but also to educate bystanders on what to do when they encounter a possible sexual assault victim. Encourage students to go to the police to report rape, instead of being tortured via committee. Create real, tangible safety for your students now, because you want to and it’s the right thing, and not because a judge forced you to.