Idaho Vandals

U of I students’ resolution targets Spear, Petrino, athletic department culture

University of Idaho president touts athletic director’s efforts to prevent sexual assault

Calling him a "role model for the university," University of Idaho President Chuck Staben expressed support for athletic director Rob Spear in comments to student leaders on Wednesday, March 28, in Moscow.
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Calling him a "role model for the university," University of Idaho President Chuck Staben expressed support for athletic director Rob Spear in comments to student leaders on Wednesday, March 28, in Moscow.

Update: University of Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear on Tuesday was placed on a 60-day administrative leave as the school investigates “process failures” related to sexual assault complaints made against a football player in 2012 and 2013. Read that story here. The original story continues below.

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The ASUI Senate — the University of Idaho student legislative body — wants more than just Athletic Director Rob Spear’s removal.

It wants a study of the athletic department’s culture and a “last chance” message sent to football coach Paul Petrino, who also played a role in the mishandled sexual assault case that has stirred controversy on campus over the past month.

The Senate plans to meet with Spear before its meeting Wednesday, hear more public comments at its 7 p.m. Pacific meeting in the Idaho Commons and then vote on a resolution that would request that Spear resign or be fired.

“Multiple anonymous written and verbal statements made to ASUI have indicated a marked fear amongst students, staff and faculty of speaking out against Rob Spear and the athletics department in general,” the resolution says.

Senators said last week, as they began to consider the resolution, that they were concerned their supporters wouldn’t speak publicly. At last Wednesday’s meeting, President Chuck Staben called Spear a “role model” in sexual assault prevention and five female members of the athletic department spoke in the 14-year athletic director’s defense.

Four people spoke, in person or by written statement, in favor of the resolution and some were challenged by members of the audience.

Staben wouldn’t speculate whether he would act if the resolution passes.

“It was pretty one-sided in support of Rob Spear,” said Catherine Yenne, the ASUI vice president from Nampa and primary author of the resolution. “They have freedom in their jobs, it seems from my perspective, that they can speak freely and stand for questions where those who are in support of the resolution and against keeping Rob Spear on this campus don’t really have the liberty to state their case.”

The push to remove Spear was sparked by a March 8 report from the Idaho Statesman detailing missteps in the handling of diver Mairin Jameson’s April 2013 sexual assault accusation against football player Jahrie Level, and the nearly five-year delay in admitting that. The university also missed two warning signs: Distance runner Maggie Miller told Petrino and Moscow Police that Level had threatened her two weeks before Jameson’s assault, and a female student was hospitalized with a 0.36 blood-alcohol content and extensive bruises after drinking with Level in November 2012. It appears the three incidents weren’t connected until this year despite police involvement and university notification in each case.

The resolution, which needs a simple majority in the 15-member Senate to pass, provides several ideas for how Idaho moves forward even if Spear is retained:

▪  The students want “last chance” language added to the contracts for Spear, who has two years left on his deal, and Petrino, who has four years left.

▪  They want “a thorough investigation” of Spear’s handling of sexual assault and misconduct cases.

▪  They want a “comprehensive and anonymous survey” of female athletes from the past 10 years to assess the athletics culture, with results published no later than spring 2019.

▪  They want strong student representation, including student-athletes, on a new task force formed to examine safety and security, announced by the university last week shortly before the Senate meeting.

▪  And they want two more full-time employees in the Office of Civil Rights and Investigations.

The Senate “will not be satisfied with anything less than immediate, not postponed, action,” the resolution concludes.

Senators have been working on the resolution for about a week and a half. About a half-dozen people have contributed to its authorship, said Jordan Kizer, the president pro-tempore of the Senate and the resolution’s sponsor.

“The version on the agenda last week was a rough draft, and you could tell,” said Kizer, a senior from Moscow. “A lot of people had a lot of very well-founded issues with that draft, which is great. That’s due process. I wouldn’t want to pass a half-baked resolution, and the dissent really helps to find the flaws in it.”

Any further tweaks to the resolution would come via amendments during Wednesday’s meeting, Yenne said.

She called Spear’s actions in Jameson’s case “inexcusable” — and Yenne says new leadership is needed to change the Vandals’ culture.

“I’m not about promoting and perpetuating a culture where sexual assault and issues reporting those cases is just swept under the rug,” she said. “That’s unacceptable to me. ... Rob Spear and members of the athletic department continue to mention there’s a lot of great training going on. If those trainings are not being met with strong leadership, I don’t think that’s enough. We need to have consequences for actions. This guy messed up, and so I think he needs to suffer the consequences.”

Chadd Cripe: 208-377-6398, @chaddcripe

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