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NCAA convenes Think Tank to address campus violence prevention

By Gail Dent

Individuals with an interest in the prevention of interpersonal campus violence recently addressed how athletics can further education and better inform student-athletes and administrators on the subject.

The participants, who included subject-matter experts both from within the NCAA and from outside, discussed the topic during an NCAA-sponsored Think Tank conducted Oct. 3-4 in Washington, D.C. The NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct will consider resulting ideas at its Oct. 29-30 meeting.

NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke to the group and stressed the role of athletics in preventing campus violence.

“We need to have a better understanding of the issue of campus violence and address the role athletics might play in prevention,” Emmert said. “Athletics is at the forefront of many things and has such an impact that it can drive culture and be an enormous lever for social change. If we can be successful in athletics in providing higher education with best practices and templates on how to address this issue, then we can be leaders for change across our campuses.”

Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Debbie Wilson said the Think Tank helped her and others gain a greater understanding of the issues surrounding campus violence.

“We aren’t subject matter experts so we need that guidance and feedback,” said Wilson, associate athletics director for academic services/sport psychologist at George Mason University. “I have a clearer understanding now of what direction we might want to take as a committee in the next six months or so. We’ll also want to continue to partner with the experts and look at ways we can help member schools address this topic.”

Suggestions forwarded to the Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct included:

  • Commencing a research study to help athletics and academic officials learn more about the prevalence of campus violence as it relates to athletics and student-athletes.
  • Developing a list of best practices that could be modeled at NCAA schools.
  • Promoting more collaboration among athletics administrators, campus officials and subject-matter experts to keep discussions alive on how to prevent campus violence.
  • Asking athletics officials to identify who the “change agents” are within athletics (for example, coaches or key student-athletes) so those influencers can help with education efforts.
  • Providing adequate training to athletics officials and “change agents.”

Think Tank participants included:

Victoria Banyard, University of New Hampshire

Tai Brown, American Football Coaches Association

Myrta Charles, Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women

Janet Judge, Sports Law Associates

Connie Kirkland, Northern Virginia Community College

Cari Klecka, NCAA staff

Brandi Hephner LaBlanc, University of Mississippi

Linda Langford, U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center of Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention

Don McPherson, Men Against Sexual Violence

Chuck Mitrano, Empire 8 Conference

Ada Meloy, American Council on Education

Keri Potts, ESPN and victims advocate

Diane Rosenfeld, Harvard Law School

Celia Slater, The Alliance of Women Coaches

Richard Southall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Robert Vowels, NCAA staff

Deborah Wilson, George Mason University

Andrea Zevenbergen, SUNY Fredonia