Former Stanford swimmer and convicted rapist Brock Turner is set to be released from prison Friday after a brief three-month stint behind bars for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman. The case, which jump-started a media firestorm calling for harsher sentences for convicted sexual predators, began an important discussion of the double standard university athletes are treated within the justice system.
It seemed like after Turner’s case we had all learned a lesson. We all vowed that never again would we let a Brock Turner slip through the cracks, and we all assumed our universities would take notice. But, we were wrong.
This week, it was announced that USC linebacker Osa Masina is facing a one-game suspension due to an ongoing investigation into two separate instances of sexual assault in California and Utah. TMZ reported Thursday night that according to an obtained search warrant, Masina drugged and raped a woman twice in the apartment of fellow USC football player Don Hill. He also uploaded pictures of the assault to Snapchat. Not only does the one-game suspension seem light on the surface, but Masina was also present at the team practice on Wednesday, where head coach Clay Helton refused to comment on the suspension decision except to say the team was handling the situation in accordance with the University’s instructions.
USC had an opportunity when faced with this incident to show that they had learned from the egregious miscarriage of justice in the Turner case, to show that they take sexual assault seriously enough to indefinitely suspend Masina until the cases are sorted out. But instead, Masina gets a slap on the wrist, sitting out a single game.
USC’s decision not to indefinitely suspend Masina is unsettling given the close proximity to the Turner case. But when one closely examines how other universities handle sexual assault investigations of players, USC’s treatment of the matter becomes outright disturbing.
Just last week, the University of Oregon indefinitely suspended football player Torrodney Prevot in the midst of a physical assault investigation by local police and the University. Not only that, Prevot was excluded from the Oregon’s depth chart and the university released a statement that his status as a student-athlete was under review. And in May, University of Minnesota basketball player Reggie Lynch was banned from all team engagements pending the investigation into charges of sexual assault.
These examples prove that not only was USC within its rights to indefinitely suspend Masina from team activities pending the sexual assault investigations, but other universities had set a precedent of doing so.
In many cases of campus sexual assault, the university is one of the only pathways to justice. The standard of evidence at many universities, including USC, is a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the accused only has to be proven “more likely than not” to have committed the infraction. In a criminal case, the accused has to be proven to have committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In May, Boise State football players Marquis Hendrix and Donzale Roddie were expelled and Darreon Jackson was suspended following the university’s sexual assault investigation. In the case, a female student reported she had been forced to perform oral sex on the accused as well as an official recruit. Though criminal charges were never filed, the university’s investigation led to real ramifications. Not a one-game suspension, but a little slice of justice that our criminal justice system was not equipped to provide.
When our criminal justice system failed the woman that Brock Turner assaulted, Stanford University and USA Swimming served him a lifetime ban. When USC was faced with a sexual assault investigation, it chose leniency over drawing a hard line, a one-game suspension over sending a message that not only will sexual assault never be tolerated at USC, but that USC will serve as an ally for sexual assault survivors and adversary of sexual assault culture everywhere.
Instead, USC chose to send an entirely different message — a message that should disappoint and offend not only the entire USC community, but also the higher education community at large that strives for campuses where sexual assault is eradicated and students do not have to compromise their safety in their pursuit of education.
Daily Trojan Fall 2016 Editorial Board
The first version of this article stated that Torrodney Prevot was under investigation for sexual assault, it has been changed to reflect he is under investigation for physical assault. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.