Lost in the furor over Brock Turner’s six-month phrase for raping an unconscious woman is that, on the surface, Stanford’s investigation of the matter was a textbook example of how colleges should respond to sexual assault. Within two days of the rape, Turner had quit the swimming team and withdrawn from school rather than face certain expulsion. Within two weeks, Stanford had banned him from ever returning to campus again.
Well, it might be time for another investigation. Recent disclosures about Turner’s behavior raise some very troubling questions about the culture on the Cardinal men’s swim team. Watch more details from “Inside Edition” here.
A member of Stanford’s women’s swim team told InTouch Weekly that Turner’s arrest in January 2015 came as no shock to either her or her teammates. She recalled that from the time Turner arrived at the Farm in the fall of 2014, many of the women swimmers thought him to be “very, very odd.” He had a bad habit of making lewd comments about his female teammates, such as “I can see your tits in that swimsuit.”
Apparently the men were worried about Turner as well. The women’s swimmer revealed that a number of upperclassmen told Turner to rein in his partying. As we now know, he didn’t listen. It turns out that his partying nearly caught up with him a week before the rape. According to court documents and the print edition of InTouch Weekly, Turner groped UCLA swimmer Kelly Moran during a party at the Kappa Alpha house at Stanford.
Several members of the women’s team claim that they wanted to write Judge Allen Persky about their interactions with Turner. However, they say, Stanford officials kiboshed it since “they didn’t witness any crime that Brock had committed.” They are also reportedly under orders not to discuss the Turner situation in public or with the press. However, this raises a larger question–did Turner’s coaches know about Turner’s behavior?
There was already reason to wonder about the environment head coach Ted Knapp fostered on the men’s swim team. Last weekend, we learned that Turner apparently got the bright idea to send pictures of his victim’s breasts to his teammates on the night of the rape. But these new developments make me wonder if Knapp and his staff knew about the way Turner was acting.
When I first saw this, my thoughts turned to a scandal on Western Kentucky’s swim team. In January 2015, former Hilltopper swimmer Collin Craig revealed that he had been assaulted and forced to drink alcohol even though he was too young to drink at the time. Further investigation revealed a pattern of rampant drug use, racism, and sexually-charged hazing dating back to at least 2012. It also revealed that head coach Bruce Marchionda knew about the hazing and did absolutely nothing.
Following a joint investigation by Bowling Green police and school officials, WKU president Gary Ransdell and athletic director Todd Stewart announced that the swim team would not return until the 2020-21 school year. Ransdell said that this was a “necessary and prudent” move due to the “pervasive culture of misconduct and lack of sufficient oversight” over the program.
Had Marchionda gotten a handle on this behavior sooner, it’s very likely he would still have a job today. Likewise, I wonder–if Knapp really had a handle on his team, would Turner still be on the team? Would he have reined in his partying? And would he even have thought about texting a picture of the victim’s breasts to his teammates?
Given the circumstances, Stanford needs to take a long, hard look at the culture on the men’s swim team. As part of that investigation, Knapp needs to give a full accounting of what he knew about Turner’s behavior. If it turns out that no one passed these concerns to Knapp, he must kick them off the team–do not pass go, do not collect $200. And if it turns out that Knapp knew what was happening with Turner and didn’t do enough to rein him in, there is no defensible reason for him to keep his job.