The Athletic Department at the University of Arkansas has said it is looking into an anonymous complaint about bullying treatment of players by women’s volleyball coach Robert Pulliza. But what about the university office charged with compliance with federal non-discrimination law?
The Arkansas Traveler broke the story and expanded it, by quoting two current and two former players as supporting the complaints in the anonymous letter. The players talked of being called “bitches” and “pussies.” One said the coach told another player he wanted to punch her, though he had not done so.
A higher education administrator suggested to me — correctly, I think — that this is more than an athletic department matter. It is a Title IX matter. This is the federal law that says colleges that receive federal money cannot discriminate against women. It is not just about participation in athletics. It is about discrimination based on gender in any venue and includes harassment and verbal and sexuality-based threats or abuse.
The UA has an Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance, which is not in the athletic department. The policy is clearly stated. The university should be a place free from all sexual intimidation.
As defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. These actions include written communication of a sexual nature, offensive remarks about a person’s sex, regardless of where such conduct might occur. Harassment also occurs when there is conduct that, because of its severity and/or persistence, interferes significantly with an individual’s work or education, or adversely affects an individual’s living conditions.
So I asked: Is the compliance office reviewing this matter, given the student newspaper’s publication of allegations by four people? I asked, too, if the university (not the athletic department) had a comment about allegations of abusive treatment of women, including demeaning language of a sexual nature.
I got this response from Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations:
All we can say at this time is that the appropriate offices are actively reviewing the matter. Due to the ongoing nature of this review, we will have no further comment until that process is completed.
Pulliza, who was hired by Athletic Director Jeff Long, has not commented. Nor has Long.