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CSU Athlete Group: Fire AD, Top Athletics Officials

Paul Steinbach

Five former and current Colorado State University student-athletes have requested the removal of athletic director Joe Parker and other top athletic administrators after a virtual meeting Friday with university president Joyce McConnell.

As reported by the Coloradoan, the growing tension between the CSU student-athletes and the athletic and university administrations focuses on what the athletes assert is systemic mishandling of COVID-19 protocols, allegations of racial insensitivity and abuse, and recent cases of sexual misconduct.

The athlete group said during Friday's meeting that they initiated with McConnell — and in related interviews — that they have exhausted all efforts working with the current administration. The athletes said the time for "training'' athletic administrators who they claim have violated policies and lost the trust of student-athletes is over, and the time for their terminations is here, according to the Coloradoan, which obtained a recording of the meeting.

"I can make it blatantly clear to you that athletic administrators you have in place are aware of these issues and the specifics of these issues and are actively, every single day, choosing not act on them,'' former CSU swimmer Ida Donohue said in the meeting. "I’m not asking you to sit down with them to train them; I'm asking for their removal.''

Donohue, who was the impacted party involving a sexual misconduct case against a fellow student-athlete, said federal and university policies are in place to protect student-athletes but aren't being followed, continually placing student-athletes at risk. 

She told McConnell that was made clear with CSU's handling of student Katie Schiller's lawsuit claiming repeated sexual assault at the hands of prominent booster Michael Best while Schiller was a server at Canvas Stadium during the 2019 football season. Donohue told McConnell that had Parker taken steps to address sexual misconduct issues she brought to him during several meetings prior to Schiller's case, Schiller would not have been put in the same situation.

"[Parker] kept telling me he was a father and that he cared about the student-athletes on campus almost as much as he did his own children,'' Donohue said. "I can promise you that if a father found out that his daughter was sexually assaulted that I cannot fathom putting that young woman back into that position.''

McConnell said when she became the university's first female president in July 2019, she heard about issues with the university's Title IX office generally but not specific to athletics. As a result of those concerns, she restructured the office, named Diana Prieto to oversee it and elevated Prieto's position — vice president for Equiity, Equal Opportunity and Title IX — to cabinet level in May. 

McConnell said she had not previously received complaints from student-athletes. "I would have met with people earlier had I known,'' she said. "Without people coming forward to us, this is the first time I'm able to have that conversation.''

Current tennis player Emma Corwin and current softball player Jordan Acosta pointed out during the virtual meeting that they sent emails regarding these issues to McConnell prior to the investigation and never received a response.

In an email to the university community Friday, Prieto announced that her department would "continue to work closely with Joe Parker, Director of Athletics, and his leadership in the coming months to address issues of culture in CSU Athletics, specifically around reporting and non-retaliation in response to Title IX concerns.''

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