Leaders, not bystanders
By Marc Morehouse
(Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Investigators from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation arrive at Hillcrest Residence Hall on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City Nov. 14, 2007, to investigate an alleged sexual assault. Charges have since been filed against two former Iowa football players in the incident.
A nervous call home prompted an angry father to question his son’s living situation at the University of Iowa.
In a November interview with The Gazette, the father of a student living at Hillcrest Residence Hall characterized the behavior on his son’s floor as “appalling.” He mentioned football players living on the second floor north wing of Hillcrest. The dorm houses about 800 students.
“Just a lot of debauchery, centered around the football athletes in that dorm,” said the father, who spoke to The Gazette on the condition of anonymity.
The parent was moved to speak by the Nov. 14 investigation at Hillcrest involving two football players — since removed from the program — who have been charged with allegedly sexually abusing a woman in room N207 at Hillcrest last Oct. 14.
According to a University of Iowa Police complaint, former Iowa football player Cedric Everson sexually assaulted the victim while another former Iowa football player, Abe Satterfield, provided “access to the room and victim.”
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation searched N207. UI Police conducted interviews with floor residents. The father said N207 was known as the “ghost room” on the floor.
Last year, Everson and Satterfield were listed as roommates in N123. Football players Lance Tillison and Troy Johnson were listed as the residents in N207.
“My son called me yesterday (Nov. 13, 2007),” the father said. “Police asked him if he knew anything about it. ‘Do you know about the ‘ghost room’ and all of this.’ The cops asked everyone on the floor.”
The sexual assault case was one of the several criminal cases that originated recently in Hillcrest:
l In spring 2007, former football players and Hillcrest residents Dominique Douglas and Anthony Bowman had goods obtained via stolen credit cards delivered to the dormitory. The two were charged with felony unauthorized use of a credit card and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
l Last December, men’s basketball player Dan Bohall was found passed out and shirtless in a locked restroom stall at Hillcrest. He was charged with public consumption/intoxication.
l Feb. 23, former football players and Hillcrest residents James Cleveland and Arvell Nelson were arrested on drug charges. Cleveland was arrested for drug tax stamp violation, a Class D felony, and two counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs. Nelson, Cleveland’s roommate, was arrested for possession of marijuana. The felony charge against Cleveland has since been dropped.
The rash of incidents hasn’t raised red flags about athletes in dorms, according to Housing Director Von Stange.
“We don’t have any evidence that our student-athletes are violating policies in any greater numbers than the rest of our student population, so there is no need to question that,” Stange said.
There is a rhyme and reason for where athletes are placed in dormitories. NCAA guidelines also factor in.
Hillcrest and Mayflower Hall are open during break periods, when athletes from certain sports need a place to live. Hillcrest is on the west side of the Iowa River with Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Kinnick Stadium and most athletics training facilities. Rowing is the only sport housed on the east side.
Also, Hillcrest houses food service for many athletes, including training table for the football team.
Stange said the number of violations at Hillcrest last year were not above the norm.
“Obviously, it’s difficult to compare a building of 850 with a building of 300 or 500,” Stange said. “Just by numbers, there may be more violations. But as far as percentages and things like that, no. It seems to be in a normal range for what I would expect for any residence hall.”
NCAA rules prohibit schools from having athletics dormitories or athletics blocks when dorms are open to the general student body. An athletics dormitory is defined as a dorm in which at least 50 percent of the residents are student-athletes. Athletics blocks are defined the same way, with 50 percent of the residents of a dorm wing or floor being made up of student-athletes.
At Iowa, coaches can request what dorms they want their players to live in. Priority goes to sports with activity during breaks, men’s basketball for example. Student-athletes can pick their roommates. Those requests are generally granted, but the athletics department doesn’t want athletes “clumping” together. Athletics doesn’t want an entire team living three doors apart.
Housing has the final authority over residence halls. Students sign board contracts and are bound by those.
“The NCAA established a percent per floor years ago to help student-athletes assimilate and meet other people,” said Fred Mims, associate athletics director for compliance. “If you have a number of students who put themselves in a situation where it appears they are being disruptive, you can talk about that. But I don’t know if the residence halls are the issue. Yeah, we can look at that and talk about that, but it’s behaviors that are more important.”
Resident assistants, students who manage daily life on a dorm floor, are not given special training for dealing with student-athletes.
“We expect all of our students to act, as I tell the parents, in a way that is greater than what we expect in normal society,” Stange said. “We have high expectations for our students. We expect them to act that way.”
Athletics doesn’t have any special programming that explicitly says respect your RA. It’s expected.
“Our expectations are clear for everyone,” Mims said. “Be respectful, abide by the rules that are established and if you cross the line, so to speak, we have to take the necessary steps to ensure safety of everybody concerned.”
Athletes need student housing; that’s not going to change. One thing under examination in light of last year’s incidents, however, is athletes’ behavior in dorm situations, Mims said.
More leaders are needed; fewer bystanders are wanted.
“We talk in terms of leadership roles,” Mims said. “There were students who didn’t take a leadership role.
“We talk about bystander behavior. You see something unfold, you don’t do anything about it and so you’re not being a leader. We’re trying to have our students see those things and empower them to step forward. I think if people start taking that initiative, we can (start) curbing some of these behaviors.”