Penn State Athletics Under Fire for Sexual Assault Policy

Women’s rights groups are criticizing Pennsylvania State University football coach Joe Paterno and university administrators for allowing a player who was expelled for sexual assault to continue participating with the football team. Anwar Phillips, a Penn State football player, was sentenced to a two-semester expulsion in December for sexually assaulting a female student, although he still played in the Capitol One Bowl on Jan. 1, according to USA Today. When Paterno was asked why he allowed Phillips to play, he said, “That’s nobody’s business but mine. It’s not the fans’ business, and it’s not yours,” Centre Daily Times reported. In the past, Paterno has benched players for missing curfews or for declining grades, but he said he had “very little control” over the Phillips case, according to the New York Times. In a statement issued this month, Penn State President Graham Spanier said that Phillips should not have played even though his suspension did not begin until Jan. 13, according to USA Today.

The Penn State Judicial Affairs Office recently found Charlie Perry, a men’s lacrosse player, guilty of disorderly conduct for yelling outside of a restaurant, but Perry, unlike Phillips, was immediately declared ineligible to participate in his sport, according to The Collegian. The punishment Perry received for “yelling” was two-semesters expulsion, equal to the length of time Phillips received for the much more serious crime of sexual assault. A criminal trial will be held this summer and depending on the results, Phillips may return to Penn State this fall and be eligible for the football season, meaning the spring semester and both summer sessions count as the two-semester expulsion, according to The Collegian.

At a Take Back the Night march and rally held at Penn State, some speakers addressed the handling of the Anwar Phillips case. Kathy Miller, president of Pennsylvania National Organization of Women (NOW), issued a statement saying it was time for the university to stop making excuses about the Phillips case. “I call on them to demonstrate that they are educating and enforcing a policy of no tolerance for sexually abusive behavior by athletes at the Pennsylvania State University,” Kathy Miller told Centre Daily. Pennsylvania NOW has demanded an apology from the university on the handling of the case but has received no response.


he Digital Collegian 5/1/03; Centre Daily Times 4/24/03, 4/25/03, 4/27/03; USA Today 4/29/03; The New York Times 4/26/03

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