Northwestern Athletics Review Leads to Recommendations

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Recommendations have been made for Northwestern University’s Department of Athletics and Recreation after an extensive investigation into reports of hazing in their football program that emerged a year ago. 

As detailed in a 50-page report submitted by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, several key elements include a focus on improved communication, clarified responsibilities and accountability procedures for coaches, faculty, staff, and student athletes, as well as targeted anti-hazing efforts, all in an effort to improve the overall experience of student-athletes.

For example, Lynch suggested Northwestern develop formal guidance to facilitate appropriate interactions between faculty and coaches, clarifying which communications are allowed or prohibited under NCAA rules. She also encouraged strengthening of the role of the faculty-comprised Committee on Athletics and Recreation (CAR), redefining CAR’s responsibilities to serve as a bridge between faculty and the Athletics Department and enhancing their functional transparency, thus enhancing the academic experience of student-athletes and fostering better communication about athletic commitments.

Among the recommendations were to establish a uniform exit interview program to collect consistent and valuable feedback from departing student-athletes while also creating new feedback mechanisms for active student-athletes. This would introduce regular and structured feedback sessions with student-athletes to gather insights throughout their tenure, not just at the end.

Lynch provided extensive feedback on the reporting processes for issues within the Department of Athletics and Recreation, noting that efforts to improve the reporting process and accountability would enhance student-athlete awareness and effectively grow their trust in the system that is meant to serve them.

Suggested coordinated efforts against hazing and enhanced anti-hazing training would streamline and coordinate all university bodies and resources focused on hazing prevention to enhance effectiveness and reduce redundancy, and strengthen resulting anti-hazing training programs to be more interactive and incorporate bystander intervention techniques.

Lynch’s detailed recommendations are designed to foster a supportive and responsive environment within the Northwestern University Department of Athletics and Recreation, ensuring a positive and safe experience for all student-athletes. Northwestern President Michael Schill emphasized the university’s commitment to enacting Lynch’s recommendations. He said in a statement released June 27, ​​“As a university, we remain steadfast in our commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive environment for all members of our community, including student-athletes.”