“My daughter and my money go to Texas A&M University.”
My mom has always been full of pride when she shares this information…until today.I am a proud student of Texas A&M University. It was the only school that I applied for while a senior in high school. Half of my closet is maroon. I attend as many sporting events as I can, and I brag about my university every chance that I get. However, due to recent events, I’ve begun to question my loyalty. Last week, football assistant coaches Jeff Banks and Jim Turner hosted a fundraising event targeted for women to learn about football which was both insulting and offensive. This recent Chalk Talk was disrespectful to me not only as a woman but also as an Aggie. It was humiliating and embarrassing to see my university engage in such a disappointing manner.
The slides presented to women to “teach” them football promoted sexism, inequity, and a rape culture. Within this presentation, blocking and running do’s and dont’s were shared with the audience. Do’s included, “spread your legs,” and “bang him hard.” Dont’s included, “keep your hips down,” and “no penetration.” But this was just the beginning. Further slides had comments such as “get erect” and “bang him hard.” This was intended to be a joke. To me, these statements, clearly sexual in nature, border on sexual harassment. If shown in a place of business they would be considered sexual harassment and could lead to immediate termination. Is this how the faculty communicate among one another?
This type of behavior, and so-called humor, hurts more than just women; it hurts the entire culture of the university. It first and foremost continues to treat very serious issues as a joke. It covertly promotes sexism on a large scale. Secondly, it’s insulting to the women who attended this event. The Chalk Talk was $80 for attendance and, according to the Houston Chronicle, around 700 individuals were in attendance. This fundraiser for the athletic department degraded and insulted the women who were attending in order to raise funds for Twin City Mission, a local non-profit organization. These women paid money to listen to entitled men make incredibly sexist remarks. Why not just turn on any political debate or commentary where we can get it for free? Finally, it shows what our football program stands for and what they value. It gives an okay to our football team, and other males on campus, to treat women as sexual objects. If the assistant coaches are saying these things out loud in this arena, what kind of things are they saying behind closed doors at practice? What other ideas are being spread to the football team and other males on campus?
As the talk went on, the coaches presented yet another disappointing display of poor judgment by making up words to the Aggie War Hymn. Altering the Aggie War Hymn clearly insults the traditions of A&M. The War Hymn is a staple, to say the least, between generations at A&M. It is one of the most recognizable traditions among Aggies and is sung frequently at Aggie events. We all cross legs, link arms, and sway from side to side in a demonstration of camaraderie and unity. Changing the words, to whatever they may be, insults the very deep tradition of this song. Changing the words to sexist remarks, and derogatory phrases, however, is abhorrent. It is insulting to both the tradition of the A&M as well as the diverse population of Aggie students, Aggie fans, and Aggie faculty. The lyrics, that poorly rhyme and don’t quite fit the rhythm of the War Hymn might I add, take us back to a time before women were allowed at A&M. Phrases like “we are putting down our dishtowels,” “no more Lysol or Cascade,” and “no more thong,” insinuate a conception of women from more than 60 years ago. In short, these phrases are sexist. They separate a group of individuals into two categories - men and women - and from there continue to degrade one of those groups - the women. The rhetoric used is discriminatory in both principle and practice. We have progressed far beyond that as a University by allowing women into the school, having women become president of the student body, and by having women lead the Corp of Cadets. It’s about time we start acting like it.
From my experience as a student at Texas A&M University, this presentation does nothing to promote the core values of Texas A&M. Of the six: respect, excellence, loyalty, integrity, leadership, and selfless service, three can very clearly be applied to this situation. This “Chalk Talk” did not uphold the respect of the individuals attending this fundraiser. It did not promote the excellence of the athletics program or the university, and it failed to maintain the integrity of the two assistant coaches who put on this event.
Following this disgrace, head coach Kevin Sumlin issued a public statement, "There is absolutely no place in our program or in our University community for inappropriate conduct or degrading comments towards women, or anyone else, regardless of intent." (To which I agree, there absolutely isn’t!). Coach Sumlin suspended assistant coaches Jeff Banks and Jim Turner for two weeks with no pay in addition to 20 hours of community service. It seems to me that this punishment is a mere slap on the wrist. Had these remarks been made in the workforce, they would be considered sexual harassment and treated accordingly. By simply brushing this situation under the rug, how are impacting the culture of our campus? Are we creating an environment that promotes this type of behavior? Are we creating a football team who will continue this behavior? Are we simply setting the stage for yet another scandal to happen? Thousands of students and parents come to A&M every summer for their New Student Conference. During this time, students and parents alike are thoroughly assured that they are safe at A&M and that we are doing everything in our power as a University to promote a healthy campus culture. However, this lovely presentation does everything to say otherwise.
I love my university and I proudly stand as the 12th Man at every sporting event, including football games. I love to cheer on the players and I know what’s going on during the game, even without the aid of sexist football lessons. I spend multiple weekends in the Fall Semester, and several hundred dollars each year, to make sure that I am at every game. At this point, however, I am so disappointed with the athletic department hat I am reconsidering even going to a football game. Sadly though, I no longer want to stand and cheer on my football team if this is the kind of language and rhetoric used. If this is what is being said in public, I cringe at what is being said during practice and on the sidelines. Suspension and community service are both consequences, unitive in nature and intent, but in order to really seek change and make a difference we have to start with our attitudes and our behaviors. We have to change the way we think individually and culturally as a university. We have to create an environment where something like this wouldn’t even be a thought, where our coaches wouldn’t even think that this is acceptable, let alone have it passed and presented at the level that it was. We better start changing the way we talk about things fast or we might just end like other Texas football teams who are sweeping bigger things under the rug.