By Marta Lawrence
NCAA President Mark Emmert at today’s violence prevention summit in Indianapolis called for more collaboration and idea-sharing on campuses in an effort to curb egregious acts and behavior.
The NCAA-sponsored summit, “Focus on Prevention and Intervention of Interpersonal Violence,” featured a variety of experts who brainstormed on resolving an issue that vexes campuses across the country.
“I don’t know a campus in the country that hasn’t tried from one degree or another to combat this issue,” Emmert said. “It has special resonance for us in intercollegiate athletics and we want to make sure we’re doing all that we can.
“What we can’t do is pretend this isn’t a problem.”
A former university president, Emmert has first-hand experience dealing with the aftermath of violent incidents. Since becoming NCAA president in October, he has been a vocal advocate for addressing violence in intercollegiate athletics and the broader campus community.
At the NCAA Convention in January, in fact, Emmert moderated an educational session exploring how violence affects student-athletes and how campuses and the NCAA can prevent and deal with such incidents. Today’s summit was the next step in that ongoing conversation.
One of the panelists, NASPA Executive Director Gwen Dungy, said people are stimulated to commit acts of violence for a variety of reasons, which are influenced by their values, beliefs and experiences.
“We have to come to grips with the fact that the causes of violence are as varied as we are as individuals,” she said.
Independent campus security consultant Kim Novak said, “We have to understand what causes and contributes to violence. We’re trying to change a culture, and that culture is complex.”
Novak said it’s not enough to have a “violence awareness week” or other isolated program to address the issue. “We need to go beyond that. We need to think about research,” Novak said.
To date, the available research on the topic of violence and intercollegiate athletics has been limited in scope and lacks adequate representation of the diversity of the student-athlete population. The NCAA and others have called for greater research, and the Association plans to develop strategies to pursue that need.
Data aside, most experts agree that common factors, including alcohol and cultural pressures, are at the root of most acts of violence.
“It’s a community problem that needs a community solution,” said Sally Linowski, director of the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Abuse Prevention at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Emmert reiterated that collaboration among the higher-education community and other groups will be central to identifying and implementing solutions.
“It will take all of us working together in concert to address this issue,” he said.