Clarification on comments in the Tampa Tribune

This morning’s Tampa Tribune quotes me in a story about a website allegation regarding football coach Jim Leavitt, and while it’s generally correct about what I said, it has a few things garbled.

Here is the relevant passage  from the article:

Sherman Dorn, head of the union that represents USF’s faculty, is pleased the school is conducting an investigation into the alleged incident and doing so with a committee based outside the athletic department.

He said transparency and thoroughness are important in this type of investigation.

“If there is as a serious allegation, then there should be a serious investigation,” Dorn said. “It should be done in the same way the university conducts a serious investigation of misconduct by a faculty member. The thing to keep in mind is this is a report by a Web site that has statements [supported] by one or two observers. It’s certainly appropriate for the university to investigate. There may be something to it, or maybe not.’

The correct statements in that passage (or the reasonably close ones) come from the following parts of the phone conversation I had last night with the reporter:

  • I said that the allegations came from individual reports, and I had no idea what the truth of them may be.
  • I said that when there was a serious allegation concerning any university employee, it was appropriate for the university to conduct an investigation.
  • I said that until the investigation was concluded, the university should not say anything about the matter other than that there was an allegation it was investigating.

I don’t remember saying anything explicitly about transparency, and I did not say anything about who was conducting the investigation, because I had no knowledge of who was going to conduct the investigation. Having said that, I do in fact agree that the people conducting it should be outside the athletics department.  That’s true for any investigation of allegations. For most of the investigation procedures I am aware of (whether regarding research misconduct, discrimination, or violation of human participant guidelines), there is first a determination of whether there are sufficient grounds to conduct a full investigation (to avoid spending lots of time on frivolous allegations). If the preliminary investigation suggests there is something to the allegation, there is a more complete examination of the issue. I don’t know whether that two-step process will be followed in this case, because “football coach grabs and hits player” is not a common allegation, so there hasn’t (yet) been a chance to write a procedure for this.

It would not have been correct for the university to fire a coach based solely on an allegation, in the same way that the university should not fire staff or faculty based solely on allegations of misconduct.

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