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Group takes issue with makeup of panel

2/27/2004 - Colorado Buffaloes

BOULDER, Colo. -- Nearly 200 people rallied at the
University of Colorado on Monday, saying the school has ignored athlete misconduct for years and calling for the resignation of two
people on the commission investigating the recruiting scandal.

Sociology professor JoAnne Belknap said the school's
unwillingness to swiftly investigate allegations of sexual assault
by its athletes suggests cases were either covered up or officials
were "unacceptably clueless."

The rally was held by a group calling itself Students Advocating
for Fair and Equal Treatment. They said commission members Joyce
Lawrence and Bishop Phillip Porter should be replaced with experts
on sexual assault or victims' advocates.

Group organizer Candice Lopez and five other members met
privately with university President Betsy Hoffman and other school
officials, but said they were told to contact the commission.

"We are discouraged," Lopez said. "We are still concerned
about the environment for survivors of sexual assault and the
fairness of this investigative panel."

Commission co-chair Peggy Lamm said she was sympathetic to the
students' concerns, but said the panel is best suited to
investigate the scandal. She also said the panel is setting up a
telephone tip line for "students, coaches, recruits and others."

"We're eager to hear from as many people as possible with
credible details," Lamm said. The telephone line will be
established soon.

The rally was held amid speculation that Gov. Bill Owens might
become further involved in the scandal, which has grabbed national
headlines for weeks and includes allegations of assault.

Seven women have accused football athletes of rape since 1997,
though no charges have been filed. Football coach Gary Barnett was
suspended last week for criticizing the athletic ability of former player
Katie Hnida after she said she was raped by a teammate in 2000.

Owens told university officials to investigate or he would take
action. Over the weekend, he said he was talking with Attorney
General Ken Salazar about the scandal.

Ken Lane, a spokesman for Salazar, said his boss and Owens have
conferred several times about the problems at Colorado. "Both have
concerns about CU and the safety of its students," Lane said.

Owens' options include appointing a special prosecutor,
establishing another commission or working with the Legislature to
take action that could include a panel with subpoena powers.

For now, the commission appointed by the Board of Regents
remains the only investigative entity and it has run into its own
problems ahead of its first meeting next week.

Lawrence, a commission co-chair, was criticized for asking why
alleged assault victims had been at an alcohol-fueled party
attended by football recruits and players in 2001. Porter's
objectivity has been questioned because he helped lead a Christian
men's group launched by former Colorado football coach Bill
McCartney in the 1990s.

Both remain on the panel, which must issue a report by April 30
on whether the athletics program uses alcohol and sex to entice
recruits.

Some of those at the rally said they thought the school can
handle the investigation.

"It's a good opportunity for a big university to have an issue
like this and show that we can deal with it," said Stephanie
Koutavas, 20, a junior.