Liaison probed treatment of women at CU

Updated: May 2, 2004, 10:28 PM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- The former university president hired to examine how the troubled University of Colorado athletic department works says he hasn't seen the belittling atmosphere described by several female employees.

But John DiBiaggio, a temporary liaison between the athletic department and the CU president's office, told The Daily Camera that there seems to be some validity to women's concerns about the lack of opportunity in the department.

DiBiaggio, a former president of Tufts, Michigan State and Connecticut universities, was hired by CU President Elizabeth Hoffman and Chancellor Richard Byyny to assess the culture of the school's athletics.

The treatment of women has become an issue as an independent commission appointed by CU regents and the state attorney general separately investigate claims that the football program uses sex and alcohol-fueled parties as recruiting tools.

At least eight women since 1997 have accused players and recruits of rape, but no charges have been filed. The university has been sued in federal court by three of the women, who say it fostered a hostile environment in violation of federal law guaranteeing equal access to education.

A 2003 survey of female employees of the athletic department that was released last week during the independent commission's hearing showed that several women were concerned about off-color comments and a "good old boys" network.

"It does seem to me in looking at the structure that there's some legitimacy in some women's' concerns about opportunity," DiBiaggio said Thursday. "You see opportunities that have apparently become available and the women have not been promoted or been given opportunities to compete for them."

In general, though, the athletic department is "not as as bad as it might appear," DiBiaggio said.

CU spokeswoman Pauline Hale said the university will still seriously consider the survey results and discrimination complaints.

DiBiaggio said his assessment doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. He has met with students, faculty members and area residents. This week, he is meeting individually with football players.

He has also talked to Jeannie Dixon, a former athletic department employee who has filed a gender-discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

DiBiaggio expects to remain on the job until at least mid-May. He said he is revealing his findings to Hoffman and Byyny weekly and doesn't expect to submit a formal report or recommendations.

"I think one of the most important things to be addressed here is assuring accountability for university procedures and policies and statutes as well, which protect people's right based on gender," DiBiaggio said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press