Two who quit unhappy with campus culture

Updated: August 4, 2004, 7:28 PM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- A victim's counselor and a sex assault prevention expert have resigned from their jobs at the University of Colorado, saying they are unhappy with the campus culture.

Heather Sturm left her job at the Rape and Gender Education Program while Amy Robertson is stepping down as head of the school's victim assistance office.

Colorado has spent much of the year dealing with allegations that its football players or recruits were out of control. Nine women since 1997 have accused football athletes of rape, though no charges have been filed.

The university recently announced sweeping changes to the athletics department. Sturm, however, criticized school officials for rushing to put together a mandatory training program on sexual harassment for students.

"If it was really of concern to them, there may be a more deliberate effort of planning and implementing those sorts of programs, instead of just waving a wand and saying we have it," she said.

The school faces federal lawsuits from three women who claim they were sexually assaulted by football players or recruits. They blame the school for using sex to lure recruits to its football program and say the school failed to protect their rights under the federal Title IX law.

Robertson said she would leave her job for "a combination of personal and professional reasons."

"I'm feeling disheartened about the current campus climate," she said. "What has been going on certainly played a part in my decision."

An investigative commission appointed to look into the allegations concluded sex, drugs and alcohol were used by player-hosts in recruiting but there was no evidence Colorado officials "knowingly sanctioned" the activities. University president Betsy Hoffman has outlined a plan to increase oversight of the athletic department and improve how the school handles sexual assault allegations.

University spokeswoman Pauline Hale praised the work of both Sturm and Robertson.

"We regret that they feel disheartened by the events of the past few months," Hale said. "However, we believe the campus is taking appropriate and sustained action to address issues related to athletics, sexual harassment and violence against women."

Commission member Jean McAllister, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said she was troubled by the departures.

"I think that it indicates that CU is probably not taking the need for change seriously," she said.

In June, the head of Boulder County's rape crisis center cited the stress of the CU scandal in taking a two-month leave of absence. A claim at the time by Janine D'Anniballe, of Moving to End Sexual Assault, that she knew of other rape allegations against football players drew criticism and hate mail.

Meanwhile, two campus police officials -- including Chief Jim Fadenrecht -- announced their retirements Tuesday. The other officer was Tim Delaria, a 30-year veteran who recently had heart surgery.

Both Fadenrecht and Delaria have given sworn statements to attorneys representing women in the federal lawsuits.

In a deposition released in July, Delaria said he was frustrated with how the athletics department handled allegations that it uses sex and alcohol to lure recruits. Fadenrecht expressed dismay when the football program continued recruiting a high school player after he was accused of raping a student in 2001. The recruit was denied admission.

A campus police spokesman said both officers were leaving for personal reasons.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press