The following are excerpts from the 19-page letter that San Jose State Division I athletes delivered to President Mary Papazian on Tuesday containing grievances against the athletic department and its leadership. Some student athletes chose to identify themselves in the letter, while others remained anonymous.
To whom it may concern:
We, the San Jose State student-athletes, have endured multiple injustices that we seek to correct for the good of future Spartans so that they may be able to flourish without the adversities we have faced in our tenures. This letter includes accounts from several student-athletes, both current and former, who are hoping that how they had been treated by the department will shed light upon former practices and share the way the department will be handled in the future. From the Athletic Director Marie Tuite, to the sports medicine department, protocols and students themselves are being mismanaged.
Shona Spikes (2017-2018 SJSU swimmer)
“Mid-September 2017, less than a month to my being at the school, I was traumatized and raped in my own dorm room. I was not under the influence of anything; in fact, I had the flu. It was around 9 o’clock at night, and I had to wake up and attend practice the very next morning . . . I lost twenty pounds and couldn't sleep because of the waking nightmares . . . I maintained a 3.7 GPA for both semesters . . . I met with Title IX and the police, told them my story, every painful part of my story, and felt ultimately dismissed by the school. My rapist was AND IS on the SJSU baseball team . . . I lived in the same dorm as him the whole school year, avoiding taking the elevators, avoiding social athlete events, changing the route I walked to classes, and ABSOLUTELY avoiding the dining commons . . . Title IX gave me minimal solutions to my pain, noting that I simply did not have any evidence and therefore nothing could really be done . . . They also informed me that since he was an athlete, I was not allowed to disclose his name or my story to anyone else . . . The SJSU athletic department, in my opinion, is a giant political scheme . . . Not only was I the victim of a traumatizing sexual assault, the whole situation was swept under the rug by the athletic department . . . Real change needs to come to the department so no other athlete has to endure the pain that I did and still am.”
“My back went into full spasm . . . This not only affected my athleticism, but it affected my walking, ability to climb stairs, sit in class . . . Two months went by and my roomates still needed to help me tie my shoes. My coach told me to see an off-campus physical therapist . . . I was not issued an MRI until my parents asked . . . It turned out that I had fluid leaking from two vertebrae in my lower back . . . But before I knew that I had fluid leaking, my athletic trainer decided to read my MRI herself, run down to practice, and tell my coach that I had massive tumors . . . My coach then had to pull me out, tell me I had cancer, call my parents and send them into a fit . . . there was no possible way that I could have cancer based on my exam . . . I was healthy . . . I was told to take ibuprofen as if it were a magic pill . . . [I] was told by the head of athletic training that I was not able to have chiropractic work covered by the school because it was ‘outside the scope of my injury’ . . . I reported a sexual assault . . . What has stuck with me about the whole situation was when I was asked, ‘Does your team not have enough education on sexual assaults, because you all seem to be the problem.’ . . . Making victims feel as though THEY are the issue rather than the assailants . . . I was in the athletics board meeting in the spring. Upon our arrival, the conference room door opened, and none other than Marie Tuite was there to greet all of us as we went into what was supposed to be a confidential meeting where we would be free to speak all of our grievances. Other athletes and I immediately felt uncomfortable because even though Marie likely would have known which sports had been at the meeting if she had not been there, she would not have known exactly which athletes were there from each team. There is no trust in the department . . . My personal favorite line of Marie’s that sums up how she feels about the rest of the department is ‘I know many of you don’t think that I care about you, but I have to spend the most time with football because there are the most important to this department’ . . . I personally hope that this department will figure out how to function not as a dictatorship, but as a team.”
“Marie Tuite is the opposite of what an athletic director should be, especially a female athletic director. She prides herself on being one of the few female [athletic directors] in Division I, but gives no support to female athletic programs at San Jose State. In fact, she is a conniving and deceitful person who should not hold such an esteemed position . . . Marie also can be deceitful and coerce staff members of her cabinet to try and pry information from athletes about our teams . . . Those staff members of her cabinet do not know when to stop, and go beyond what is considered ‘small talk’ when trying to ask student-athletes if ‘Everything is going okay at practice and games,’ ‘Did this really happen?’ Turning a simple academics meeting into a middle school gossip session that we did not sign up for. This is an abuse of power . . . We have invited Marie to functions such as a dinner during our double-days to extend an arm when she refused to extend a finger. We got no response at all. She blew us off . . . Marie completely leaked information about Chase Turner and Peter Turner’s Title IX investigation to staff members when it was supposed to be confidential. She also prolonged Chase Turner’s probation during the Title IX investigation several times, and for what reason? We never had any. Was this for personal reasons, to emotionally put Chase Turner through the wringer? It sounds and feels personal. The SJSU softball team had no hitting coach for 6 months due to the fact that Marie did not allow us to have any contact with Chase. Marie Tuite seems to have a personal vendetta against male coaches: Peter Turner (disliked, investigated), Chase Turner (disliked, investigated), Sage Hopkins (disliked, investigated), Aaron [Shepardson] from beach volleyball (disliked, investigation pending).
“Marie Tuite has a blatant favoritism toward ‘revenue’ sports and completely disregarded anyone else unless they were winning . . . I felt like my whole senior year, the year we won, we were trying to prove that we deserved to have a field to practice and play on as we spent most of our season on the football field. We should not have felt that way. But that is the culture she created.”
“I was misdiagnosed by two team doctors regarding my throwing elbow. They each quickly glanced at my MRI and told me there was nothing wrong and no further procedures were necessary. My family took it upon themselves to receive an opinion outside of SJSU athletics were the specialist confirmed that my UCL was entirely torn through and ruptured . . . I had played with a ruptured UCL for months . . . Now moving forward with Tommy John surgery . . . If it was not for my family seeking a third opinion, I would have not known that my UCL was ruptured and possibly would have missed my window to repair it under SJSU insurance . . . This is not the first instance of misdiagnosis within the baseball team through SJSU team doctors . . . Following SJSU baseball’s historic season last year, our head coach Brad Sanfilippo was honored . . . Marie held a signing day . . . Toward the end of the ceremony, Marie brought up the football team and how it is her top priority. She asked for football funding . . . Brad’s historic day was dampened by Marie’s football rant that is so often given at other sport’s functions.”
“Around the time Marie was hired as the full-time athletic director after being interim AD from February to May 2017, she showed up at the airport once we arrived in San Jose after winning the conference and very few of our players knew who she was because of the lack of support. As a matter of fact, myself and most of my teammates could not match her face to her name because she was never seen at any of our team events and had never taken the time to introduce herself . . . She came with the trophy and wanted to be a part of our winning program after we had won the conference without a home field. We played our whole season on a field in Mission College in which we did not see Marie at any of our off-site competitions. This was extremely disappointing for us because we felt like we were on our own island with little to no support from our own athletic director . . . I completely understand that football is the biggest revenue sort . . . However, athlete here at San Jose State have lost all hope in their dream of playing Division I sports . . . the weightroom environment is an example of the sexism that the softball players experience . . . The softball team brought to Marie’s attention, through end of the year comment forms, that we were mistreated in the weight room. We were kicked out when football players came in to use the facility even if it was our designated time. We were, and still are, currently told by our male peers that the weight room is ‘football’s facility.’ . . . Football has priority in the weight room from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. . . . We are waking up at 5 a.m. to get to weights at 6 a.m. We have already expressed our concerns in past years but nothing has changed in the culture of our weight room . . . Football has priority over the times they lift even through they are in their off-season, while teams in season lose sleep because of this . . . Marie Tuite has created a culture within San Jose State Athletics by putting males ahead of females.
“I decided to tell the Athletic Board about softball’s experience with Human Resources and Marie. We had undergone a grueling investigation regarding our assistant coach, Chase Turner. The investigation was nearly nine months long and involved sexual misconduct . . . During this investigation, most of the softball team was called into HR to be questioned regarding the claims of the anonymous letter that was turned in. These questions had been extremely leading . . . If [players interviewed] did not give them the answers they wanted, they would word the same question differently to hope we would get confused and answer differently . . . We understood that we could not discuss the details of the investigation but it would be nice to know that [Tutie] is there for us when we need her, instead we were left feeling that we had no one to turn to. To my surprise, following my comments about Marie, almost every single athlete in the room began to speak about their unsatisfactory experiences with Marie. Even the football player apologized and was disgusted . . . It is important to note that Peter Turner and the entire coaching staff plays an immense role in why I continue to play here . . . They take care of us, they care about us like we are family . . . Imagine trying to prepare your Division I athletes for a softball competition with a turf football field, that is like preparing a basketball team for competition on grass without a hoop . . . Marie unfortunately has not, and I am unsure if she is capable to, because we have expressed our concerns with her in our end of the year surveys following a meeting full of insincere, empty promise and there has been little to no change.”
“Marie Tuite is one of the most incompetent staff members at San Jose State University let alone to be in the position as athletic director . . . Her excuse for lack of knowledge for what is going on with any other sports program is to remind us that ‘football must come first.’ While that may be the case for universities with successful football programs, she has failed to see that this is not the case for San Jose State . . . Her sense of urgency to address the fact of no baseball facility has been close to none. Yet the program with 3 wins over the last 2 seasons continuously is recognized and rewarded . . . The negative response she has garnered from a handful of student-athletes and sports programs is a clear indication that she should be in no position as the athletic director at San Jose State University.”
“I was not pleased with the general operations of the Athletic Training Department. I sustained an injury early on in my collegiate career . . . After my surgery, I participated in consistent and extensive therapy with the athletic trainers . . . To this day, I am rather disappointed . . . The scarring from the incision is still unsightly and the duration of time it took to fully recover was discouraging . . . The hospital and rehabilitation bills were not attended to early on by my trainers, so collections ended up coming for my family, placing a financial burden on them . . . I would advise SJSU to invest in another sports medicine doctor.”
“The current state of the athletics department from a student athlete’s point of view does not paint the department in a good light. It can be better represented as a department run under the themes commonly found in an Orwellian novel . . . Tutie has made efforts to contain information within the departments and sports teams and control what athletes know and do with information . . . It was made known to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, SAAC, that a representative within the athletic department would be reporting to Marie directly . . . This gave Tuite a way to promote fear of speaking out within the board, the ability to respond immediately to ideas or opinions that contrasted those held by herself or the athletic department . . . The function of SAAC is to, “Generate a student-athlete voice within the San Jose State athletics department formulation policies,” is altered to be the voice of the athletic director . . . The actions of Tuite are akin to those of Big Brother ensuring that nothing is too far out of her reach . . . The student athletes at San Jose deserve an AD who doesn’t need to hide behind scare tactics and deceiving rhetoric.”
“I was standing on the sidelines at the spring football game … Marie walked up to me. She proceeded to greet the football players warmly before walking over to me, reaching out a hand to shake, and introduce herself to me like she had never seen me before. To preface, I am a senior captain on a team which requires weekly meetings in the athletic department. It is not as if she had never seen, much less spoken to me before . . . I state “Hi my name is (anonymous) and I am a senior captain and you should know who I am.” She looked as though she were in a drunken haze, confused about my statement and disoriented with what to do next. She removed her hand and gave me the most uncomfortable hug . . . If you are going to preach the importance of being a female director, you should at the very least put some effort into you FEMALE athletes . . . I love San Jose State, but I will not support a tyrannical leader.”
“Many health concerns were brought up with our facility in the four years I was training there . . . In my fourth and final year competing at a championship event, we were finally given an athletic trainer to travel with the team . . . Class scheduling and academic planning and support were often rescheduled time and time again because those who were supposed to help us never had the time . . . Coaches and chloe friends have been hushed and retaliated against when they attempted to address concerns with department administrators . . . Sexual assault cases were swept under the rug, making us feel violated, unsafe and unimportant . . . We would like to make sure that Spartan female athletes continue to have the same pride in their school without having to pay the prices we paid. We hope that our knowledge and our stories can create a future Spartan family that empowers female athletes, teaching them that they are equally important and equally valued . . . As much as I would love to financially support the school that made me who I am today, I hesitate to give any of my money because I do not feel confident that it is going to support these causes I feel so strongly for. When I give to San Jose State, I want to know that my money is being used to support athletes in the classroom and on the field no matter their sport or gender. I want to be confident that my school is fighting for equality in sports, and the safety and mental health of all their athletes. I want o know that the coaches who shaped us into the incredible women we are today are being supported to do the jobs at which they are so incredible and selfless to show up for day in and day out. When I see an athletic administration who can carry out these values, I will be truly proud to support my Spartan family.”
“I am a Spartan through and through . . . It is with great disgust and sadness that I say I witnessed almost each and every one of those beloved people be harassed and abused by one of the most manipulative and vile human beings I have ever had the unfortunate reality of coming into contact with: Director of Athletics Marie Tuite . . . Tutie treats her employees/colleagues/student-athletes worse than most people would treat prisoners of war. She is brilliant only in her two-faced manipulation. I do not have a positive [thing] to say about the woman and she is without a doubt unfit to lead or even be employed . . . Each day she spends in a position of power is a slap in the face of the institution . . . Tutie’s closet full of skeletons is extensive at SJSU. Should whoever finds this letter pursue justice by investigating her actions, they will open a Pandora’s Box of horror stories. Should half of those stories be baked by fact, which I assure you they will be, they will surely be worthy of termination. Do the right thing.”
“Money is the answer. From a conflict perspective we can see what is happening here. The people in power (athletic director Marie Tuite and university President Mary Papazian) are doing their best to hold the department together through power . . . Conflict theorist follows the idea that inequality is created and maintained by people who are trying to remain in control over the system and I feel as if this is the perfect example of the athletic director and president . . . The problems being presented through this based on social class creating tensions between the proletariats (athletes) and the bourgeoisie (athletic department) . . . The traditional Marxist idea follows that health care isn’t a right but is valued and given to the highest bidder and in this case, other sports . . . There have been complaints of sports teams traveling to games and meets without their athletic trainers because the teams that bring more revenue need them more . . . Why is it that whenever it comes to the small details behind it compliance tries to bypass the issues and not benefit everyone for the greater good? . . . Gender inequality exist because it targets the group in power. In this case, within athletics, the group in power would be considered the football and basketball team . . . If the track and field program received the same amount of funding, community support, support of the athletic director, and faith in the program from outside parties, we could find ways to avoid or resolve these issues.”
“We won conferences and we received a fake recognition from our athletic director, Marie Tuite, who showed up to send us to UCLA . . . She showed up to one of the days at UCLA and got upset that the team and parents were not welcoming of her. We had no respect for someone who was giving us no respect and giving us no plans for our field. We won conference with NO field . . . We went without a hitting coach all fall due to false allegations and we still took second place in conference . . . Marie has not supported us as the most winningest team on campus and has treated us unfairly throughout my senior year. She never speaks to us, and at the beginning of my senior year during the investigation all we got was ‘My door is always open if you need anything’ and that was it.”
We, the Spartans who, over the years have contributed countless hours, blood sweat, tears and our lives to the programs at San Jose State, understand that the department itself is in desperate need of a reorganization. Student athletes should not be afraid to come forward with issues because they know their coaches are retaliated against as a result. We should not be afraid to let our voices be heard. We are receiving educations meant to must us better citizens, but beaten down in the background for using our skills. Most of the aoe have chosen to remain anonymous for their words to not worry about being retaliated against by the current regime. Please know that we are proud Spartans, but cannot simply “deal’ with these situations any longer. We can do better. San Jose can be better. We MUST do better if not for us, then for the Spartans to come after us.”