An analysis of the student complaints reveal a frustration with the current athletics director and a perceived favoritism toward football
More than 35 current and former San Jose State athletes signed a 19-page letter criticizing the management and priorities of the SJSU athletics department, following the Spartan Daily’s reporting on the alleged misuse of Spartan Foundation funds.
Delivered to President Mary Papazian on Tuesday, the letter is comprised of written accounts from 17 athletes, most of whom did not attach their names to the individual stories. However, some opted instead to sign their names among the list of people who endorsed the letter.
“The names above support the contents of this letter, while several of them contributed their testimony,” the letter’s conclusion stated.
Many of the same athletes who signed the letter requested the Spartan Daily not identify them in this article.
Some student-athletes alleged that the athletics department prioritized football heavily over all other sports and carried out excessive oversight on student-athlete affairs.
In response to the allegations made in the letter, SJSU Senior Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications and Marketing Christine Hutchins said in an email, “President Papazian takes student athletes’ concerns very seriously.”
Hutchins continued, “The university has initiated a careful review of the contents of the letter, will examine the claims, and will take appropriate action to address the issues raised.” Her full statement can be read below this article.
The first athlete’s testimonial in the letter stated that when she was a junior, she interned for Athlete Network, which she described as “like a LinkedIn site for athletes.”
One of her tasks was to meet with Athletics Director Marie Tuite and discuss what kind of things she as an intern was doing to help her fellow student-athletes.
The athlete described telling Tuite of her plans to access the Spartan Academics’ Instagram page and post information on resources provided by Athletic Network, to which she stated Tuite responded positively.
But when the athlete posted the information, she stated, it was immediately taken down from Instagram.
When she asked why, she stated that the person who manages the network’s Instagram account was told by Tuite to remove the post, without providing a reason.
Tuite declined to comment.
Another story shared in the letter by two student-athletes, one from the swim team and another from the softball team described an athletic board meeting on Mar. 8.
They stated it was meant to be a confidential setting for student representatives from each sport to speak on their grievances on the athletics department.
The students were unexpectedly greeted at the door by Tuite.
“Other athletes and I immediately felt uncomfortable because even though [Tuite] 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,” stated a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee member from the swim team.
Tuite’s presence outside of the board meeting was independently confirmed by the Spartan Daily through multiple sources.
“My personal favorite line of [Tuite]’s that sums up how she feels about the rest of the department is ‘I know many of you don’t think I care about you, but I have to spend the most time with football because they are the most important in this department’,” stated the same committee member from the swim team.
10 out of the 17 student-athletes who contributed to the letter specifically stated their dissatisfaction with the athletics department’s perceived prioritization of football over all other collegiate sports.
Identifying themselves as a member of the track team, one athlete stated that they felt, their program especially, did not exist unless the team was garnering publicity or buzz.
Another athlete that identified themselves as a softball player, wrote that they acknowledge football brings in the most revenue and a good football program is required for all other sports to thrive.
Yet, they continued, the prioritization caused some athletes to lose their hope of playing in Division I, the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the NCAA.
“Female athletes are in particular treated as a second best behind all male athletes when it comes to resources, support, interest,” the softball player wrote.
The anonymous softball player cited the “weight room environment” as an example of “the sexism softball players experience.”
Even when it was the softball team’s designated time to use the weight room, she stated, the team would be told to leave when the football players came to use the facility.
“Football has priority over [the weight room] even though they are in their off-season, while teams in-season lose sleep because of this,” she stated. “We are waking up at 5 a.m. to get to weights at 6 a.m.”
A diving alumnus wrote in the letters that she would not recommend SJSU to fellow female athletes, alleging that male-dominated sports were preferred in every area.
These areas, she claimed, included academic support, weight room availability, safety and quality facilities and access to athletic trainers.
Her grievances aside, the alumnus stated that she is still proud to call herself a former Spartan athlete.
“Going forward, 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,” she wrote.
Another athlete alleged that midway through the 2018-19 academic year, it was made known to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee that a representative within the athletics department would be reporting directly to Tuite on what was being discussed at each meeting.
“If student athletes can’t even work within their own groups without overzealous oversight from the director, the function of [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee] to ‘Generate a student-athlete voice within the San Jose State athletics department formulation of policies’ is altered to be the voice of the athletic director,” the athlete stated.
Christine Hutchins’ full statement: San Jose State University President Mary Papazian is committed to the well-being and success of all students. A number of student athletes wrote a letter that was delivered to President Papazian on May 21, 2019. In it, they voice their grievances against the athletic department and its leadership. President Papazian takes student athletes’ concerns very seriously. The university has initiated a careful review of the contents of the letter, will examine the claims, and will take appropriate action to address the issues raised.