I don’t know if you celebrate Halloween. Actually, I don’t really care whether you do or not. I want to talk about myself. I can’t afford a proper therapist, and I consider abusing the general public on a weekly basis just as good, if not better, than paying a stranger $100 an hour to talk to me. Either way, I never leave the couch.
In any case, I never much cared for Halloween, not since the kids in my neighborhood started wearing Shredder costumes when I was just a wee mite. Mostly, it stems from the greedy nature of the holiday: children running wild through the streets, snorting lines of Pixie Stix and shaking down neighbors for candy. What kind of life lessons are we offering? If you demand something loudly enough while wearing a ridiculous costume, you’ll get it for free? That’s an economic lesson that doesn’t fly in the real world, unless of course you’re “too big to fail,” or if you used to coach at Cal Poly.
Cal Poly just penned an agreement with former volleyball coach Jon Stevenson that landed him $133,980 just to leave his job nicely. That’s the amount of money he would have been paid had he continued working through the end of his contract in December.
While teachers who are doing their job aren’t even getting bonuses or raises they’ve been contractually promised, the guy who mentally and emotionally tortured his team was let go with both fists stuffed tight with cash and the equivalent of a three-month paid vacation? Way to go, Cal Poly. Your students are getting an inspired lesson in economics, ethics, and management.
And yeah, there are a few protective clauses. Stevenson’s been prohibited from contacting current players and their parents, as well as Cal Poly coaches and athletic department personnel. Gee, that sounds familiar. Stevenson being told he was not allowed to contact Cal Poly volleyball players? Actually, that’s what the university did when Stevenson was accused of being, and found to be, a creep to his players. Except last time Cal Poly made that decision and then forgot to tell all the players. I’m guessing Cal Poly Athletic Director Don Oberhelman is going to make damned sure that rule is more strictly enforced now that it’s his butt on the line.
When we talk about Stevenson’s screw-ups, most of our information comes from a Cal Poly report produced after a 2010 investigation into his behavior, spawned by complaints from more than a dozen players and parents. Despite the fact that the report was more damning than a smoking gun, Cal Poly apparently decided it just didn’t have enough reason to fire him for sexual harassment.
Pantsing players? Racial slurs? Sexually suggestive comments? Coming to their houses? Kissing them? Inviting them out on dates? The report was packed with allegations that Cal Poly found to be credible. I’m willing to bet that had this been a coach with a less winning record, he would have been fired so fast his head would be spinning. Instead, the university buried it for as long as possible, to the extent that somewhat-new Athletic Director Oberhelman insisted to New Times that he was unaware of any of it. We know now that Oberhelman’s pants are singed from lying—either to New Times or everyone else—because when the university decided to let Stevenson go, a mere day or two after his interview with New Times, he insisted that he’d been investigating the issue for several months.
So, that’s it, right? I mean, Cal Poly let the guy go. What else do you want? Except that their conduct and decision-making throughout the entire process might be construed as less than conscionable for most. Me? I tend to think of Cal Poly’s higher ups as a secret club so afraid of bad press and lawsuits they’re willing to kick ethics and principle to the curb.
Stevenson wasn’t fired because his players were terrified of him—he was replaced because he was a liability. Cal Poly was protecting its own ass, rather than the interests of the students who pay dearly to learn and compete there. The lesson to be learned here is you can abuse your students for three years, spend the last three months of your contract on paid vacation, and walk away with a bag of sweet, sweet settlement.
The traumatized players, however, are left with nothing—not even closure. And they must want something. I have it on pretty good authority that some of his former players were sufficiently traumatized that they’re now taking medication to help them recover. I’m not suggesting a litigious course of action, of course, as I always figure I’m the most likely person to end up on the wrong side of a gavel, but I do wonder: Should the people shaking hands with faux amicability be nervous?
The agreement also doesn’t prohibit players from standing up to, um, I don’t know, Cal Poly for failing to protect them, for paying someone who psychologically tormented them, for ignoring their many complaints both verbal and written. After all, they now know that Stevenson’s walking away from this situation with a hefty wad of cash, and Cal Poly has done a piss-poor job of giving him the spanking he so rightly deserves. Are some of them angry—especially, for that matter, since Cal Poly must be swimming in cash, given that they’ve blinged out the newly instated President Armstrong with $380,000 a year, in addition to free housing?
Nothing will likely come from any of this. If someone made up a care package with a lavender-scented love note from an attorney with a reputation for castrating egocentric institutions that think they’re untouchable, I’d be surprised. But then, I was never a Cal Poly volleyball player.
Shredder knows no one’s untouchable if your back-scratcher is long enough. Send back rubs to firstname.lastname@example.org.