Viewpoint: The real problem with Dave Brandon


Published October 7, 2014

Last year, 50 Michigan students and I, under the leadership of the Student Union of Michigan, marched through the Diag to protest an Athletic Department that cared more about its money than our safety. The protest was in response to something I would assume most people have heard about by now. If you haven’t, I will sum it up as bluntly as I can: In 2009, Brendan Gibbons, who eventually became our football team’s starting kicker, sexually assaulted a girl. In the years following the event, the Athletic Department has all but covered up the incident. Gibbons went on to play for four more years as our school’s beloved kicker.

Sitting and studying on the fifth floor of the Hatcher Grad library last week, I was startled to hear 1,000 protesters, marching to do what we had intended to bring about less than a year ago. This protest, though, wasn’t initiated to fire the Athletic Department officials because of their rape-enabling cover-up. Indeed, it didn’t have anything to do with justice at all. This protest was a reaction to our team’s losing streak, mixed with the frustration about sophomore quarterback Shane Morris’ concussion and rising ticket prices. If justice had been the reason for last week’s protest, it would have occurred months, if not years ago.

Don’t get me wrong — I love our football team, and I too am upset by our losses and dwindling student attendance at the games. I stopped going to them this year because I, as well as other members of the Big House family, stopped feeling like fans and began feeling like data. To Brandon, we have all become the extension of his reign as Domino’s CEO. The fan base has morphed into a fan market, the importance of student support has been replaced by the importance of student dollars and most importantly, our safety has been compromised for our money.

Yet, what we all need to understand is that these issues — the low attendance at games, the exploitation of Shane Morris, the rising prices — are all part of Brandon’s same dehumanizing scheme that became immediately apparent when the Gibbons cover-up was revealed. That is why instead of marching against the Athletic Department for losing games and raising ticket prices, we should be marching for justice for the victim. We should be marching to let our University and Athletic Department know that we will not accept the mere lip service they pay to “our safety.” Until this occurs, and until Dave Brandon steps down for these reasons, we are all complicit in the sexual assault of a fellow student. And until we reassess what we are marching for, we are all committed to making this campus unsafe.

Jake Rothenberg is an LSA junior.