At a forum on minors’ on-campus safety on Sept. 24, the director of the University’s athletic camps admitted to “significant gaps” in the University’s ability to oversee the safety of more than 9,000 minors in attendance. For instance, Athletic Camp administrator Katie Miranto highlighted flaws in the University’s background checks, acknowledging that the system didn’t account for crimes committed outside of Michigan — meaning out-of-state applicants, who make up approximately 33 percent of all camp staff, might not be fully scrutinized before beginning to work with children. While the Athletic Department’s acknowledgement of program flaws is a refreshing admission and steps have already been taken to amend the process, it points to a serious lack of prioritization within the Athletic Department.
It’s encouraging to see that the Athletic Department is taking the appropriate steps to fix this important hole in the system. In a letter to the editor of The Michigan Daily, David Ablauf, the Athletic Department’s spokesman, wrote that the Athletic Department has invested in the “hiring of a full-time administrator who focuses daily on the summer camps, stepped up safety and security training for the camp director and counselors, establishment of a tracking and location system for campers and coaches, development of facility emergency plans that are widely shared and annual audits of the camps to assure compliance with our policies.” The Athletic Department took the correct steps to solve this problem and did it quickly. However, it’s discouraging to see that this was overlooked in the first place.
The real problem here is something that the Athletic Department can’t necessarily solve with a new hire or advanced training. The Athletic Department has come under criticism lately — and rightly so — for spending money on trite endeavors, such as paying for 55 skywritten messages at $100 a piece. While this is a drop in the bucket for the Athletic Department’s budget, and may very well be a smart marketing move, marketing comes after child safety. Money clearly isn’t the issue. Priorities are.
It’s troubling that it took this long to find gaps in the program. There’s a serious lack of communication within the department. A full-time administrator for summer camps was needed from day one; hiring someone after a problem was found is a good preventative move for the future, but it doesn’t change the fact that this oversight should have always been in place. The Athletic Department has no problem investing in new ways to market themselves. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t spend this time looking within and making sure their programs are safe.