Auburn University president Chris Roberts has vowed that power-based abuse will never go unchecked at the school, in a series of emails sent to concerned supporters and alumni after the athletics department’s hiring of Hugh Freeze as head football coach.
Freeze comes to Auburn from Liberty University, a private school currently the subject of federal investigation by the Department of Education reportedly over how the university handles claims of sexual misconduct by students. Freeze also defended Liberty’s hiring of athletics director Ian McCaw, who was sanctioned and placed on probation by Baylor University before he resigned there amid a massive scandal that saw multiple Baylor football players jailed on sexual assault charges.
“It is never permissible to ignore instances of power-based personal violence or abuse,” Roberts said in replies to emails sent to him by Auburn supporters and alumni. “By every measurement, practice, and action Auburn University takes this very seriously and with our multi-level approach of education, prevention, policing, security and support, we keep Auburn safe. Our record is clear on that point.
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“In those instances when infractions do occur, Auburn will take swift action to investigate and, when necessary, punish the offenders.”
In carefully compiled emails, Roberts lists safeguards currently in place at Auburn, from the emergency phones lining campus to the Title IX office staff and the Safe Harbor program, with more listed between.
Roberts also sent various replies to various emailers depending on the content of their complaints or concerns. While some replies circulating on social media thank the emailers for their concerns, Roberts has sent another reply to at least one sexual assault survivor offering remorse and attempting to validate their experience: “I am so sorry this happened to you, and it pains me to learn that this was your experience. It took a lot of courage for you to write to me about this,” he opens that email.
He closed by telling the survivor he hoped they remain engaged with Auburn. “We are stronger as a family.”
In regard to Freeze, Roberts reiterated what athletics director John Cohen has said by saying the search process was “extensive” and that Auburn landed on the decision to hire Freeze after “detailed” evaluation.
“As I have said many times, I want every person on this campus to feel welcomed, valued, respected and engaged, and that includes our alumni and fans,” Roberts said. “Chief among my goals as President is maintaining a culture of excellence — in all that we do and say. My north star is the Auburn Creed. If there are instances where we do not live up to the principles of the Creed, we will acknowledge our failings and we will correct our shortcomings. That I can promise you.”
The resources at Auburn that Roberts pointed to are as follows:
Auburn Police Division University Precinct officers patrolling the campus 24 hours a day.
Auburn University security officers contracted and employed for after-hours shifts.
Nearly 200 blue light emergency phones that dial directly to 911.
Door-to-door on-campus transportation from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week while classes are in session.
An extensive security camera system.
A free Auburn Safety app, which includes features such as “Friend Walk,” ability to submit a tip, “How to Respond” guide and sexual violence resources.
Safe Harbor, a confidential resource, that supports those experiencing personal violence, including dating/domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking/harassment.
A 24/7 crisis phone number (334-844-7233).
Auburn University provides Information on existing sexual assault prevention and awareness programming in the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.
He also pointed to the following programming he said prevents power-based violence and abuse within the university and its athletics department:
Auburn provides two prevention/education programs to incoming students:
All students participating in Camp War Eagle, or CWE, and Successfully Orienting Students, or SOS, participate in programming specifically designed to share policy, resources and bystander-related content.
All incoming students are invited to participate in EVERFI’s AlcoholEdu for College and Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates online pre-matriculation course.
Auburn participates in the Green Dot bystander intervention program aimed at decreasing power-based personal violence through active and passive interactions.
In the fall of 2021, Health Promotion and Wellness Services, or HPWS, implemented the Raise the Bar initiative — a bystander training aimed specifically at providing restaurant and bar staff the skills and resources necessary to intervene when alcohol and power-based personal violence moments occur.