I live in a bubble.
I live in a world where bad things don’t happen to me. And in my bubble, bad things just happen in the movies and books.
But every time I learn that someone I know has been through a terrible situation, it makes me question everything and live in shock that people suffer in this way, with nowhere to go. I am so inspired by those who manage to live a full life after horrible things have occurred.
That bubble has recently vanished into thin air.
I don’t know what it feels like to be sexually assaulted or harassed. And as Lady Gaga preaches in her song “Til It Happens To You,” there is no way I can know how it feels.
But when I learned that the very team to which I was spending hours dedicating a 12-page issue had someone on its staff who had sexually harassed someone in a very similar position to the one I am in now, well I just felt sick.
On Monday, the public learned that Cal men’s basketball assistant coach Yann Hufnagel was being effectively fired after an investigation from the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, or OPHD, found that he violated the university’s sexual harassment policy.
The complainant in the case is a female reporter. A beat reporter for the team.
The number of sexual assault and harassment cases in Berkeley that have been coming to light have increased in the last few weeks. They have all been disheartening to hear about and disappointing because such influential people were allowed to maintain their jobs when they are capable of doing such things.
But it was the reveal of this very case that struck me. And the fact that head coach Cuonzo Martin, the leader of this team who is making more than a million dollars, may have known, is even worse. He was allegedly told by the complainant in May 2015 but allowed Hufnagel to stay on staff.
As the second consecutive female sports editor at The Daily Californian, I have a certain amount of pride in being able to out-knowledge many males with my knowledge of football plays or how much a specific offensive lineman weighs. Three of the four reporters currently covering the men’s basketball beat for the newspaper are female. It could have been any of us.
I have also been a sports reporter covering a variety of Cal Athletics for almost three years. Anything remotely close to this situation has never occurred to me. Sure, there have been jokes. And people commenting on my choice to wear heels. And the fact that I have only ever witnessed one non-Daily Cal female reporter regularly covering the men’s basketball team at Haas Pavilion this year.
But nothing like this.
This situation upsets me because it could have happened to me. It could have happened to one of the reporters on our staff.
And it’s not that I haven’t always been disgusted by sexual assault and harassment. It’s just that being able to put myself in her place was too easy. Too simple.
And the idea that it took OPHD from its meeting with Hufnagel in October 2015 until March 14 to come out with a report, allowing him to coach for almost an entire season, shows that there are errors with the way the current system is set up by the university. Not only did the report released Tuesday show that Hufnagel said negative things about the complainant, calling her a “total ditz” and that her car “smelled really bad,” but it also revealed that he admitted many things during that initial interview in October that directly broke the university’s policy.
And to think that something like this, that happened almost a year ago, could have happened again in the meantime should be a lesson for everyone. Just because you want to send sexually explicit texts, doesn’t mean that the recipient wants to read them. Should she have told Hufnagel that the messages made her uncomfortable more directly? That’s something much easier said than done. No one should be put in the situation where they have to compromise a work situation because someone is conducting one-sided sexual advances.
Hufnagel also differentiated to the investigators that he would not have had these conversations with “a Cal staff member.”
I love sports and I want to be involved with sports for the rest of my life.
But it’s instances like this and what happened to Erin Andrews and the fact that Greg Hardy was allowed to remain on a professional football team that make me question the thing I have come to be most passionate about.
No, sports is not the only place that these type of interactions occur. But for female sports reporters, it seems that no matter how hard they work or how good they are at their job, they are never put as high as their male colleagues. The top two Google search results when you look up “female sports reporter” are ranking them by how physically attractive they are. If that isn’t representative of an issue, I don’t know what is.
Things are getting better, but as a junior preparing to take this very career path, this is about as close to the heart as possible.
But it is hard to keep something that you are so disappointed in so close to your heart.