Such students will be prohibited from receiving sports scholarships, competing in games or attending practices, the university said Tuesday
The move follows a recent outcry on campus over what some students have called a pervasive “rape culture” at UTSA.
The new policy is known as the Tracy Rule, named for Brenda Tracy, an Oregon woman who reported being gang-raped by four men, including two Oregon State University football players, in 1998.
She became an advocate for victims of sexual violence and has toured the country, telling her story at campuses to raise awareness and push for tougher sanctions against sexual predators.
Tracy visited UTSA earlier this year and met with students and faculty, including members of the athletic staff and student-athletes. The visit paved the way for the university’s adoption of the Tracy Rule.
Effective this semester, any current or prospective athlete who has been convicted or has pleaded guilty or no contest to a crime involving violence or sexual abuse will be excluded from university athletics. The ban applies to student who were found guilty of such offenses as juveniles.
Student-athletes who have been disciplined by other universities or their athletic departments for serious misconduct would also be barred.
“Sexual assault and misconduct are never, ever acceptable,” UTSA athletics director Lisa Campos said in a statement. “By implementing the UTSA Tracy Rule, we are letting current and prospective student-athletes know that UTSA is a community where conduct off the field is just as important as conduct on the field.”
Current student-athletes and those transferring to UTSA are being required to fill out a survey documenting any history of violence or sexual misconduct.
UTSA said the rule was “the first of its kind” and “the most comprehensive” policy on sexual misconduct among NCAA member schools.
Student can apply for a waiver from the rule. The university said all such requests must be approved by a five-member advisory panel that includes the university’s Title IX coordinator, who is responsible for handling sexual assault accusations. If that panel recommends a waiver, a senior university official outside the athletics department would have to approve.
The university did not say under what circumstances waivers would be granted.
For months, a group of female students have called on the university to improve its handling of sexual misconduct and abuse cases, both on and off campus.
“It’s past due,” Kimiya Factory, a senior who helped organize the #ChangeRapeCulture movement at UTSA, said of the Tracy Rule. “This should have been something put into place a long time ago.”
On ExpressNews.com: UTSA students go public with allegations of campus assaults
Factory, 21, was one of the UTSA students who organized an informal meeting last November for students to share their experiences with sexual assault and what they considered the inadequacy of the university’s response. About 40 women showed up.
Within days, unsigned fliers surfaced at an apartment complex near campus. The flyers identified male students alleged to have raped women.
The organizers of the meeting said they had no idea who had created the flyers. University officials never found out either, although they hired a law firm to do so. In the aftermath, UTSA hired a separate law firm to examine its policies surrounding sexual assault.
Kimiya said Tuesday that she doesn’t think the Tracy Rule goes far enough. She wants to see the university focus on victims of sexual assault and the barriers they face when reporting crimes.
“They feel rushed. They feel not believed,” she said. “And they feel discouraged from pursuing any actual action.”
In a 2015 survey, slightly more than 23 percent of undergraduate female respondents said they had been subjected to sexual assault or misconduct while in college, according to the Association of American Universities.
Tracy was 24 and a waitress in Oregon when she and a girlfriend attended a small gathering at the apartment of an Oregon State defensive back. She woke up to find one of the men on top of her, having sex with her as someone shouted “Yea dog!” according to police reports.
Tracy told police she was force-fed alcohol, violated with a flashlight and raped by at least two of the men as the others watched.
Two Oregon State players and two other men were charged with sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration and other offenses, and two were charged with rape. Prosecutors dropped all the charges, however, after Tracy refused to cooperate. She said she had received death threats.
Mike Riley, then head coach at Oregon State, imposed one-game suspensions on his two players and described the young men as “really good guys who made a bad choice.”
Riley later apologized for the statement, and in 2016 he invited Tracy to the University of Nebraska, where he was then head coach, to speak to his players about sexual assault.
When Tracy visited UTSA in February of this year, she said she met with one of the women leading the #ChangeRapeCulture movement. But Tracy said discussions to bring her to campus had been under way for months before the campus uproar over sexual assault.
“I did not get the feeling from them that this is why they did the rule, but I told them there’s nothing wrong with action,” Tracy said of UTSA officials. “Every campus has this issue.”
On ExpressNews.com: University of Texas at San Antonio releases new sex assault allegations
To support Tracy’s consciousness-raising campaign, UTSA held three #SetTheExpectation sporting events in the spring, including a softball game on April 9 in which Tracy traveled to campus to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
UTSA has additional #SetTheExpectation events planned, including the football team’s game against Southern Mississippi on Nov. 16 at the Alamodome.
“I hope that other schools will follow their example and make student safety, accountability and transparency a priority,” Tracy said, “not just through their words but in policy reform, as UTSA has done.”
Marina Starleaf Riker is an investigative reporter for the San Antonio Express-News with extensive experience covering affordable housing, inequality and disaster recovery. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @MarinaStarleaf