Valdosta State University Baseball Coach Cleared Of Racial Discrimination In Hair-Length Controversy In Georgia
Valdosta State University in Georgia concluded an investigation sparked by a viral video posted on Aug. 22 in which a coach can be heard telling a player, Asher Akridge, that his hair was too long to play baseball for the university. Coach Greg Guilliams was eventually allowed to return to his duties after it was deemed that his conduct towards a former player did not constitute racial discrimination or harassment.
According to WCTV, the university found that the coach was in violation of other guidelines–“the requirement to act as a good steward of VSU’s resources and information entrusted to its care” and also the requirement “to treat fellow employees, students, and the public with dignity and respect.”
Though the judge investigated the university for five weeks, it was determined the allegations against Coach Gulliams were inconsistent. What was found, however, was that the coach applied the team hair length policy not to every player, and, in fact, certain students of various racial backgrounds were allowed to skirt the policy for months at a time. The university will be reviewing the policy, extending an invitation to the affected student to return to the program, and requiring Gulliams to participate in leadership training focusing on interpersonal and multi-generational communication and conflict management.
The Valdosta Daily Times reviewed the report and concluded that “At the time of the video, Mr. Akridge shared that he had cut his hair. The picture that he took when the video was posted indicated that his hair was off the ears and neck. Further, when he met with HR on Aug. 23, his hair was off his ears and neck. While some of the other team members (both minority and non-minority) did have hair that was on their neck (untapered) and touching their collar, Mr. Akridge’s hair was in regulation at that point. While the decision could have included other reasons, including his belief that Mr. Akridge had quit the team, Coach Guilliams made it almost entirely about the hair length.”
According to WCTV, the university released a statement once the investigation had reached its conclusion.
“VSU is a special place for all students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and it was critical that this investigation be given the time and attention it deserved,” the university said. “VSU remains dedicated to maintaining a fair, respectful, and non-discriminatory environment for all, and that work will continue.”
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