Student-athlete files discrimination complaint against head baseball coach Rob Penders


Nina Martinez/ Hilltop Views

Rob Penders joined the Hilltop in 2006 as the head coach of the men’s baseball team. The petition, made in an effort to terminate him from his role, is growing steadily.

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, President Montserrat Fuentes sent out a community-wide email addressing the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. In the email, she referenced a “recent and confidential athletics personnel matter” and how this matter “necessitated a thorough and comprehensive investigation conducted by an independent firm.” This investigation involves the university’s head baseball coach Rob Penders, who has been with the team since 2006. 

On Oct. 7, a petition was published and shared via social media, calling to “remove Coach Penders of St. Edward’s University for racist comments and discrimination.” The petition stated Penders was “investigated by the school and found guilty of the following claims: saying the N word in front of the team before a practice; telling Black student-athletes to remove their head coverings; and telling multiple Black players about his family’s racist history and being insensitive to the experiences of Black people.” The petition currently has 605 signatures, making 13% of the goal.

In a recent discussion with Lisa Kirkpatrick, the vice president of student affairs, she explained how the university conducted an investigation with an outside firm. “Once the complaint was made, an external firm was retained. It was really important for us to make sure that an independent investigation could take place and that independent firm then provided a full report of findings to the university,” Kirkpatrick said. “Those findings from the investigation did not support termination. The university had taken action and there have been consequences that are consistent with the university’s mission and policies.” Kirkpatrick is not able to speak to the details of the personnel matter due to privacy and confidentiality. 

According to the petition, Penders is required to “take cultural background classes.” We are still working to confirm this information. 

Grounds for termination are decided by the university who weighs the information provided to them. They then determine whether or not the event in question took place, whether it violated policies or laws; and then based on the determination, the consequences are determined. Termination and consequences are determined on “an analysis of the behaviors of concern,” rather than an outcome, Kirkpatrick said. 

While the petition addresses the current issue at hand, the goal is misleading. Whether or not it reaches the signature goal, such a medium will not have the power to determine the outcome of the investigation. However, Kirkpatrick explained the petition does call the university administration to focus on anti-racism and diversity, equity and inclusion. 

According to the Employee Handbook, “St. Edward’s prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, veterans’ status, sexual orientation.” After being addressed internally, if the student who filed the complaint is not satisfied with how the situation was addressed, he or she may file a complaint with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board after exhausting all other measures. 

St. Edward’s University is an NCAA Division II school. The baseball team adheres to both NCAA and the university’s policies. The 2021-22 NCAA Division II manual, which went into effect Aug.1, states “The Association shall promote an atmosphere of respect for

and sensitivity to the dignity of every person. It is the policy of the Association to refrain from discrimination with respect to its governance policies, educational programs, activities and employment policies, including on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, creed or sexual orientation.” However, the manual also states each Division II institution is responsible for determining its own policy on nondiscrimination. 

Hilltop Views continues to conduct further research and interviews with stakeholders, students and those directly affected by Penders’ actions. If you would like to provide further insight or information, email us at [email protected]