10/24/2015 update: From the Ornstein stories in the Chronicle and ProPublica:
“I don’t blame the University of Oregon for a rape,” she said. “It’s not their fault. I blame them for how they responded to it. I found out months later that every single meeting I had with a therapist, she took detailed notes on, and the University of Oregon had read these notes before I had even seen them.”
And now there’s a Slate op-ed about the reports, here:
Viewing medical records for medical reasons could help a university protect a student at risk of harm. But the University of Oregon’s meddling into Hanson’s private account of her rape would have only helped the university protect itself. The value of therapy lies in the patient’s expectation of confidentiality; if a student thinks her private exchanges with a doctor could resurface in the office of a university administrator, helping her heal will be much harder. A therapist’s office can be one of the only safe spaces available to a rape survivor on a college campus. Exploiting that trust to try to avoid paying a legal settlement is a cynical maneuver that can only exacerbate an already-low rape reporting rate.
The Jane Doe records seizure happened on Doug Park and Sam Hill’s watch. The Hanson incident apparently took place while Randy Geller was GC. I think the correct phrase here is “institutional betrayal”.
10/23/2015: Chronicle and ProPublica report on UO counseling record confidentiality
Reporting by Charles Ornstein, here. He picks up on the report first made in the Eugene Weekly in May by Camilla Mortensen, below. (Without citing her – wow is that bad form.)
Ornstein gets Doug Park to offer a complete and utter apology for the UO General Counsel Office’s behavior in these two cases:
In one case, Laura Hanson, who said she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student at the University of Oregon in 2013, pursued a claim against her alma mater over what she saw as a drawn-out investigation of the incident, which ultimately substantiated her account. Ms. Hanson learned that university lawyers had obtained her confidential counseling records without her permission, not as part of their investigation into her sexual-assault allegations, but in response to her claim that the school hadn’t investigated urgently enough.
“I felt like they were trying to undermine me,” she said.
The university eventually settled Ms. Hanson’s claim for $30,000. Doug Park, the university’s deputy general counsel, declined to discuss particulars of the case. But under rules in place at the time, since changed, he said the university was permitted to review a student’s counseling records to defend itself against charges of wrongdoing including alleged violations of Title IX, the federal regulation that outlines how universities should respond to accusations of sexual assault.
Sorry, that was a bad joke about Doug Park apologizing. Of course that’s not going to happen. And of course $30K was just the start:
A second University of Oregon student, identified in court records as “Jane Doe,” also accused university lawyers of improperly obtaining her counseling records after she faulted officials’ handling of an alleged rape by three Oregon basketball players. The University of Oregon settled Jane Doe’s case for $800,000, but its lawyers insisted they had collected the records only to comply with a request from her lawyers and didn’t review them.
… The University of Oregon announced on October 1 that it plans to tighten its rules. It will now seek a subpoena if lawyers want to review a student’s health records or, if that’s not possible, notify students of the university’s intention and give them an opportunity to object.
One of Jane Doe’s lawyers, John Clune, said they learned only from her therapists that the university had obtained their client’s records. Without more-consistent notification from universities, there’s no way to know how often students’ privacy is being violated. “We would never have known from the university,” he said, “had our client’s therapists never told her about what happened.”
Which makes you wonder how many other times the GC has done it.
5/30/2015: Frats, roofies, and rape
The Emerald has more on the story that Camilla Mortensen broke in the Eugene weekly, by reporter Kaylee Tornay. Please post any comments there. The story reiterates the now sadly familiar problems with with the Counseling Center that is directed by Shelly Kerr, and with UO’s famously incompetent AAEO Director Penny Daugherty.
Hanson told the EW that she was assaulted by a member of Chi Psi fraternity at a watch party for the Fiesta Bowl in January 2013. She says that when she told her Gamma Phi sisters about that night, she found little support. She began to skip sorority functions where her assailant might be present and says she was charged $1,000 from the chapter for her absence.
Hanson says she fought an uphill battle to get help almost everywhere she tried. Her counselor at the counseling center left after her first appointment, and she was never set up to meet with another. Hanson says Daugherty told her not to report to the police because it was a “he-said, she-said” situation, and that Hanson’s sorority fees were reimbursed when they never were. Inside her sorority, Hanson says, she was shamed as “a liar and a slut.”
… [UO Spokesperson Julie Brown] submitted the following statement to The Emerald in response to the EW article:
“The university is sorry for the experience of a former student related to a delayed conduct case and is taking measures to improve how we support students who report sexual assault. We do not agree with some assertions made in the Eugene Weekly article; however, we acknowledge there was a delay in the student-conduct process related to this incident. The issue that allowed for that delay has since been addressed and corrected – and the practice of suspending investigations during the summer has ended. The university continues to make sexual assault prevention and response a priority because there needs to be a stronger and more coordinated approach to ensure our students receive the services they need if an assault does occur.”
That’s right, VP Robin Holmes’ Office of Student Life had a practice of suspending rape investigations for a summer vacation. In the end the office of Dean for Students Paul Shang put the perpetrator on “probation” and sentenced him to
keep a “Sexual Misconduct Journal: a five-part educational activity that encourages education and reflection on topics around this violation
In 2014, after the basketball allegations came to light, the UO Senate and John Bonine (Law) told Holmes and Shang that essays were no longer an acceptable penalty for sexual assault, and fixed many other problems in UO’s student conduct code that VP Holmes had been ignoring for years.
5/28/2015: Another brave sexual assault survivor, and more UO institutional betrayal
Camilla Mortensen has the report in the Eugene Weekly, here. Read it all, no excerpt can suffice. Please post any comments there.
It is thoroughly damning and all too familiar. UO’s AAEO Director Penny Daugherty blew off the investigation, and UO’s Counseling Center gave confidential student records to UO’s outside lawyers. UO spokesperson Julie Brown has the impossible job of explaining it all away – and to her credit she doesn’t. At least someone has learned not to let Tobin Klinger or VP Robin Holmes near a reporter. Here’s the start of the article:
“$30,000. That’s the going rate for rape these days.”
When Laura Hanson settled her case against the University of Oregon for mishandling her allegations of sexual assault against a fraternity brother, the money was not the point. Hanson wanted — and still wants — the UO to fix its broken system of dealing with sexual assault and to support survivors.
She wants to ensure other survivors don’t wait for months with no reply after painfully telling — sometimes again and again — the story of their rapes, that survivors are listened to and their counseling records aren’t taken without their consent as hers were. She wants to ensure other survivors don’t find themselves ostracized by their peers because the school started an investigation — then let it “fall off the radar.”
When the basketball rape allegations came to light last May, one UO administrator told me that these things had a news cycle, and that they planned to wait it out. A UO law professor – she knows who she is – told me that “according to the law, Gottfredson did nothing wrong” by hiding the rape report from our students.
UO professor Jennifer Freyd is dead on when she calls these sorts of responses “institutional betrayal”. And the UO Senate was dead right yesterday in giving professor Carol Stabile its highest award for her work fighting back with the Senate Task Force. But that work is a long way from being done.
It has to be reported that the Eugene Weekly and the law firm representing the survivor are owned by the same Eugene family. And also that none of what we now know about sexual assault at UO and other universities would ever have come to light without the press, Oregon’s public records law, and plaintiff’s lawyers.