The University of Oregon is in receipt of a notice of investigation from the Office for Civil Rights.
The university issued the following statement in response to the matter:
The University of Oregon has been notified by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education that an investigation is being undertaken in response to a complaint from a former student who was a respondent in the campus’ Title IX processes. The complaint alleges that UO’s processes discriminated against the student on the basis of sex.
In its notification letter, OCR states that, “OCR’s decision to open an investigation does not reflect an opinion by OCR regarding the merits of the allegation or the university’s compliance status with respect to federal civil rights laws.”
The University is deeply committed to maintaining a campus free from discrimination and harassment. Not only will we cooperate fully with the review, we will work with OCR to demonstrate our commitment to a fair, compliant and effective Title IX program. We are proud to have developed policies, procedures and practices that provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of such complaints.
During the course of the OCR inquiry, the university will not be able to share any additional information.
… According to UO spokesman Tobin Klinger, it is the school’s practice not to notify coaches when student-athletes are accused of sexual assault so as not to risk “tainting investigations.”
Yet Altman’s cell phone records, which SIobtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the coach was enmeshed in Bigby-Williams’s case from the beginning.
In the first 48 hours after school officials learned of the police investigation into Bigby-Williams, Altman had five phone calls with Lisa Peterson, the school’s deputy Title IX coordinator, and another four phone calls with Bigby-Williams’s former coach at Gillette College, Shawn Neary. Both Peterson and Neary had direct knowledge of the criminal investigation into Bigby-Williams, and UO failed to disclose these contacts both to SIand in its letter to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who demanded more information about UO’s handling of the case in response to SI’s reporting. …
Read it all. Meanwhile there’s an excellent op-ed in the Emerald, asking how it is that Coach Altman’s player never even got called in for a student conduct code investigation despite the rape allegation, while students who disrupted President Schill’s State of the University Address got questioned by the Student Conduct Office for liking the protest on Facebook.
I’d say that there’s plenty here to fire Dana Altman for cause, but instead Rob Mullens will probably give him another raise. Contract here.
For the confused, here’s a link to today’s interview with Kenny Jacoby, the reporter who broke this story on OPB’s Think Out Loud. They discuss the incident, where UO’s response went wrong, and the reporter-blaming in UO’s letter to Wyden.
And, from back in 2014, here’s a link to a KATU story on the UOPD’s response to the 2014 incident. The UOPD asked for the EPD report, the EPD detetective said no, and the UOPD detective – the same detective who did not forward the Wyoming police report to the Title IX office this time – congratulated the EPD detective for not giving it to the UOPD, saying
“That was exactly the right decision,” Flynn says in the voicemail, “and what should have been done and we’re trying to keep people from being hysterical over here because they’re being hysterical and wanting to do stupid things.”
11/14/2017 update: OSU gang-rape survivor Brenda Tracy not impressed by Schill’s response to Wyden:
9/6/2017: UO lawyers want to out anonymous plaintiff in sexual misconduct case
I’m posting this for the record, I don’t pretend to understand it all. Like many universities, UO’s GCO pulls out FERPA when they want to avoid disclosing unpleasant info, for example when athletes are accused of assaults. But in this case UO’s hired attorneys are in favor of transparency and naming names. Continue reading →
Police at a small college in Wyoming have closed a sexual assault case involving a member of the University of Oregon’s Final Four basketball team and no charges will be filed. …
Presumably this means the UOPD and NWCCDPDpolice reports will soon be released.
6/22/2017 update: And don’t get me started on their grammar. I’ve made a few notes on the response below, the official version is posted on Around the O:
The university issued the following statement June 22:
Recent media coverage of an allegation of sexual assault by a former member of the UO’s basketball program has created some questions about the university’s response. The University of Oregon takes very seriously any allegation of sexual assault or misconduct regardless of whether [or not] it involves a student athlete.
In most cases involving accusation[s] of sexual assault, it is impossible [perhaps you mean to claim it is illegal?] and inappropriate to publicly disclose details to protect the rights of victims [and yet police departments and prosecutors do this all the time by using pseudonyms – see for example the Jane Doe documents for the last basketball rape allegations] and those who report violations under Title IX, to comply with federal student privacy laws [say, don’t athletes have to sign the FERPA release?], and to provide those accused with appropriate due process. [Uh, so then why did the UOPD (eventually) release the police report to the Emerald? See it here.]
This was a scenario [scenario is the word when you’re play-acting crises and responses, not when you’re responding to an actual event] that stemmed from a law enforcement inquiry by the Northern Wyoming Community College [District] police.UO police have no jurisdiction in Wyoming, [thanks, good to know] and it would be inappropriate for the UO to provide details on an inquiry led by another law enforcement agency. [Even if doing so might protect UO students? Did the UOPD ask the NWCCDPD if they cared?]
The UO Police Department was contacted in the fall of 2016 to assist the NWCCD police in an interview with Kavell Bigby-Williams. UO athletics assisted UOPD in contacting Bigby-Williams, who declined to be interviewed through his attorney. [It’s OK, we know what you were trying to say here.] That information was provided to the NWCCD Police Department.
Information detailing allegations was not shared with the coaching staff to protect [the] integrity of the inquiry. [We can understand why the UOPD wouldn’t trust Dana Altman, but why wasn’t it shared with AD Rob Mullens and President Mike Schill? Does the UOPD not trust them either?] The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics’ only role was to provide contact information for the player and to coordinate with the university’s Title IX coordinator. [What does coordinate mean here? Was a Title IX investigation started?]
University processes, then as now, involve communication between campus police, the Title IX office and athletics administration to determine whether there is a risk to the campus community that requires immediate action. In September 2016, there was insufficient information to warrant interim action. Since September, UOPD has received no further information or requests for assistance from the NWCCD police suggesting the inquiry had advanced in any way. [Did they ask? And did any new information develop? Was anyone alerted to look for it?]
6/22/2017 update: Dana Altman brings UO more of that national publicity money just can’t buy
Kavell Bigby-Williams played one season for the Oregon men’s basketball team, helping the Ducks to the Final Four in 2016-17. For the entirety of that season, he was being investigated for sexual assault by police in Wyoming for an incident that took place in September near Gillette College, the junior college from which Bigby-Williams transferred to Oregon.
According to a report by the Emerald’s Kenny Jacoby, a woman accused Bigby-Williams of sexually assaulting her at an apartment near the Gillette College campus sometime between 10 p.m. on Sept. 17 and 3 a.m. on Sept. 18, about a week before fall classes began at Oregon. The Northern Wyoming Community College District (NWCCD) campus police then began its investigation, which according to Jacoby remains open, though NWCCD police refused to comment about it. Bigby-Williams has since announced his intention to transfer to Louisiana State.
It remains unclear whether Ducks Coach Dana Altman, Athletic Director Rob Mullens or other school officials were aware of the specifics of the investigation. …
For the nostalgic, here’s video of Duck Coach Dana Altman, AD Rob Mullens, and former President Mike Gottfredson pretending they didn’t know anything about the previous allegations:
6/21/2017: New Duck basketball sex assault allegations
Reporter Kenny Jacoby has the latest in the Emerald, here:
Former Oregon forward Kavell Bigby-Williams played the 2016-17 men’s basketball season while under criminal investigation for an alleged sexual assault, the Emerald has learned.
… UO President Michael Schill did not know about the sexual assault allegation involving Bigby-Williams and declined to share his thoughts on it.
“I don’t have any awareness of that,” Schill said. “In any event, I can’t comment on an individual student. What if I was asked by another reporter about you being obnoxious? Would you want me to tell them that?”
… Bigby-Williams played 37 games for Oregon this season, averaging 9.8 minutes and 3.0 points. He played increased minutes off the bench during the Ducks’ run to the NCAA Tournament Final Four, after center Chris Boucher went down with an injury.
He recently asked for and was granted a release to explore a transfer to another school. On June 20, Bigby-Williams committed to transfer to LSU.
For the record I’ve had many conversations with Kenny Jacoby, and I’ve always found him to be polite, smart, calm, well-informed, and curious. I hope my saying that is not a FERPA violation, because I doubt that Emerald reporters sign the same release form that Dana Altman’s student-athletes must sign, before they can get their scholarships and play ball:
In an apparent first, federal officials have found a college in violation of Title IX, the gender-equity law, for infringing on the rights of students accused of sexual violence.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights had opened an investigation of Wesley College, in Delaware, in July 2015. That investigation was one of more than 300 the office, known as OCR, has conducted into colleges for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence.
In the past, OCR’s findings about colleges have occasionally alluded to the rights of accused students. But experts say the findings in the Wesley case,released Wednesday, seem to mark the first time that the office has cited unfair treatment of an accused student as the primary Title IX violation. …
7/22/2016 CORRECTION: I emailed VPSA Robin Holmes about this, relaying the suggestion for stickers in the comments. She quickly replied that the info *will* be on the cards. Good news:
I checked with the Director of the EMU and the card office to confirm that we will indeed be placing the emergency numbers on the card as we planned and as was advised and advocated for by students. I am not sure where the information came that we were not planning on doing that—I am sure it was just some sort of miscommunication. As you can see from the email below, not all of the numbers could be placed on the card so the idea was to have the card in a sleeve (to keep it from becoming de-magnified) and that that sleeve would have the additional numbers.
Robin H. Holmes Ph.D., Vice President
Division of Student Life
7/20/2016: New UO IDs feature sports egofices, but not SAFE reporting website
In 2014, UO Active Minds launched a campaign to persuade the university to include university resources numbers – Health Center, Safe Ride, Sexual Assault Prevention, Non Emergency Public Safety – on the back of the card.
“A lot of the time (these are) resources that students forget,” Active Minds member Juan Rivera said. “In my case, as a first year student you know about them, and you learn about them. As you progress throughout the years, you start forgetting what was originally there.”
Those numbers didn’t make it on the new design, though students will find their student ID number and barcode on the back of their new cards.
The SAFE website is here. It’s the best antidote to the confusing, outdated, and wrong information that has been posted on UO’s Affirmative Action and Police websites about reporting sexual harassment and assault. Putting the URL and 24-hour hotline number on ID’s was also very exciting to Mike Gottfredson and Robin Holmes’ hand picked $80K “External Review Committee”, as explained here. Bob Berdahl was enthusiastic. I wonder why the new UO administration wouldn’t do it, and who made the decision?
Brenda Tracy then recounts the story of her 1998 gang-rape by Oregon State football players, explaining the pressure brought on her to drop charges, given that OSU was trying to raise money for a new football stadium. Tracy then introduces a campaign to try and get the NCAA to ban violent athletes, and the emcees explain the expected value calculation that has led so many colleges to hide rapes by revenue-sport athletes, and then introduce UO’s putative new mascot, Shushy the rape-ignoring ostrich:
This is arguably unfair, given that Tracy was raped by student-athletes from Oregon State, not UO. But then Duck fans can hardly complain, given that President Gottfredson’s administration did its best to keep the March 2014 gang-rape allegations against three of coach Dana Altman’s basketball players secret until the players could be quietly transferred away to other unsuspecting campuses, as the documents in their lawsuit against UO demonstrate. (Docket here, correspondence between Altman’s recruit’s attorney and current UO Deputy General Counsel Doug Park, showing the agreement to keep the nature of the accusations against the player off his transcripts, here.)
I have a few issues with the expected value comparison of the costs of rapes and the benefits of football revenue that the show presents. Setting aside the issue of the non-pecuniary costs, the emceee’s state “If [the expected value of legal settlements for rape victims] is less money than the money generated by your football program then it’s more cost-efficient for you to just convince these co-eds that they were never raped.”
However, this math ignores the fact that the profits from big-time sports goes to the coaches, athletic directors and NCAA leaders like Mark Emmert, while the costs of the legal settlements are typically paid by the universities. The downside risk to coaches who tolerate rapists and alleged rapists seems to be small. For example, Mike Riley, who was OSU football coach when Tracy was raped, gave the two players one-game suspensions and appears to have lost nothing by that decision, being hired by OSU for a second stretch in 2003. The Duck’s Dana Altman will presumably receive a fat raise when his current contract expires, despite his decision to not ask any questions about why one of the alleged rapists, whom he recruited to UO as a transfer, had been suspended by his previous university for an entire year.
Diane Dietz has more on Shushy here, including the inevitable quote from self-described Duck advocate and PR flack Tobin Klinger.
TheFire has the news on the latest outbreak of campus incivility, here:
Senator Demands Answers from Department of Education About Controversial Mandates
January 7, 2016
WASHINGTON, January 7, 2016—In a letter sent today expressing “continued alarm” about the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), United States Senator James Lankford demands answers from Acting Secretary of Education John B. King about the agency’s authority to impose controversial new mandates on colleges and universities that strip students of rights without congressional approval or even a chance for public notice and comment.
Senator Lankford notes that OCR’s letters “fail to point to precise governing statutory or regulatory language that support their sweeping policy change.”
“OCR has consistently avoided giving real answers to questions about its power to issue regulations outside the bounds of the law,” said Robert Shibley, FIRE’s executive director. “It cannot avoid accountability forever.”
Given the substantive mandates announced in OCR’s letters, Senator Lankford asks Acting Secretary King why the agency declined to submit them for public notice and comment, as required by the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA). …
Among the rules promulgated by these letters is the mandatory reporting requirement that President Gottfredson imposed on the UO faculty by fiat. (Remember that online training? I didn’t think so).
Twenty percent of young women who attended college during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. But the circle of victims on the nation’s campuses is probably even larger.
Many others endured attempted attacks, the poll found, or suspect that someone violated them while they were unable to consent. Some say they were coerced into sex through verbal threats or promises.
In all, the poll found, 25 percent of young women and 7 percent of young men say they suffered unwanted sexual incidents in college.
The Post-Kaiser poll, one of the most comprehensive to date on an issue roiling the nation’s colleges, provides evidence that sexual assault is often connected to factors woven deeply into campus culture. Most notably, two-thirds of victims say they had been drinking alcohol just before the incidents.
Other potential risk factors, the poll found, are casual romantic encounters known as “hookups” and the presence on campus of fraternities and sororities.