Jennifer Winters and Rita Radostitz ghost wrote VP Robin Holmes’ Op-Ed on the basketball rape allegations and how UO handled them

From what I can tell this ghost written Op-Ed is the last official statement from the UO administration on how Johnson Hall handled the basketball rape allegations. There is no sign that there will ever been any kind of investigation, much less one that will be publicly released. Gottfredson’s self-appointed “Presidential Review Panel” pointedly refused to conduct any such investigation. The Senate Task Force decided to focus its efforts on improving UO’s prevention and response efforts.

News of the March 8-9 rape allegations became public on May 5th. On July 15th, VP for Student Life Robin Holmes published an Op-Ed in the Register Guard, defending the UO administration’s handling of the allegations, which had been widely condemned as a cover-up:

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(The full Op-Ed is here.)

How much of this did VP Holmes actually write? It seems like not much. According to the internal memos below, the first draft was written by UO strategic communicator Jennifer Winters, who didn’t even cc Holmes on it:

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Interestingly the “project manager” for this was VP for Enrollment Roger Thompson, not VP for student affairs Robin Holmes. The final draft was apparently submitted to the RG by VP Holmes’s chief strategic communicator Rita Radostitz – who did at least cc Holmes on her efforts:

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Maybe Holmes had some involvement in the writing during intervening few days, or maybe not. None of this is that surprising. UO has a well paid army of PR flacks devoted to puffing up the careers of our central administrators. (And Winters got a 25% raise in July.)

The UO Matters timeline of the rape allegations and the administration’s response is here, with links to some relevant news reports and documents, and a more exhaustive list of all relevant posts is here. If and when we ever learn anything new, I’ll add it. So if you know something that is not yet in the public record but should be, such as these emails above, please send them along.

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10 Responses to Jennifer Winters and Rita Radostitz ghost wrote VP Robin Holmes’ Op-Ed on the basketball rape allegations and how UO handled them

  1. Licensed in Oregon says:

    Given the threats of lawsuits, it was probably a good idea to keep VP Holmes out of the loop on any public statement.

  2. Cheyney Ryan says:

    I wonder if Holmes (or whoever wrote the editorial) wants to revise it now that the President’s Review Panel has issued its report. Holmes (or whomever) blasts the RG for suggesting that the U of O administration merits criticism on these issues. In the basketball case, she (they) write, the administration responded quickly and appropriately–“consistent with our usual practice”. The RG perpetuates “misinformation” by calling the administration’s response to assaults “inept and slow.” She (they) conclude, “It is easy for those not immediately involved to criticize actions and processes for which they lack context or information”.

    The President’s Panel did not review the basketball case, but it does comment on the “usual practice” at the U of O–based on actual testimony, not administration spin.

    Here’s what it says (p. 59):

    Many students “simply do not have confidence that, if they were to report such an incident to the University, it would be handled with sensitivity and fairness, nor do they believe it likely that any action would be taken against the accused student. As one student leader asked, “Why should we bother? Nothing will happen.”

    Are these students–like the RG (according to Holmes (or whomever))–just uninformed idiots?

    Not according to the President’s Panel: “The student’s lack of trust is understandable.” Like other schools, now being scrutinized, “the University of Oregon’s response to incidents of alleged sexual misconduct in the past has not always been consistent or appropriate.”

    As a member of the Senate Task Force, but speaking for myself, my impression is that the first line responders in student affairs and elsewhere do a great job, but things break down significantly once they get to the desk of Robin Holmes and the other higher-ups. Both the Task Force and the President’s Panel have recommended substantial changes in administrative oversight of these matters.

    • Damage Control says:

      Look for the around the O story tomorrow: “Cheney Ryan smells bad, kicks puppies.” Or will it rather be in an e-mail to donors and alumni? Student life really has no idea how to handle people outside their control, so we see bizarre ad hominem attacks, the “UO matters doesn’t matter” website, Paul Shang crashing meetings he doesn’t belong at, etc. Thanks for giving voice to all those afraid to speak, because of the terrible consequences for anyone still studying or working here.

  3. gary crum says:

    I wonder if the cost of the Op Ed’s creation will be billed to that $20 million budgeted to promote the U of O as a paragon of academic excellence. Don’t worry about actually impoving the university and, thereby, attracting students and donors. Instead, just employ a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to convince people that it’s wonderful.

    When you unethically access a student’s medical/psychiatric counseling records, don’t even think about acknowledging your error, just put your PR flacks to work creating a defense of your actions and get it published for free in the local paper.

    With the values displayed by U of O administrators, it’s a wonder the school is as strong academically as it is. Perhaps if the administration could “direct mail” me some of their hype, I’ll change my mind. After all, that huge poster of Joey Harrington sure worked wonders for that Heisman campaign.

    • uomatters says:

      We’ve got a new president. He’s already replaced UO’s general counsel and our chief PR flack. He’s got 5 dean searches underway. He’s traveling most every week to fundraise. He’s putting together a new academic plan – something that none of the last 5 presidents managed to do.

      He can’t fumigate all of Johnson Hall at once, and I think most faculty trust him enough to give him lots of support and time.

  4. uomatters says:

    To “Curious”: I offered to post the email exchange, and I also suggested he think it over for a day or two. I haven’t had a response.

  5. A resigned tenured faculty says:

    Don’t go all touchy-feely Mr Nice Guy on us UOMATTERS. We gave long honeymoons to each of the recent Presidents and what did that get us? We got screwed. And so did our academic reputation. Our new President might have made one or two good decisions since he arrived in July but those are more than outweighed by the bad ones, e.g., putting faith in the horrible administration negotiating teams during faculty union and SEIU bargaining talks, going along with the bad decision to run closed Deans searches, making embarrassing legal and public relations choices regarding the basketball rape and Bowl of Dicks cases, allowing high-profile retribution incidents to go unchecked or not be reversed (see Morlok and Fox cases), continuing to support the nepotistic and academically useless “cluster” plan, and maintaining UO’s tradition of not admitting when poor decisions have been made. Moreover his statements about raising UO’s academic profile, which is a de rigueur statement for all new uni presidents, has not been supported by a single action. New faculty? New infrastructure? Better research facilities? Lower class size? Better students? More GTFs? Instead schools, departments and research institutes are being asked to tighten their belts for the upteenth time while JH administrators spend millions upon millions on useless vanity projects (e.g., 160over90, EMU, UO Police Dept) and hiring a seemingly endless number of mid-level administrators who make their lives easier and our lives more difficult. And let’s not even raise athletics as an issue because Mr New President has declared that subject off limits.

    Our new president is smart and savvy. He was hired by Lillis not by the faculty and knows that one step out of line and he will receive the same here’s-the-door treatment as Lariviere and Gottfredson. More importantly he is ambitious and needs Lillis’ positive recommendation to get his next position. His contract calls for a nice bonus if he stays 5 yrs so expect him to be here for no more than 5+ yrs. In that time he will do what is necessary to keep Lillis and the Board happy so expect lots of happy talk, a dozen new useless committees/boards/groups and more of the status quo.

    Call me when the UO is on an upward academic trajectory instead of going the other way. However because I cannot wait for 20 yrs, I am looking for another faculty position elsewhere. I’ll get one too and by the summer my lab and I will be gone. Wish it was different however as I really was hoping to spend my career here…

    • Fishwrapper says:

      The Prez has been onboard only since April. I still have high hopes – even touchy-feely ones – that he will be a change agent for good. I am also realistic that you can’t take the helm of theTitanic the moment the lookout yelled “Iceberg dead ahead!” and expect to maneuver immediately into smooth, clear waters.

      Even baby steps in the right direction since April (did Park get the full-time gig? nope!) is more progress than the past half-decade has shown.

      • ODA says:

        True, but there is a lot of low hanging fruit, or more correctly rotten fruit, that can be shit-canned… and if Lillis and the board are the right trustees they will understand and support this as it is in the best interest of our institution. For example: there are many administrators that should not be where they are, most were hired/promoted at a time where there was no leadership, alas this is one of the main reasons we have a board (that and Uncle Phil’s yet to be seen TWO BILLION DOLLARS); there are obvious policy changes around rigor, transparency, health records, campus police, audits and public accountability, etc. that the board, provost, and president could immediately enact that would bring an end to this tragic comedic chapter in our schools history…

        Again this is why we got a board, to lead with exactly these high level polices and high minded ideals for the greater good.


      • Cat says:

        Both “resigned” and “fish wrapper” have it exactly right…