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.
I’m stunned that Penny Daugherty has not yet been found culpable, criminally or otherwise, in any of these cases. Her actions as described are at best willful negligence and, at worst, obstruction of justice.
I wonder what lost wages of a 19 year old female, who drops out of College because of a loss of trust in the institution that you were supposed to be able to rely on.
Probably, 76% of a male, but, oh, never mind.
They key to these efforts is to truly empower a group of people on campus who care about doing the right thing and getting out of their way. If you do the right thing by survivors of sexual violence you won’t need PR people, attorneys or anyone else to spin things. You will have done the right thing and your reputation will take care of itself.
Empowering the right people is absolutely essential. You must give the survivors the control over how to proceed with things and the speed with which to proceed. You also must give them all the confidentiality you can. The idea that counseling records could be turned over to administration or officials is OUTRAGEOUS, IMMORAL and OFFENSIVE.
I have worked on numerous Title IX issues in places where we got things right. When we had a student who was working with a counselor or confidential adviser I would never have dreamed of asking for the student’s counseling records. If I needed something I would go to the counselor and ask that person to ask the student if they would be ok or comfortable sharing a particular detail or piece of information. I asked the counselor to forward the question to the student. I did not pry the counselor for details about the student or try to get them to reveal privileged information. If the student said no I respected that.
How difficult is it to just do the right thing? It seems pretty simple to me. Who can’t look at how other schools have bungled things and say “You know what, at our institution we are going to get it right!” How hard is that? Take a look around Oregon, other places are getting it right.
I agree with Max Powers about empowering people. But progress at the U of O requires dis-empowering two people–Robin Holmes and Penny Daugherty.
If anyone has any doubts about this, I would urge you to read Laura Hanson’s story to the end. After a year long nightmare, when she asked to meet meet with Holmes and Daugherty–to discuss how things could be improved–she states they were “completely disrespectful.”
“After everything that had happened, she says the women didn’t care enough to look up her case, or even know she had graduated.”
Apparently the only people at the U of O held accountable for things are assistant librarians. Holmes and Daugherty are the two point-people on the entire issue of sexual assault at the U of O; progress will depend on what they want.
Since the UO now considers all employees mandatory reporters (except for the Ombuds office), you should all be familiar with the online required training on reporting. It’s worth noting that the training you are subjected to explicitly states not to go to the police to report sexual harassment or rape, and will even buzz you with an incorrect answer on the select any/all question of who you would report to, if you select police in addition to the “correct” answer of “somebody who is paid to cover up these stories”.
Official UO policy is to report to Penny or your supervisor (who then goes to Penny), and not to go to the police, especially not any non-University police.
Pedantic point, but an important one: The UO does not consider all employees mandatory reporters.
The state does.
I completely support this young woman and applaud her courage. I’m in my ’70’s and have seen way too much of this nonsense where the victims are victimized. Enough. It seems to be a leftover piece of a time when women were owned by men and, admittedly by some women, and although it’s unpleasant to admit, many men still have an “inherited” piece of that in their nature. She and all victims deserve better than this. Why wasn’t this situation handled by law enforcement officials in the first place? Again, enough!
President Schill needs to be a progressive leader. Creating momentum means cutting the dead weight of Doug Park, Robin Holmes, Penny Dougherty, UOPD police chief and others. We need to be rid of the circular thinking process and knee jerk reactions to the problems and challenges our institution faces. We need problems solvers, not problem creators
In the last few years this institution has been subjected to embarrassment after embarrassment and too many lawsuits. Between attorney fees, payouts and the hours spent by University employees, these lawsuits must have cost us around $4,000,000. This is unacceptable and the waste must stop and the problem people in high administrative positions causing the problems need to be replaced. I’ve had enough of this nonsense and I know everyone else is fed up with it too.
President Schill, if you are reading this blog and this comment, I beg you to take a close look at those so rooted in the problems and controversy at our institution. I think you’ll find if you took the time to speak to people in these departments who have suffered from the repetitive, backward and often arrogant leadership these so called administrators engage in, you’d likely be shocked by what actually is happening.
With each incoming president, we all become hopefully that monumentally positive change will take place, and we are left too often disappointed and disheartened. I’d like to see us become known for our academics and world class research instead of rape cases, lawsuits, scandals and phallic filled eating receptacles.
I agree with you on the problems. $4M is probably a good estimate of recent legal payouts and costs, and I’m sure there will be more as other cases of mis and malfeasance come to light in the next few months.
I think Pres Schill is on the right track. He quickly hired new leadership for the GC’s office and for communications, and he has made many other administrative changes. Every new hire he’s made has been a good one, so far as I can tell. There are at least 6 open searches for Deans, etc. now underway. And some for administrators too. It’s true that the process Coltrane used to select the search committees was not so great, but Schill is working with the Senate to fix this for the next round.
He can’t fire everyone at once. I think some watchful patience is called for.
Poor Penny has the unenviable task of sorting out which complaints are real, which are false, and which are embellishments to further personal agendas. (That office has become an instrument of retribution, as it has at other places as well). Combine that with seemingly random actions of clueless administrators already in the hot seat for the real problems they created on campus and you have GC office chaos.
Retribution by whom?