Thursday, January 26, 2012

New York Times story claims Patrick Witt was accused of sexual assault

I felt I should share a link to a New York Times story that claims that former Yale quarterback Patrick Witt was accused of a sexual assault by a fellow Yale student and was no longer a candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship at the time that he withdrew his name from consideration.

I have contacted both Witt and a Yale spokesperson for comment.

As for the story, it does seem to be a little thin on details as the writer of the story points out.

Quoting the story directly:
Many aspects of the situation remain unknown, including some details of the allegation against Witt; how he responded; how it was resolved; and whether Yale officials who handle Rhodes applications — including Richard C. Levin, the university’s president, who signed Witt’s endorsement letter — knew of the complaint.

Neither Yale nor the Rhodes Trust would confirm any information about the alleged assault or the claim that Witt was no longer being considered for the Rhodes in the story. The most pertinent information came in the 18th paragraph when the Times reported that the accuser filed an informal complaint. Quoting the story "In September, according to people with knowledge of the situation, a female student went to Yale’s Sexual Assault Harassment and Response and Education Center, claiming Witt had assaulted her in her dormitory room. The woman later made a complaint to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, created last July as part of Yale’s new approach.

Like many colleges and universities, Yale offers accusers a choice between making a formal complaint and an informal one. This student chose the informal process. In that process, an individual or a few members of the committee are charged with resolving the issue, without a full investigation or a finding of guilt or innocence. The most significant outcome might be an agreement to move the accused to a different dorm."


Witt's accuser has not gone to the police nor filed an official complaint with Yale according to the Times story.

As for the claim that Witt was no longer considered to be a Rhodes candidate, I interviewed Eliot P. Gerson, the American Secretary for the Rhodes Trust, on Nov. 10 (three days before Witt withdrew his name from consideration for the Rhodes because he could attend his Rhodes interview and play in the season finale against Harvard). At that time Gerson spoke of Witt in terms as an active candidate for the Rhodes. Perhaps he was just being protective of the Rhodes Trust and not mentioning that Witt was no longer considered to be a Rhodes finalist but at no point in our interview was there ever the slightest bit of hedging on Gerson's part about Witt's status as a Rhodes finalist.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The story that just won't die.

8:26 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, thank you for your continuing diligent efforts covering Yale football. I don't want to tell you how to do your job, but I think that you are way off base when you characterize the New York Times story as "a little thin on details."

Yes, the story is thin on the specifics of the allegation against Witt and how it was resolved. But don't you see? Those aren't the details that matter.

The "he said, she said" between Witt and his complainant are merely the backdrop of the real story.

The real story is that Yale allowed Witt's application for the Rhodes to proceed despite learning at some point in the process that he was being investigated for sexual assault. Witt's candidacy was proceeding normally until the Rhodes trust suspended it, not Yale.

Yale was allowing Witt to proceed as if nothing were amiss. Some might feel that this action was appropriate because there were no formal charges filed against Witt. Perhaps -- that's an argument for a different day.

The bigger story here is that, with the Rhodes committee having suspended Witt's candidacy, Yale permitted and, indeed, was a willing co-conspirator in a fraudulent announcement.

Witt told the world that he was doing the honorable thing, namely, supporting his teammates in a football game rather pursue a much coveted individual award. But both he and Yale officials already knew at the time that his candidacy was dead.

Don't forget: The fraudulent announcement was made through a university-issued press release. Who signed off on that press release? Given all the media attention that this story had already received, I've got to believe that the decision went all the way up to President Levin.

Jim, I don't expect you to immediately see this situation as I do. But two months ago, after the initial New York Times story, I posted that Tom Williams could lose his job over his resume fraud and compared it to the George O'Leary situation at Notre Dame. At the time, you dismissed my supposition and comparison as "laughable."

I'm telling you now. This second chapter of Rhodes-gate will become an even bigger story.

Anybody who helped create or further the fraudulent university press release will be -- or at least should be -- disciplined, up to and including termination. I would not rule out President Levin being fired.

Jim, you're too focused on the minutiae here. Don't get bogged down in the details of Witt and his complainant.

Take a step back and look at the big picture here. More people -- senior people at Yale -- will lose their jobs because of this.

10:02 PM 
Blogger Jim Fuller said...

I am going to choose my words carefully out of respect to the victim here but from a journalistic standpoint, the story needs some work. Unnamed sources are a part of the business. I certainly have leaned on them heavily in the last few months but if you have half a dozen sources close to the situation, you need to have more information before running with the story in my opinion.

I know right away that the part about his academic standing at Yale is wrong. He only needs to submit his senior thesis to graduate and that was a pretty simple piece of information to confirm and they missed on that part of the story.

10:41 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, stop wasting your time thinking about Patrick Witt and his alleged victim. They are not the story here.

The story here is internal to the Yale administration. Yale was a willing co-conspirator in fabricating a feel-good story about a star quarterback foregoing a tremendous individual honor in order to support his teammates in a big game. Yale knew it was a lie, but nevertheless issued a university press release touting Witt's honorable choice. Presumably, this was done to allow Witt and, more importantly, to save face.

Who approved the fraudulent press release? That's the real story here, Jim. If you can find out how far up the chain of command this approval was made, you will have yourself the biggest scoop in the history of Yale football.

11:18 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And whomever allowed or orchestrated it should have to leave just like Tom Williams and his havard coach should have to go with him. What do you think the A.D. was planning to do after Yale? fishing, florida?

8:35 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I know you have to cover this butthat doesn't make it stink any less.

The entire NYT’s article is despicable in the extreme even for the “rag of record.” Nothing but a hatchet job aimed at character assassination, I presume to sell newspapers.

There is so little credibility to the article the NYT had to say, “This account of the accusation against Witt and how it affected his Rhodes candidacy is based on interviews with a half-dozen people with knowledge of all or part of the story; they all spoke on the condition of anonymity.” Just incredible, not one established fact, not one verified source. How’s that a printable story, anywhere? Where’s the accountability? Where’s the ethics?

This is Duke Lacrosse and Tawana Brawley revisited.

“And the Rhodes committee learned about the incident through unofficial sources.” Now who do you suppose made that phone call?

Despite hysterics to the contrary by previous entries, the story is Pat Witt. I also think your reference to your last contact with the Rhodes Trust is telling.

Pat Witt is an Academic All American from Yale trying to finish his senior thesis so he can graduate and prepare for the NFL draft. I like many, many others, wish him nothing but good luck.

10:56 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two reactions: First, the juxtaposition of the sanctions against DKE and Witt's membership in DKE is McCarthyism at its finest. I have no idea whether Witt is a jerk or not and whether or not DKE deserved its punishment, but this is way below what I took to be the Times standards of reporting.

Second, since the article has no idea what the disposition of this supposed complaint was, how do they know that Yale wasn't prepared to reiterate their support even if the rest of the story is correct?

10:59 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I'm confused by your comment "I know right away that the part about his academic standing at Yale is wrong. He only needs to submit his senior thesis to graduate and that was a pretty simple piece of information to confirm and they missed on that part of the story." The NY Times story says "Witt, who is 22, is no longer enrolled at Yale. He completed his class work last semester, is working on his senior essay and has been training in California in preparation for a possible N.F.L. career, according to the Yale athletics Web site." You give the detail that by submitting the thesis (that which they call the essay), he will be able to graduate (I presume the thesis has to be deemed acceptable first but whatever) but apart from that, how is it that what you say and what they say are markedly different? Where is it that they're wrong? I must be missing something.

11:17 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused as to where it is you're saying the NYT article is wrong about his academic standing. You say in a comment here "I know right away that the part about his academic standing at Yale is wrong. He only needs to submit his senior thesis to graduate and that was a pretty simple piece of information to confirm and they missed on that part of the story" and they say in their article "Witt, who is 22, is no longer enrolled at Yale. He completed his class work last semester, is working on his senior essay and has been training in California in preparation for a possible N.F.L. career, according to the Yale athletics Web site." Those seem very well in keeping with one another. The only detail you supply that they don't is that they don't address what he needs to do to graduate. What am I missing?

11:20 AM 

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