Friday, January 27, 2012

Patrick Witt responds to allegations raised in New York Times story

Former Yale quarterback Patrick Witt released a statement through a representative disputing most of the claims in a New York Times story which appeared on the paper's website yesterday and in the paper today.

The statement said that the statement that his Rhodes Scholarship candidacy was suspended at the time that he said he was withdrawing from consideration for the scholarship because the final interview was scheduled in Atlanta at the same time Yale was set to play its season finale against Harvard. The statement also said that the alleged sexual assault is a matter that the university deemed to be closed since no official complaint was filed.

Finally, the story questioned Witt's academic standing saying he is not currently enrolled at Yale nor has he graduated. However, Witt only needs to submit his senior essay to complete his requirements and graduate. Here is the entire statement:

Statement on behalf of Patrick Witt in response to New York Times article

On January 27, 2012, The New York Times published a story regarding Patrick Witt, senior quarterback for Yale University, referencing Patrick’s decision to forego his pursuit of the Rhodes Scholarship in order to compete against Harvard in his final college football game.

This was a difficult decision for Patrick, as his candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship represented a high honor and an opportunity to explore his personal academic interests in international affairs at Oxford. Patrick respects the academic traditions of both Yale and the Rhodes Trust, and he remains grateful for the opportunities each has afforded him.

The New York Times story incorrectly connects Patrick’s decision to forego the Rhodes Scholarship with an informal complaint process that had concluded on campus weeks prior to his withdrawal – a process that yielded no disciplinary measures, formal reports, or referrals to higher authorities.

To be clear, Patrick’s Rhodes candidacy was never “suspended”, as the article suggests, and his official record at Yale contains no disciplinary issues.
Patrick formally withdrew his candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship on Sunday, November 13, in an email to both the Regional Secretary and the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust. He withdrew after being informed in an email from the Regional Secretary on November 8 that the Rhodes Committee would not reschedule Patrick’s final interview, which would overlap Yale’s football game versus Harvard on November 19. Though disappointed, Patrick understood the fairness of this decision and accepted it as conclusive.

As this decision process unfolded, Patrick became aware that an anonymous source had contacted the Rhodes Trust with false information purporting to reference an informal – and confidential – complaint within the University. In light of this, and given the short period of time between this occurrence and the potential final interview, the Rhodes Trust asked for an additional letter of reference for Patrick from Yale. By that time, however, Patrick had already informed Athletic Department officials that he intended to withdraw his candidacy due to the inability to reschedule his final interview, and that he would issue a statement to this effect following the Princeton game on November 12.

Patrick’s inclination to forego the Rhodes Scholarship in the event of an irreparable scheduling conflict is a longstanding matter of public record. For example, The New Haven Register article entitled “Patrick Witt Places ‘The Game’ Over Rhodes Interview” was published before Patrick was notified of the initiation of any informal complaint process. That article quotes Patrick as follows: “The commitment I made to this team I believe would come first and I would want to honor that. It wouldn’t feel right letting them down for not being there for the Harvard/Yale game.”

Regarding the informal complaint referenced in the New York Times article, Yale offers students both informal and formal avenues to address certain issues. An “informal” complaint is heard by a committee of university community members, but no fact-finding process occurs and there is no burden of proof required for filing a complaint. In Patrick’s case, no formal complaint was filed, no written statement was taken from anyone involved, and his request to the Chairman of the committee for a formal inquiry was denied because, he was told, there was nothing to defend against since no formal complaint was ever filed. Further, while the committee can refer an informal complaint into a formal process if more substantial disciplinary action may be warranted, it did not do so in Patrick’s case. At that time, all parties, including the University and Patrick, considered the matter ended.

Regarding the information contained in the informal complaint, neither Patrick nor the other parties are permitted by confidentiality rules to discuss details of the matter, though it is important to note that the committee took no further action after hearing the informal complaint. Patrick is aware that the informal complaint was filed by a person he had known for many months prior and with whom he had engaged in an on-again, off-again relationship beginning in the Spring of 2011 and ending about two months before the informal complaint was filed.

Finally, as to Patrick’s academic standing at Yale, he has completed all necessary coursework and will graduate upon submission of his senior essay this spring, as is standard for all students in his major.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to Williams' recruits? Why is Yale not honoring its commitments to them? When did Yale lose its way from being an institution of honor and integrity? Someone needs to look into this chapter of the story that is yet to be told.

2:28 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I was reading Patrick Witt's statement, my first reaction was, "Wow, this is explosive. The New Haven Register just gave Witt a forum in which he directly contradicts the New York Times and essentially accuses them of libel."

In the first four paragraphs of his statement, Witt seemed to be completely refuting what the Times printed in terms of whether the Rhodes Trust had already "suspended" Witt's candidacy by the time he supposedly withdrew.

But then I read the fifth paragraph which begins, "As this decision process unfolded, Patrick became aware. . . the Rhodes Trust asked for an additional letter of reference for Patrick from Yale."

Wait a minute. The fifth paragraph acknowledges the Rhodes Trust *DID* inform Witt that there was a problem with his application and he would need a non-standard addendum to his paperwork, a second endorsement from Yale.

It's not easy to reconcile the seemingly contradictory information in the fifth paragraph and the remainder of Witt's statement. If I'm reading the carefully parsed words correctly, the timing is as follows: The Rhodes Trust informed Witt that they would need a second endorsement from Yale, indicating that his application had run into a serious challenge, but he had already told the athletic department of his plans to withdraw.

The most important issue is whether, at the time that he issued his press release through a university statement, was Witt aware that his candidacy was nonviable due to the alleged assault?

It seems as if the answer is yes.

As I said above, it's a chore to read through all the language in Witt's statement which is highly exculpatory and integrate it with the fifth paragraph which is incriminating. Maybe I'm not getting the sequencing correct.

But, if I'm right, Witt is saying, "The Rhodes Trust informed me that my candidacy was essentially over. But instead of replying to their request for a second endorsement letter, I withdrew my application and, by the way, I had already told the athletic department that I would play in the football game."

In this version of the old joke, "You can't fire me, I quit," Witt's version is, "The Rhodes Trust fired me but I had already told Yale that I quit."

If my interpretation is correct, then the New York Times article is essentially true.

Now it appears that the New Haven Register gave Patrick Witt a forum to issue a carefully worded statement which puts a very positive spin on his situation, but ultimately acknowledges that he knew there was no Rhodes scholarship in his future when he withdrew.

3:00 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The previous response presumes the Rhodes inquiry told Witt a Rhodes was not in his future, which resolved for him whether to go to the interview or play in the Harvard game. In short, whether to play was still up in the air.

3:56 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't read it that way, since there is no hint that Yale wouldn't have provided the reiteration of candidacy if asked.

3:56 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Witt disagrees with your take on the timing:

As this decision process unfolded, Patrick became aware that an anonymous source had contacted the Rhodes Trust with false information purporting to reference an informal – and confidential – complaint within the University. In light of this, and given the short period of time between this occurrence and the potential final interview, the Rhodes Trust asked for an additional letter of reference for Patrick from Yale. By that time, however, Patrick had already informed Athletic Department officials that he intended to withdraw his candidacy due to the inability to reschedule his final interview, and that he would issue a statement to this effect following the Princeton game on November 12.

5:31 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...||||

7:56 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a nice spin, authored, no doubt, by a lawyer -- and, quite curiously, makes no mention of the other brushes with the law mentioned in the Times article. Looks like PW and his "Rhodes Candidate" former coach were a good match !!!

11:24 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim- this is a complex story. But let's not get bogged down in irrelevant details. Question: could he have gone to the interview? Answer: no. Who cares when he decided to withdraw, if he was withdrawing from something that now by his own admission he couldn't have gone to.

3:12 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:12 is correct that Witt's statement contains numerous irrelevant details, seemingly designed to obfuscate, not clarify, the reality of his actions during the two weeks of the Princeton and Harvard games.

But Anonymous 3:12 misidentifies the one and only important question: At the time Patrick Witt announced with great fanfare that he would play in the Harvard game, did he and Yale already know that his Rhodes candidacy was fatally impaired?

The answer to that question is "yes."

It doesn't matter when Witt made his decision. After all, he knew from the very beginning that the finalist interviews were already scheduled for November 19. That was communicated to all applicants on day one of the process.

The only important issue in this whole sad, sordid affair is that Patrick Witt and Yale University tried to create the false story that he was nobly choosing to forego an individual honor to play with his teammates.

The reality is both Witt and Yale knew that he would not be winning, whether the Rhodes trust used the word "suspended" or another euphemism. Witt's candidacy was irreparably damaged.

Witt and Yale University committed fraud.

6:45 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still don't get what Anonymouses 3:12 and 6:45 are saying. How do they know his candidacy was fatally compromised? We know from several sources now that someone told the committee that Witt had been accused of something. We have absolutely not a shred of evidence from anyone that this accusation had any bearing on whether or not he could have been a Rhodes Scholar. At least nothing that the Times has printed or that Yale or the Rhodes Trust has said (since they've said nothing.) We do not know that Yale would or would not have acceded to the Rhodes request for reaffirmation, and presumably whether or not they would have done so would have deended on the outcome of an investigation about which we know nothing. What possible fraud is being commited by Witt or Yale?

9:55 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My take is that he could have gone to the interview with a new letter from Yale which they may or may not have provided ..however he had already made his decision as was printed in the Nov 8 New Haven Register.

9:01 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is an incredible achievement and honor to be named a Rhodes scholarship finalist. But, even at that penultimate stage of the process, the odds are long against winning. There are sixteen finalists named for each district, of whom only two are selected for Oxford.

When the Rhodes trust received an anonymous tip that Witt had been accused, they didn't want to be the ones to terminate his candidacy. They had no hard facts, only an unsolicited tip of unknown accuracy.

So they called Yale and hit the ball into Yale's court, saying in effect: "We don't have the information necessary to adjudicate Witt's guilt or innocence, so we're making you do it." If Yale does not issue a second endorsement, Witt's candidacy is over.

It was very likely that this is the outcome the Rhodes trust wanted. They didn't want to name somebody a winner who is at risk of being indicted for a felony before he even shows up at Oxford. But they wanted Yale to be the ones to pull the trigger on Witt's application.

Witt knew this. He knew that, with the assault complaint hanging over his head, the normally long 8-1 odds against any finalist winning were even worse for him.

At that point, he wasn't going to win a Rhodes scholarship. But, lucky for him, there was still a way to make lemonade out of lemons: annnounce to the media that playing Harvard with his teammates was more important than a scholarship whose interview date of November 19 was known to him and all candidates from the very first day of the application.

Similarly, by the time the press release was issued, Yale also knew Witt's chances of winning were effectively over. But the university had gotten pretty comfortable basking in the reflection of Witt's achievement and Hamlet-like decision.

Patrick Witt and Yale University still had one card to play: Tell the world a lie.

9:55 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assuming you're the same Anonymous as above, you are missing one telling piece of information before your story makes any sense -- was Yale prepared to back Witt? If so, long odds or not, it is not clear that it would have made any difference to the Rhodes Committee. In addition, I have not seen any indication from anyone (including the Times) that Witt was going to go through with the interview even without the accusation. Finally, I still have no idea what lie you think Witt told. The Times certainly hasn't published any lie he told.

10:56 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

follow-up article in NYT where Rhodes and Yale officials confirm a timeline under which Witt was informed his candidacy required a re-endorsement by Yale prior than what Witt claimed; also Rhodes official says it is fair to characterize his candidacy as suspended at the time he withdrew, contrary to Witt's agent's view.

4:59 AM 

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