Saturday, February 04, 2012

Rhodes Trust releases its timeline regarding Patrick Witt

The Rhodes Trust has declined comment on the allegations, raised in a New York Times story, that former Yale quarterback Patrick Witt's Rhodes Scholarship candidacy was over before he pulled out of consideration because of a scheduling conflict.

Here is the official statement released by the Rhodes Trust, which I just received from Rhodes Trust American Secretary Elliot P. Gerson.

Statement of the Rhodes Trust

On November 1, 2011, Mr . Elliot Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, told the Yale University Institutional Representative for the Rhodes Scholarships, Ms . Katherine Dailinger, that the Trust had learned of a complaint lodged against Mr . Patrick Witt, a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship. Mr . Gerson asked for a conversation between him and a Yale official regarding the matter. On November 2, Ms . Dailinger told Mr . Gerson that Mr . Witt would phone him the following evening.

On November 3, Mr . Gerson explained to Mr . Witt that the Rhodes Trust had learned of a complaint lodged against him at Yale. On Friday, November 4, Mr . Gerson informed Yale officials that the Trust would require Yale to re-confirm in writing by November 15 its endorsement of Mr . Witt and asked Yale to explain to Mr . Witt the Trust's decision to ask for Yale's endorsement anew.

On Monday, November 7, Mr . Gerson contacted Ms . Dailinger to confirm that the Rhodes position had been communicated to Mr . Witt. Ms . Dailinger replied that she was waiting for Mr . Witt to call her back.

Mr . Gerson has been told by Yale that Mr . Witt was informed on November 8 that his continued eligibility would be contingent upon Rhodes' receipt of this new endorsement.

Mr . Witt initiated communications with the secretary of the Rhodes interviewing committee in Atlanta on November 7 regarding the possibility of scheduling his interview in Atlanta to allow him to play in the Harvard game on the day of the interviews (November 19). He was advised that the arrangements he sought were not feasible in view of Rhodes' standard procedures. The Rhodes interviewing committee in Atlanta was not ever told about the complaint and the Trust's request for re-endorsement because the Rhodes Trust did not want the Committee to be prejudiced should Yale have elected to issue a new endorsement.

On November 13, before Yale's re-confirmation was due, Mr . Witt informed the Rhodes Trust that he was withdrawing from the Rhodes competition.

Elliot F. Gerson
American Secretary
Rhodes Trust

In the e-mail, Gerson repeated what he was quoted as saying in the New York Times story "as to the one question, I can say to you too Jim, as I did to the NYT reporter, that the words used in the original New York Times article, that 'his candidacy was suspended unless the university decided to re-endorse it’ were a very reasonable characterization of what happened."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, thank you very much for continuing to seek answers in this situation. In the wake of Mr. Witt issuing his denial shortly after the initial Times story, there has been no word from either of the two parties who could have cleared up much of the disagreement, namely, the Rhodes Trust and Yale University. Congratulations on getting this new statement from the former; perhaps you will have similar luck with the latter.

After Mr. Witt issued his rebuttal, there have been three key questions:

(1) First, did or did not the Rhodes Trust tell Mr. Witt that his candidacy had been suspended pending a second endorsement from Yale? This is the most important question of all and you have answered it conclusively. Yes, his candidacy had been suspended, whether the Rhodes Trust used that specific word or a synonym.

I noticed that, every time Mr. Witt used the word “suspended” in his denial, he put it in quotation marks. Perhaps he was hiding behind the fact that Mr. Gerson had not used that specific term with him. Obviously, in light of your new e-mail from Mr. Gerson, either Mr. Witt is being completely disingenuous, that is, telling “the truth” but “not the whole truth,” or his verbal comprehension is compromised.

(2) At the time that Mr. Witt and Yale issued their press release on November 13, did Yale know that his Rhodes had been suspended? Given that Mr. Gerson spoke directly to Yale on November 4 and had his message confirmed again on November 8, any lack of verbal comprehension on the part of Mr. Witt does not exculpate Yale. Mr. Gerson makes it clear that Yale knew the candidacy was suspended.

(3) Did Mr. Witt decide to play in the Harvard game independent of and/or prior to the bad news from the Rhodes Trust? Mr. Witt granted an interview to the Yale Daily News this week in which he attempted to make the case that he was already leaning toward playing in the football game before he learned that he would need a second endorsement letter. That may or may not be true.

But it is clear from both his interview and the e-mail from Mr. Gerson that nothing was communicated to the Rhodes Trust until November 13, the day of the press release. Until a message was sent to the Rhodes committee, any decision was still pending, a reversible decision which was not binding.

Taking the three questions above in their totality, one comes to the conclusion that Mr. Witt’s written and spoken statements since the Times story was published follow a strategy of telling limited snippets of the truth, but not the whole truth.

Similarly, Yale University absolutely knew that Mr. Witt’s candidacy had been suspended or put into abeyance, whatever term you want to use, but still issued a press release which told “the truth but not the whole truth.”

It was intended to mislead readers into believing that Mr. Witt was nobly choosing to play with his teammates over pursuing a Rhodes candidacy which was still absolutely viable and proceeding. The press release was calculated, intended and expected to deceive.

It's unfortunate that this case involves the emotionally charged topic of sexual assault, which potentially overshadows the separate topic of institutional lying. Imagine for a moment that Mr. Witt's candidacy had been suspended because the Rhodes Trust learned that his academic transcript had been forged. Would we ever excuse Yale for issuing a press release which hid this fact? No.

Similarly, while we respect the privacy of Mr. Witt and his alleged victim in terms of the details of the potential assault, we should fully pursue the separate question of who within Yale University wrote and authorized an institutional lie.

10:51 AM 
Blogger Jim Fuller said...

I'm not holding my breath on Yale releasing its timeline or any pertinent info regarding to this fiasco. If I were to ask a representative at Yale to confirm that today is Saturday, I doubt they would be willing to do so.

11:11 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jim theres been chatter that Reno has not been honoring commitments of the previous regime. Personally, I dont buy it and believe there need to be other factors. Also, how "committed" were the 3. Did they have likely letters? had they been admitted early action? was it a simple verbal agreement. I have a tough time believeing Reno would ditch people that had already been admitted early action. It woould be very interesting if you could get to the bottom of the story and let us know the details.

6:34 PM 
Blogger Jim Fuller said...

I can't speak for the Conway brothers at Bronxville because I haven't heard back from their coach, but Caleb Gilligan-Evans' coach said that Yale has not pulled the offer and they are honoring the commitment. That's pretty much what I've heard from the Yale side of things as well. If and when I hear of a final decision from Gilligan-Evans, I will be sure to put it up on my blog.

10:29 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Any info re Avery Lewis from Choate?

1:13 PM 
Blogger Jim Fuller said...

I know Yale is still involved with recruiting Lewis and that the Meriden paper said he has committed to Yale but have not heard back from the people at Choate to confirm that.

5:13 PM 

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