Questions and Answers about the March 9 allegation

Questions and Answers

The University of Oregon is committed, above all else, to the safety and security of our students. In cases of reported sexual abuse or violence, our first responsibility is to the well-being of the survivor.  We reach out immediately to anyone who reports being a victim of sexual violence or misconduct and provide a range of support services designed to assist that person in coping with the trauma of the incident and represent her or him in any subsequent university proceedings. Such services are available regardless of the status of any police or campus investigation. If a criminal investigation is involved, we must not do anything that jeopardizes the investigation.

In addition, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law that protects student privacy, significantly limits the university’s ability to release student records or information from student records, including student conduct information. It also prohibits us from confirming or talking about support services being provided to a specific student.

It is with these guiding principles and legal constraints that we operate with as much openness and transparency as possible in order to keep our students safe and secure. 

As a companion to the timeline this document is designed to answer as many questions as possible while still meeting our obligations to protect student privacy. We are able to share the following information regarding students or the investigation because it is directory information or comes from sources other than educational records.

Q: When did the university learn of the incident against the three men’s basketball players?
A: As noted in the police report, the father of the victim contacted the UO Police Department on March 9. When the university was made aware of the incident, we immediately began our investigation and activated our established process of victim support and service.

Q: What did the university know about the allegations against the three players and when did they know it?
A: The university took the immediate and appropriate steps to protect and provide services and ensure the integrity of the investigation, based on the information we had at the time. The university did not know the full details of the allegations until we received the police report from the district attorney on April 24.

Q: Is the university helping the victim, and if so, when did they begin offering those services?
A: While we cannot disclose specific information on this case, all students who file a report immediately receive support services.

Q: What is the status of the three men’s basketball players?
A: The basketball players are suspended from the team and will not play basketball at the UO in the future.

Q: After learning of the allegations, why didn’t the university issue a campus alert as required by the Clery Act?
A: In any alleged reported crime, we always ask three questions in assessing whether to issue a campus alert as required by the Clery Act.

  • Did the alleged crime occur within our Clery reportable boundaries?
  • Is the report a serious or ongoing threat to the campus community?
  • Are the alleged suspects known?

At the time of this report, all answers were ‘no.’ Based on that assessment, a campus crime alert was not issued.

Q: Why didn’t the university take any action against the three players at that time?
A: We always work collaboratively with EPD in these situations and we were advised by them not to take steps at that time that would jeopardize the criminal investigation. Respect for due process is also paramount, and both EPD and the UO were working towards a common goal: to ensure the integrity of the investigation so that any criminal charges that were warranted could be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Q: President Gottfredson said he knew the three players’ identities prior to play in NCAA tournament. Why didn’t he tell the coach and athletic director?
A: At the time of the NCAA tournament EPD had an active criminal investigation underway. The day before the team was scheduled to leave for the tournament the UO contacted EPD, specifically asking if the players should attend or not. EPD advised the university to do nothing that would signal the existence of an investigation. Suspending the three players who were under investigation would have alerted them to the investigation and significantly hindered the investigators ability to gather accurate information. The president was advised not to share any information with the athletic department that could compromise the case. The president took actions to protect the survivor and best support the criminal investigation and to ensure that due process was followed.

Q: Doesn't federal law state that schools should not wait for criminal investigations to be completed or for charges to be filed before starting their own investigations?
A: That is an incomplete description of federal law. In fact, federal law clearly states that schools may need to temporarily delay their investigation while the police are gathering evidence. The U.S. Government has stated the following:

Although a school may need to delay temporarily the fact-finding portion of a Title IX investigation while the police are gathering evidence, once notified that the police department has completed its gathering of evidence (not the ultimate outcome of the investigation or the filing of any charges), the school must promptly resume and complete its fact-finding for the Title IX investigation.

The university immediately began its fact finding as soon as it learned that EPD had completed its investigation.

Q: Did the university treat student-athletes differently from other students?
A: No. The federal law requires that a school’s procedures “must apply to all students, including athletes. If a complaint of sexual violence involves a student athlete, the school must follow its standard procedures for resolving sexual violence complaints. Such complaints must not be addressed solely by athletics department procedures.” The university assesses the student conduct and uses the tools that are available.

Q: Why did UO take action to suspend the players even though the district attorney determined there was no prosecutable offense?
A: The UO’s obligations are different from the district attorney's obligations. Whether a student committed a crime is only one of many factors to be assessed.

Q: Why didn’t the university suspend the three players from the team sooner?
A: In all cases the president would take action once he had all reviewed all internal and external information available. We cannot disclose all of the information the president was provided in this case. We can say the university received the police report from the DA on April 24, and the university conducted its legal review of that report. The review concluded on April 30 and the players were suspended on May 1.

Q: Did the university take too long?
A: No. The UO cooperated with the police to ensure the integrity of their investigation. The university immediately began its fact finding as soon as it learned that EPD had completed its investigation, and before the DA reviewed the case, as required by law. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for the US Department of Education is the agency that ensures that universities meet their obligations to protect students who file complains. OCR reports a typical university investigation takes approximately 60 calendar days following the receipt of a complaint. The UO took action well within the typical timeframe for such investigations.

Q: Why was a basketball player allowed to transfer to the UO from Providence College when he had been suspended at Providence?
A: In December of 2013 enrollment management reviewed the application material, as is done for all transfer students. Based on that review, the student-athlete was admitted for winter term, 2014. No information was provided by Providence regarding any adverse student conduct matters.

Q: What did Dana Altman know about any allegations against a basketball player when he recruited him to the University of Oregon? 
A: As stated in Coach Altman’s press conference, he spoke with Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley, who indicated he wanted to retain him on the team. Coach Cooley was unable to provide details of the suspension by Providence College from Intercollegiate Athletic activities. He was in good standing at Providence College and they wanted to retain him for the 2014–2015 academic year and beyond. This information is available in the player’s National Letter of Intent Release Form.

Q: What does the athletic department do to educate its student-athletes regarding sexual conduct or violence?    
A. The athletic department works throughout the year to educate and mentor student-athletes on their responsibilities and university expectations. We work with law enforcement, outside experts and university and athletic department personnel to impress upon student-athletes the university’s expectations as well as the consequences of misconduct, which can include loss of scholarships, team and academic suspension and/or expulsion, in addition to any legal consequences.

Q: What are the possible outcomes of the student conduct process?
A: The outcomes vary depending on the accusations, the process the accused chooses to follow, the evidence and other factors. It is important to understand that the conduct process is administrative in nature. The university does not have the authority to conduct criminal proceedings or impose criminal penalties. Its responses to student misconduct generally are limited to education, restitution, suspension and/or expulsion. Further details of the conduct process can be found on the AAEO website.

Q: How seriously is the university taking this incident?
A: The university is deeply concerned and we take the matter extremely seriously. The type of behavior contained in the police report is the antithesis of what the University of Oregon stands for and the conduct we expect of our students. We work hard to create a safe and welcoming campus environment, but we acknowledge that this incident shows we have much work to do to ensure our values and expectations are met consistently. We remain committed to achieving that goal.

Q. What does the university do to prevent and respond to sexual violence and to support victims?
A. We know that the best prevention efforts are peer-to-peer efforts, and we have a variety of such programs and resources. When sexual violence does occur, it is critical that survivors have access to reporting options and be connected with support services. Students who have experienced sexual violence or harassment have confidential and non-confidential options for reporting the incident. This information is detailed in the president’s sexual assault prevention message that he shared with campus in April. The full range of services related to sexual violence and misconduct is listed on the website.

Q. What are you doing to improve the campus climate and prevent future sexual violence on campus?
A. President Gottfredson, Athletic Director Rob Mullens and Vice President for Student Affairs Robin Holmes have called for a comprehensive review of our practices for preventing and responding to sexual violence at the University of Oregon. An independent review panel will:

  • Survey our campus climate to ensure it provides a safe, respectful environment for all students;
  • Examine our athletic department’s practices for recruiting and evaluating the academic and social readiness of prospective student-athletes; and
  • Review our institutional progress on implementing the recommendations of an external review commissioned last fall by the Office of Student Affairs, which compared the UO’s sexual misconduct policies and procedures to best practices in higher education.

This review builds upon previous efforts that have already resulted in improvements to our policies and procedures, including the creation of a drug and alcohol task force to address substance-abuse problems on our campus; additional staffing and resources to support survivors of sexual violence; easier reporting processes that have led to a significant increase in the number of cases that are reported (many incidents of sexual violence go unreported, and increasing reporting is a critical step toward addressing the problem); and mandatory sexual harassment training for all faculty and staff.

Q. Why are you able to tell us things now that you said you were unable to provide earlier; i.e., that the three players will not be playing basketball at the UO?
A. We want to be transparent. Many questions have arisen and we want to answer them as thoroughly as possible. Also as more information becomes public through non-FERPA-protected sources, we are able to answer some questions more directly without violating students’ privacy rights under the law.