Former star Yale University quarterback Patrick Witt has come out against Harvard University’s new sexual assault policy in a Boston Globe op-ed, writing that his life was “nearly ruined” by a similar policy at Yale.
Witt gained national attention his senior year when he was faced with the choice of keeping an interview with the Rhodes Scholarship Trust or play in “The Game,” the last football game of the season against rival Harvard University — both were scheduled on the same day.
When Witt chose to play in The Game, the was some controversy as to whether his Rhodes Scholarship interview was revoked following an informal sexual assault complaint against him.
In his Globe op-ed, Witt emphasises that the complaint was informal and that he was told that “the informal complaint did not constitute a disciplinary proceeding and nothing would be attached to my official record at Yale.” However, Witt writes, the complaint — which was anonymously leaked to the Rhodes Trust, his future employer, and The New York Times — “cost me my reputation and credibility, the opportunity to become a Rhodes scholar, the full-time job offer I had worked so hard to attain, and the opportunity to achieve my childhood dream of playing in the NFL.”
Below, Witt expands on the negative impact of Harvard’s and Yale’s sexual assault policies:
The destructive power that Yale’s and now Harvard’s new sexual misconduct policies wield is immense and grossly underestimated. By giving to unsubstantiated accusations the confoundingly difficult-to-define title of “informal complaint” — and denying accused students an opportunity to clear their names — these policies place the entire weight of the university’s reputation on the side of the accuser and against the accused. After all, if you didn’t do anything wrong, then why has your school recognised a complaint against you, informal or otherwise?
I cannot begin to describe how exasperatingly difficult it has been to try to explain to people what an informal complaint is and how there was never any evidence — nor any effort made to discover evidence — to substantiate the claim made by my accuser. My summer employer and the NFL certainly couldn’t understand it, and the media flat out didn’t care — the words “informal complaint” were all that was needed to establish my guilt in their eyes.
The former Yale undergraduate is now a first-year student at Harvard Law School, where 28 professors recently wrote a Globe op-ed blasting the same sexual assault policy to which Witt objects, which implements a “preponderance of evidence” standard for sexual assault investigations and creates a centralized university office of trained investigators to handle any complaints.
The Harvard professors wrote that “As teachers responsible for educating our students about due process of law, the substantive law governing discrimination and violence, appropriate administrative decision-making, and the rule of law generally, we find the new sexual harassment policy inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach.”
Notably, Witt vehemently denied that the informal sexual assault complaint had any effect on his decision to choose The Game over his Rhodes interview. A New York Times article explicity made the link between the complaint and Witt’s alleged loss of an interview with the Rhodes Trust.
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