On Rhodes withdrawal, stories conflict

Two conflicting accounts have emerged over former quarterback Patrick Witt’s ’12 candidacy for a Rhodes Scholarship last fall.

On Thursday, an article in the New York Times claimed Witt lost his chance at a Rhodes Scholarship because of a sexual assault complaint filed against him. But in interviews with the News on Friday, Witt’s spokesman Mark Magazu flatly denied the charges put forth in the Times, saying there was no connection between Witt’s decision to withdraw his Rhodes candidacy and an informal complaint of sexual assault brought against him by a female student.

“The New York Times story incorrectly connects Patrick’s decision to forgo 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,” according to a statement Magazu released Friday on behalf of Witt.

The Times reported that the Rhodes Trust had learned of the accusation several days before Witt announced he would play in the Game and notified Yale that he would be ineligible for the scholarship unless University administrators re-endorsed his candidacy. According to Magazu, the Trust requested an additional letter of reference from Yale for Witt, though the scholarship was never “suspended.” But when asked to specify when Witt first learned that the Trust had been informed of the complaint, Magazu, who began representing Witt on Jan. 1, said he did not know. Magazu added that Witt did not ask University administrators for an additional letter of reference because he had already decided to withdraw his candidacy.

The Times reported that the female student approached the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center in September before filing a complaint with the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct alleging that she had been sexually assaulted by Witt in her dorm room.

Witt received an email on Oct. 31 from Michael Della Rocca, chair of the UWC, requesting that Witt meet with Della Rocca and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry to discuss the complaint. As is consistent with the University’s process for informal complaints, the meeting did not represent a “disciplinary proceeding” but instead indicated that a “non-disciplinary resolution [was] being sought,” according to a copy of the email that Magazu provided to the News.

Witt met with Della Rocca the next day, Magazu said, adding that he did not know if any other administrators were present. At the meeting, Witt was told of the nature of the accusation, which ended with the understanding that the two parties would remain amicable, according to Magazu. He added that Witt was not asked again to meet with administrators.

“That was the last of the issue,” Magazu said. “There was no further University action or personal action on this issue.”

Reached Friday night, Della Rocca declined to comment on both the complaint against Witt and the procedures of the UWC in general. Witt could not be reached for comment Friday, and Gentry did not return requests for comment.

The same day he received Della Rocca’s email, Witt learned he had been named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. Magazu said Witt had been communicating with the Rhodes Trust before he was officially notified of his finalist status to see whether he could interview for the scholarship on a day other than Nov. 19, the day of the Yale-Harvard football game, but on Nov. 8 the Trust contacted Witt to say his interview could not be moved because it would not be fair to the other applicants.

Witt then notified his parents that night that he would play in the Game, and told Yale about his decision the next day, Magazu said. University officials decided to wait until Nov. 13 to make a public announcement to avoid interfering with the Nov. 12 football game against Princeton, Magazu added.

Elliot Gerson, the American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, declined to comment Thursday night, citing “confidential matters.”

In addition, University administrators reached Thursday night — including University President Richard Levin, Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Provost Peter Salovey — declined to comment on the allegations against Witt.

Witt is currently in California training for the National Football League Scouting Combine, a professional recruiting event that will be held in Indianapolis, Ind. at the end of February, Magazu said.

Witt has not been on campus this semester, and University Spokesman Tom Conroy said Thursday that he has not yet graduated. Though he walked with the class of 2011 at Commencement last spring, Witt still needs to complete his History senior thesis this semester before receiving his diploma, Magazu said.

Magazu said that the “complaint had no impact on any regard to his schedule or status at school.” He added that leaving campus to attend the Combine is common for football players considering a professional career.

Before transferring to Yale in 2009, Witt was a student at the University of Nebraska.


  • theantiantiyale

    “Witt learned he had been named a finalistg for the Rhodes Scholarship”

    Really? Can’t afford copy editors anymore? fix it please.

    • anon12

      I don’t understand commenters like you that actually get pissed about typos. Maybe you should get on some medication?

      • penny_lane

        I don’t know about theantiantiyale, but I get bothered by sloppy writing because, well, we go to Yale, and that should mean something. Do you know how many science articles appear in here that say something like, “Researchers find that X causes Y!” Or how many opinion pieces that have paragraphs like: “I like kittens for a couple reasons. One is that they’re fuzzy. And that they’re cute.” It signals to me that not only do the students care little about the quality of their writing, the editors don’t really have standards either. It’s sad that you can’t tell the difference anymore between a Yale daily newspaper and a Wahoo Community College daily newspaper.

        • claypoint2

          I agree with you, penny_lane.

        • Yale12

          It’s not sloppy writing it’s a damn typo. Even the New York Times has them. Jesus.

          • penny_lane

            The NYT also has a really awesome blog where they review the past week’s solecisms and discuss interesting points of grammar and usage and diverging opinions on them. They’re very earnest and honest. They also have standards. The typo is not as much of a problem as the bad writing exemplified in “Diabetes causes higher dropout rates and lower wages, study finds” (Lopez, 1/17/12) and “Little need for neutral housing” (Koul, 1/13/12). Good prose is hard to find on these pages, especially Matt Shaffer ’10 graduated, whereas it is the rule at the NYT.*

            *Edit: Except for Maureen Dowd. She’s terrible.

      • Robbie

        But the YDN has a huge amount of good writing, too. Think about the coverage of something like the tailgating incident at The Game this year: when many major news outlets jumped to conclusions, the News reported objectively, and received well-deserved praise for doing so. Add to that the fact that every writer works for no pay, while balancing Yale classes on top of their reporting work, and it’s a pretty amazing product that they produce. There are good pieces and bad, just as in any publication, but there’s a ton of amazing work being done overall – way too much to condemn it on the strength of a misplaced “g” and a few articles about kittens.

        • penny_lane

          There definitely is some very good work in the YDN, but it is the exception rather than the norm. The kittens were my stand in for various subjects of import discussed in poorly written articles fraught with poor reasoning. I guess I could have said something like this: “I think gender neutral housing is important for a couple reasons. One is that queer people feel uncomfortable. And women and men are equals.” I agree with the hypothetical author’s premise there, and I even sympathize with the points she makes, but she makes them SO BADLY that I just can’t appreciate the article–and more importantly, neither will the people she’s trying to influence. Every week opinion articles structured just this way come out and march through these pages, generating debate and mayhem and such. People don’t even seem to notice the bad writing, which disturbs me just as much as the writing itself, because liberal arts students should be much better critics than that.

          I wrote several guest opinion articles in the YDN, back when Martin and Nutman were the editors, so I know how hard it is. I also know that the editor does indeed have the option to tell a submitter, “Please resubmit this when it stops sucking. We can’t publish it as it stands.” The fact that so many bad articles appear here makes me worry that they receive very few well-written submissions (though the quality of the editor makes a difference too–Nutman was abysmal; Klein who followed her quite good.) It makes me sad that in general, writing isn’t a skill cultivated in Yale students anymore.

          I’m less able to comment on the reporting, but the prevalence of truly glaring errors, especially in the science reporting, is not lost on me.

    • penny_lane

      That’s a good one. This sentence is so much better:

      >As is consistent with the University’s process for informal complaints, the meeting did not represent a “disciplinary proceeding” and that a “non-disciplinary resolution [was] being sought” instead, according to a copy of the email that Magazu provided to the News.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Please note:

    “theantiyale” has ZERO connection to “theantiantiyale”. (Two negative do not a positive make, except in algebra).



    As a Prince of Typos myself, I would NEVER lecture YDN on fixing typos, unless they affected meaning.

    • River_Tam

      > “theantiyale” has ZERO connection to “theantiantiyale”. (Two negative do not a positive make, except in algebra).

      You have one negative, he has two. There’s no chance of confusing the two of you.

  • RoyGBiv

    Magazu said that the “complaint had no impact on any regard to his schedule or status at school.”

    No one has gone on the record, so plausible deniability exists for all parties with respect to whatever story is floated.

    But now it gets interesting. Did the Yale College Transfer/Admissions application form inquire as to prior arrests/convictions/criminal record (most university applications do require such disclosure)? And if so, did Patrick Witt disclose his prior arrest at U. Nebraska? Because if he didn’t disclose it if asked in his application, then he may go the way of his coach (exit, stage left). If he did disclose it on his app and it was sitting in a file cabinet, wouldn’t that make the Yale Brahmans who put him up for the Rhodes look sort of…stupid… for missing the “character thing”?

    • JackJ

      What prior arrest?

      • penny_lane

        He was arrested in 2007 for causing a disturbance, assaulting a student dorm official and fleeing police at UN. Sounds like just the kind of “character” Rhodes Scholars should exemplify to me!

  • Redrider

    As Teddy said, ..”It is not the critic who counts….”

  • 1234qwer

    An on-again/off-again companion files a complaint way after the incident, and not even a formal complaint, just as Witt comes under spotlight for the Rhodes candidacy. A rape victim seeking justice? I try, but just can’t seem to ignore the sensationalism aspect.

    • penny_lane

      He’s the Kobe Bryant of Yale football. He’s got two arrests for aggressive behavior and a rape accusation, but we still glorify him as our darling, ducky QB, the hero who turned down a Rhodes Scholarship for the sake of the team.

      No one will ever know what really happened here. The public’s simultaneous love and wrath are too great for truth to emerge.