January 26th, 2012 | Sports

Witt ’12 accused of sexual assault, Times reports

Former quarterback Patrick Witt '12 gained national media attention in November as he prepared to play in the Harvard-Yale Game.
Former quarterback Patrick Witt '12 gained national media attention in November as he prepared to play in the Harvard-Yale Game. Photo by Brianne Bowen.

The New York Times reported Thursday that quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 did not withdraw his Rhodes Scholarship candidacy in November so he could play at the 2011 Yale-Harvard Game. Instead, the Times reported, the Rhodes Trust had suspended Witt’s candidacy days before Witt’s announcement, after it learned that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault.

An unnamed female student filed an informal complaint with the University Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct in September alleging that she had been sexually assaulted by Witt in her dorm room, according to the Times. The female student has not gone to the police or filed a “formal complaint” with the University, the article stated.

After learning of the accusations, the Trust informed Witt and Yale administrators that he would be ineligible for the scholarship unless the University decided to re-endorse his candidacy. It remains unclear whether University administrators responded to the Trust’s requests about re-endorsement. While Yale College Dean Mary Miller submits a report to accompany all Rhodes applications and University President Richard Levin must sign them; the article did not say whether they knew of the harassment complaint at the time of his nomination. University Spokesman Tom Conroy also told the Times that Miller is informed whenever a complaint is filed.

Witt, a history major with a 3.91 GPA, transferred to Yale from the University of Nebraska in 2009. Though he was expected to graduate last fall, the Times reported that he is not currently enrolled at the University and he did not graduate. He is still listed on the Yale College Online Facebook directory.

  • aloob

    Sheds a little more light on the coach’s dismissal, no?

  • observer

    Interesting to see that YDN editor Vivian Yee is listed as a contributor to the NYT story.

  • Temple_and_Grove

    **Where is the YDN?**

    The NYT article raises a host of disturbing questions, one of which must be why the YDN has apparently abdicated its responsibility to report (semi-) insightfully on major campus stories.

    Why did this story not come to light much sooner?
    Why is the scoop from the NYT (and co-authored by a former YDN editor-in-chief still attending Yale) rather than the YDN?
    Does the YDN feel a responsibility to collude with the Levin Administration in suppressing stories which may potentially shed Yale in a less-than-positive light?
    Why does the YDN’s “Cross Campus” feature seemingly exist only to regurgitate stories about Yale-related subjects already published in the national media? (Why, for instance, was the YDN unable to conduct basic reporting on the shockingly rushed search for a new head football coach and instead forced to rely on the New Haven Register for all of its information before eventually publishing a reactive piece days later? If the Harvard Crimson could scoop the selection of Harvard’s president twice in the last decade or so, is it really so much to expect the YDN to lead on a story about a football coach?)
    Does the YDN have any interest in investigative journalism whatsoever?
    Have you considered holding yourselves to standards befitting the organization and school you represent?

    • anon12

      I don’t understand how this article being covered in the New York Times instead of the YDN is a problem. The former editor-in-chief of the YDN has absolutely no obligation to work for the YDN (a volunteer student organization) instead of the New York Times. Plenty of Yale students write articles for external publications that they don’t publish in on campus publications. Don’t be ridiculous.

      Also, I’m not part of the YDN and I don’t know what sort of resources they have or how much choice they had in covering/not covering/investigating this story, but you’re being pretty ridiculous. The YDN is entirely staffed by volunteer full time students. Maybe they just didn’t get the leads that the New York Times did. Maybe no one thought to pursue the whole situation after Witt implied that he withdrew from the application process. (If you didn’t get some sort of tip/have some sort of inside knowledge, why would you ever pursue beyond that?). Maybe everyone was just working on other things, or just trying to enjoy their winter breaks, or figure out what classes they’re going to take for the semester.

      And perhaps, although it may sound crazy, this story may have taken a while to publish because it needed to be very well researched to avoid libel/defamation/whatever.

      The YDN is far from a perfect publication (it is run by college students after all). But to say that not covering this story first means they didn’t live up to the standards befitting the organization and the school is just a completely overblown statement. Why don’t you chill a bit, mix in a little logic with your thought, and get some effing perspective.

      • Saybrook10

        Very reasonable remarks.

  • strauss1

    @Temple_and_Grove: too busy publishing terrible articles in WEEKEND about students’ insipid sexual exploits, obviously.

  • An_Observer

    This story is no longer about Patrick Witt.

    This story is now about Richard Levin.

    At some point in Witt’s Rhodes candidacy, Yale found out that another student had accused him of assault. Yale allowed his application to continue normally. That may be the appropriate response, given that no formal complaint had been filed.

    But once the Rhodes trust suspended Witt’s candidacy, Yale’s culpability is much harder to ignor.

    Patrick Witt was allowed to issue a fraudulent statement through a university press release. He was permitted to propagate the story that he was choosing a noble course of action, playing a football game with his teammates rather than pursuing an individual award.

    But that story was a complete lie and, at that late point in the process, university administrators knew it was a lie. Who allowed Witt to issue his press release? Given how much national media attention Witt had already received by then, it’s reasonable to think that the decision went up through Tom Beckett all the way up to Rick Levin.

    Beckett, Levin and every Yale adminstrator involved in sheparding Witt’s candidacy through the Rhodes selection process need to come clean about what they knew and when they knew it. More importantly, Yale needs to say who approved the issuance of Patrick Witt’s fraudulent press release.

    • CharlieWalls

      Tom Beckett seems the one most in the middle, of this and the coaching problem. It seems there was too much rah-rah for the scholar side of Yale football based on personal deceit. The athletic director might have been a little more attentive — and concerned with the truth.

  • observer

    The question isn’t why the YDN didn’t break this story rather than the NYT.

    Rather, the question is what the YDN will do with the story now that it is out in the open.

    In the past, the YDN has been rather weak in going after coaches and administrators who have covered up for wayward athletes.

    See: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2006/oct/18/coaches-teams-must-set-a-good-example/

    Apart from the Rhodes business, I also thought it was intriguing to read about Witt’s checkered athletic history, with his family shopping him around from high school to high school, and college to college, in four different states in search of a “program” where sonny boy could star.

    Someone told me that Witt’s older brother, who was a QB at Harvard but seldom got off the bench, was similarly pushed and “guided” by their proud daddy – whose hovering and whining about the handling of his son royally pissed off the Harvard coaching staff.

    Maybe the policy of accepting jock transfers should be reexamined.

  • The Anti-Yale

    *Does the YDN have any interest in investigative journalism whatsoever? Have you considered holding yourselves to standards befitting the organization and school you represent?*

    ABSURD criticism. The YDN scooped every paper in the country and did so with absolute integrity about the murderm on campus last year.

    Cool down.


  • BR2013

    The entire NYT article is based on supposition and accusations such as the fact that the accuser has not filed a formal police or internal university complaint. If anything we should credit the YDN with upholding journalistic integrity.

    I also can’t believe that PK is standing up for the YDN. I never thought the day would come.

  • yalieForASaneNH

    I can’t believe this thread is 99% about the YDN and journalism, instead of the atrocity that is the way the administration handles sexual assault/harassment/”climate” issues. this place is a goddamn travesty.

    • BR2013

      Yale should be the best place that it can be independently. But you do realize that Yale is strides and bounds better at dealing with these issues than the vast majority of other educational institution in our country.

      • CC07

        “Yale is strides and bounds better at dealing with these issues than the vast majority of other educational institution in our country.” [citation needed]

  • Jaymin

    Let’s keep in mind that this is just and ALLEGATION at this point. Remember how the media destroyed the reputations of the Duke lacrosse players over their own unsubstantiated assault allegations? Let’s not repeat that mistake.

    • alphabetical

      I think it’s a bit late for that. An entire Times article was devoted to the accusations – his reputation is already ruined forever.
      If he did indeed commit sexual assault, the scar on his reputation is well-deserved. If he didn’t, he will still have to live with the consequences of the investigation for the rest of his life.
      Either way, this whole situation can serve as commentary on the University’s ambiguous, confusing policies surrounding allegations of sexual assault – policies that are clearly not serving their purpose when it comes to protecting students, both against sexual offenders and untrue allegations.

      • Branford73

        Clearly the Times didn’t learn its lesson from the Duke debacle. No one at the Times ever publicly expressed regret about its false reporting on that case.

        It is not the University’s ambiguous policies but rather the inherent ambiguity of allegations of date sexual assault. When the victim/accuser chooses the informal complaint process he/she chooses the confidentiality that goes along with it — unless of course a news outlet publishes the allegations of the victim/accuser or her friends who ignore the confidentiality of the process. Now that the lid is off should Witt or his friends be permitted to publish his version of what happened?

        Confidentiality theoretically encourages victims to come forward without fear of being dragged out into the open. It is good that victims be the ones who make the choice, but once that choice is made the confidentiality should be respected by all involved.

  • TonyLyndellWilliams

    “The New York Times” also reported that Witt enrolled in three high schools and two colleges in order to find a place where he could start at quarterback.

    Sign of the times, I guess.


    • observer

      I think it was FOUR high schools and two colleges.

  • EliFBfan

    This is what passes for journalism?? The entire NYT’s article is despicable in the extreme even for the “rag of record.” Nothing but a hatchet job aimed at character assassination, I presume to sell newspapers.
    There is so little credibility to the article the NYT had to say, “This account of the accusation against Witt and how it affected his Rhodes candidacy is based on interviews with a half-dozen people with knowledge of all or part of the story; they all spoke on the condition of anonymity.” Just incredible, not one established fact, not one verified source. How’s that a printable story, anywhere? Where’s the accountability? Where’s the ethics?
    This is Duke Lacrosse and Tawana Brawley revisited.
    “And the Rhodes committee learned about the incident through unofficial sources.” Now who do you suppose made that phone call?
    Pat Witt is an Academic All American from Yale trying to finish his senior thesis so he can graduate and prepare for the NFL draft. I like many, many others, wish him nothing but good luck.