February 4th, 2012 | University

UPDATED: Rhodes releases statement on Witt ’12

The Rhodes Trust released a statement Friday outlining a new timeline that differs from Patrick Witt’s ’12 own account of how his Rhodes candidacy ended.

According to the Trust, which had previously declined to comment on the matter, the scholarship foundation informed Witt on Nov. 3 that it had learned of a complaint filed against the former quarterback last fall. The statement said Yale notified Witt on Nov. 8 that his candidacy would need to be re-endorsed by University administrators.

But in a Wednesday interview with the News, Witt said he first learned of the need for re-endorsement on either the evening of Nov. 9 or morning of Nov. 10 from a phone call with Katherine Dailinger, Yale’s director for national fellowships. In a Friday interview, Witt’s spokesman Mark Magazu said Witt stands by his previous statement. Magazu also maintained that when Dailinger informed Witt of the need for re-endorsement, Witt told her in the same phone conversation that he had already made his decision to play in the Yale-Harvard Game, scheduled for the same day as his Rhodes interview.

UPDATE: 11:55 a.m.

Read the full text of the Rhodes Trust’s statement below.

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

  • River_Tam


    The key point is that contra the NYTime’s account, the Rodes committee did NOT disqualify Witt from his candidacy and did NOT force him to withdraw.

    • cyborg

      Not quite…

      • JE14

        Uhm yea did you read it? It does not say, “we disqualified him”.

    • strauss1

      The NYT article didn’t say either of those things. Go read it again.

      • River_Tam

        The NYTime’s account heavily implied that Witt withdrew because he was unable to secure the re-endorsement. Everyone I know who read the article got that impression, including numerous Yalies and ex-Yalies who discussed this issue extensively on facebook and in-person.

        • strauss1

          “University officials would not discuss other issues, like why Yale did not officially alert the Rhodes Trust of the complaint; what it did upon learning the candidacy had been suspended; and whether Yale ultimately decided not to endorse Witt before he withdrew on his own.”

          If there’s a part where this is “heavily implied,” I’d love to see it.

          Requiring him to withdraw and requiring a re-endorsement are two different things in the first place.

        • y07hls10

          I disagree. What I got from the NYT was that his candidacy had run up against a wall, and he said “Okay” rather than attempting to secure the re-endorsement. (The issue then, of course, is spinning the ultimate decision as a product of choosing team over individual glory, without an acknowledgement that the possibility of that individual glory had hit an embarrassing snag that may have, in fact, proven fatal and made the “decision” no decision at all.)

  • alb

    From the New York Times: “Gerson [of the Rhodes Trust], in a brief interview Friday, said the word ‘suspended’ was ‘a very reasonable characterization of what happened.’

  • An_Observer

    After Patrick issued his rebuttal through his agent, there have been three key questions:

    (1) First, did the Rhodes Trust tell Patrick that his candidacy had been suspended pending a second endorsement from Yale? This is the most important question of all and has been answered conclusively. Yes, his candidacy had been suspended, whether the Rhodes Trust used that specific word or a synonym.

    I noticed that, every time Patrick used the word “suspended” in his denial, he put it in quotation marks. Perhaps he was hiding behind the fact that the Rhodes Trust had not used that specific term with him. In light of the new statement from the Rhodes committee, either Patrick 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 Patrick and Yale issued their press release on November 13, did Yale know that his Rhodes had been suspended? Mr. Gerson of the Rhodes Trust makes it clear that Yale knew the candidacy was suspended.

    (3) Did Patrick decide to play in the Harvard game independent of and/or prior to the bad news from the Rhodes committee? Patrick granted an interview to the YDN in which he attempted to make the case that he was already leaning toward playing in the football game before learning 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 statement from Mr. Gerson that nothing was communicated to the Rhodes Trust until November 13, the day of the press release. Until a decision 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 Patrick’s statements since the Times story was published follow a strategy of telling limited snippets of the truth, but not the whole truth.

    Similarly, Yale absolutely knew that Patrick’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 Patrick was nobly choosing to play with his teammates over pursuing a Rhodes candidacy which was still absolutely viable and proceeding.

    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 Patrick’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 Patrick 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.

    • Justine

      “Who within Yale University wrote and authorized an institutional lie?” Spot on An_Observer.

      But, where does the buck stop? Why does Yale choose to hide behind a cloak of secrecy? Who is protecting who? Protecting Witt, I think not. He is collateral damage to Yale.

      Yale and its administration have a fiduciary responsiblity albeit a moral one, as does the Yale Corporation, to act forthrightly and expeditiously to make this right and clear Yale’s name as stewards of this institution.

      Like The Rhodes Trust, Yale must come forth with its timeline. I can only imagine under the 19 years of President Levin’s Presidency of Yale and head of Yale Corporation, that this series of events is disconcerting. It occurred under his watch. I can not imagine that he would not want to get to the bottom of this.

      Questions I have are:

      1. If the Rhodes Scholarship application is due in early October, did the Yale persons endorsing the application know of the September sexual assault allegation against Witt? If not, how would they not know? If the endorsers did know, why did Yale allow the application to still be filed?

      2. Did Yale endorse the application with or without knowledge of the prior Nebraska and New Haven arrests, one of which is easily found on a Google search?

      3. Why did Yale not proactively tell the Rhodes Trust about the sexual assault claim as soon as it knew? If the endorsers did not know, why?

      4. Why did Yale not disclose a full and complete press release with no wiggle room? Is it not issued under Yale’s official letterhead rather than a student’s own press release?

      5. Does Yale believe an accusation of sexual assault is cause to expeditiously contact The Rhodes Trust due to the “moral character” qualification required of Rhodes applicants?

  • penny_lane

    I really don’t want to hear about this anymore. Please just stop, news media.

  • bulldogs344

    This smells very fishy. In the interest of all Yale students and alumni, the YDN should be calling out the Yale administration.

  • eli1143770312

    Elliot Gerson has surfaced from time to time in this morass involving Witt, Williams and Yale. With all of the anonymous sources the New York Times has relied upon, I’m kind of curious about Mr. Gerson’s role. When he has surfaced, he seems an eager commentator which makes me wonder if he isn’t an equally eager anonymous source, violating the spirit if not the letter of an obligation of confidentiality.

  • silliwin01

    Why is River_Tam so pro-Witt?

    • jk

      Good question.

      River_Tam has a complicated history with Patrick Witt; with memories of possible sexual assault; with the accuracy of her memory; and with the Yale Daily News – all of which was she admitted in comments she submitted to the publication on February 3, 2012: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2012/feb/01/witt-12-clarifies-timeline/

      Reader comments now extend the life of an article and they seem to shape the perception of a story’s legitimacy as well – regardless of whether the comments are accurate, intelligent, truthful or even germane.

      • River_Tam

        Hi jk,

        As I’ve said before, I don’t really know Pat Witt.

    • River_Tam

      I just think he’s being unfairly tarred and feathered before we know all (any) of the facts. If it turns out that he did sexually assault a girl, I’ll be the first to demand that he be permanently removed from Yale (as should have happened to other men who’ve sexually assaulted Yale women and been allowed to complete their degree).

  • JackJ

    Question: Who told the Rhodes Trust? Isn’t the process supposed to protect confidentiality?

    • eli1143770312

      If you are aware of a character issue with a Rhodes candidate, I don’t have a problem with someone telling the Rhodes folks. But it seems likely that the public disclosures here, first about Williams and more recently about Witt, originated with the Rhodes folks. Think about it: the Times editor described the Witt/Rhodes story as a big feel good sports story that required closer examination but really it was a big feel bad Rhodes story that someone at the Rhodes Trust decided needed to be set “right.” Shame on that person.

      • silliwin01

        Shame on them for exposing fraud? Great morals at this institution.

        • JE14

          nice jumping to conclusions here. Do you know jacksh!t about this? No. Then don’t say it’s a fraud or isn’t. I’m sick of this, “the economy is bad, there’s nothing in the news, but we need to find something to gossip about” sensationalist journalism and those who follow it.

  • concerned

    My question is, isn’t this just another Yale quid pro quo? You quarterback for us, you get your Rhodes reference letter. But only one, if everybody’s looking.

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