Former Eugene City Councilor Kevin Hornbuckle sent a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education against the University of Oregon and the athletic department for Title IX violations Monday afternoon. The injured parties in Hornbuckle’s complaint include three former Oregon men’s basketball players — Dominic Artis, Brandon Austin and Damyean Dotson — who were investigated for an alleged rape and later kicked off the team.
Title IX is a federal law that “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.”
Hornbuckle emailed the Emerald with his full complaint, which he emailed to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Monday afternoon. An OCR spokesperson told the Emerald he could not confirm the receipt for Hornbuckle’s complaint, per OCR policy.
In addition to the three players, Hornbuckle also listed “prospective students” and “students enrolled at University of Oregon, particularly male students” as parties whose Title IX rights have been violated.
Hornbuckle argues that the alleged rape on March 9 was consensual, citing the dismissal of the case by the District Attorney and the Eugene Police Department for lack of evidence.
As such, he believes that the university’s response to the incident was a violation of Title IX.
“The University of Oregon administration participated in generating a climate of hysteria by failing to defend the three male students, and by very publicly impugning their morals and character,” Hornbuckle wrote.
Hornbuckle said UO president Michael Gottfredson, head men’s basketball coach Dana Altman and athletic director Rob Mullens violated Artis’, Austin’s and Dotson’s privacy and “caused a wave of public hostility,” not just against the three players but against the Ducks basketball program and male students in general.
“Rob Mullens, UO athletic director, suspended the three players after reading the police report, which readily illustrates that the players were engaged in private conduct and in compliance with the university’s student code of conduct,” Hornbuckle wrote.
Hornbuckle provided several examples of what he describes as “public hostility” including Gottfredson’s and Altman’s comments to the media on Friday, reader comments that ensued from newspaper articles and student protests on the UO campus. Hornbuckle believes the university didn’t take into enough account the statements from self-proclaimed witness Kelsy Altson from KATU and KWVA last week that conflict with the police report. Hornbuckle believes that they instead catered to ”misinformation” from the Register-Guard columnist Austin Meek regarding the alleged assault (Hornbuckle cites two lines from Meek’s column that he believes aren’t in accordance with the police report).
“President Gottfredsen succumbed to ill-formed public pressure instead of telling the newspaper and the public that the students have a right to privacy and that the student code of conduct does not deign to prescribe socially acceptable sexual activity,” Hornbuckle wrote.
Hornbuckle also took issue with several statements made by UO psychology professor Jennifer Freyd when she appeared on Oregon Public Radio on May 7.
In his complaint, Hornbuckle cited several of Freyd’s quotes, including this: ”First of all, we have a lot of people on campus who are themselves survivors of this sort of crime. And when they hear about this it can be very deeply distressing. But even those who have not experienced this crime, many of them feel very hurt by what they understand to be the situation and the process here. And so part of the rally is to create a community of people who are hurting…”
Hornbuckle took issue with implications he interpreted in Freyd’s statement.
“Dr. Freyd states that a crime had been committed, although she knew before and during this interview that the district attorney declined to file charges,” Hornbuckle wrote.
He felt similarly about Freyd’s treatment of Austin, who is currently under investigation for an alleged sexual assault in November 2013 when he was at Providence College.
“Freyd adds that the allegation from Rhode Island against one of the players should have been considered in making the decision whether to issue an email alert to the campus community, especially considering that one of the individuals who was allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct did have a history of a prior complaint,” Hornbuckle cites in the letter.
According to Hornbuckle, Freyd believes Austin should be treated as if he has been twice guilty for sexual assault, even though Austin hasn’t been charged in either case.
Hornbuckle also mentioned the Clery Act, which requires the reporting of crimes such as sexual assault. The Act’s requirements “do not cover the situation occurring off campus between consenting students,” Hornbuckle wrote.
He believes the evidence in the police report indicated consensual sex. Freyd’s behavior in the aftermath of this story, Hornbuckle wrote, “has created a hostile and fearful environment” for college age people wanting to engage in sexual activity.
“Dr. Freyd is clearly engaging in unethical conduct in order to attain funding,” Hornbuckle wrote. “The street term for this is ‘shake down.’ By making inflamatory statements to the press, the administration itself is complicit in this exercise.”
Hornbuckle concluded his complaint saying the “ever expanding definition of sexual assault has created a crisis on university campuses nationwide, and in Canada.”
His complaint to the U.S. Department of Education is a call for federal involvement to restore what he considers “normal channels of discourse and information dissemination.”
“To be sure, it is a dangerous situation when the President of the University of Oregon so fears for his job, and the coach and athletic director too, that they sacrifice the reputations and educations of innocent young men,” Hornbuckle wrote. “The need for federal intervention per Title IX is clear and compelling.”
Here is Hornbuckle’s complaint in full:
University of Oregon and its athletic department
1. students enrolled at Univ. Oregon, particularly male students.
2. prospective students of the Univ. Oregon
3. Brandon Austin, Dameyan Dotson, Dominic Artis
basis of discrimination:
description of events:
The three named male students were members of the UO basketball team when they engaged in consensual sexual relations with a female student in two off-campus locations. The female student later regretted her participation and her father alerted the Univ. Oregon police as to the possibility of sexual assault against his daughter.
The UO police contacted the Eugene police department and an officer initiated an investigation (Incident case number 14-04131). The police investigated the claims and forwarded the interviews and other putative evidence to the Lane County district attorney’s office. The district attorney found insufficient evidence to prosecute the three male students.
The University of Oregon administration participated in generating a climate of hysteria by failing to defend the three male students, and by very publicly impugning their morals and character. Public statements by the UO president Michael Gottfredsen, basketball coach Dana Altman, and athletic director Rob Mullens violated the privacy of the basketball players and encouraged and caused a wave of public hostility against the players and the basketball program and against male students in general.
Rob Mullens, UO athletic director, suspended the three players after reading the police report, which readily illustrates that the players were engaged in private conduct and in compliance with the university’s student code of conduct.
Examples of the public hostility include, in part:
Gottfredsen, Mullen, coach Altman statments in the Los Angeles Times.
The irresponsible comments of the UO administrators motivated racist comments from readers such as:
“These three animals had it all-$40,000 a year in free tuition, books, room and board-the best campus training basketball facilities in the United States, the most expensive arena to play in, trainers, coaches, travel, physical therapists, all paid for….”
On Thursday 8 May 2014 students protested on the UO campus outside of Johnson Hall, placards represented the three male player/students as “rapists.” Photographs of the protesters appeared in the Eugene Register Guard, the Los Angeles Times, Oregonlive website (the Oregonian), local television news stations, campus paper/website the Oregon Daily Emerald, and others.
Protesters’ signs widely disseminated defamation of the three students/players:
“I live in a rape culture.”
“Passes on the court, free pass from the courts”
“UO: Expel Rapists”
The following paragraph is published on the ABC News website. It demonstrates that the UO administration irresponsibly created “intense scrutiny” and then cited that scrutiny as cause for expelling the three players from the baskeball program.
“Speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon, coach Dana Altman said the decision to dismiss the athletes from the team was ultimately made in the “best interest” of the players, the team and the university because of the intense scrutiny they faced. The players were no longer on campus.”
The University of Oregon administration had free access to witnesses who were not interviewed by the police. Student Kelsey Alston told KATU news that she walked into the room occupied by the alleged victim and the three players.
“I playfully went to kiss her and I was a little bit overly playful and she got uncomfortable with me. And this is where her statement of events differs from my witness of events because she said that someone came in the bathroom and she left and Dotson chased her down the hall. And, what happened was I came in the bathroom and she got uncomfortable and ran from me,” explained Alston.
UO administrators had access to this statement which poignantly calls into question the credibility of the “survivor” (a term used by UO professor of psychology Jennifer Freyd). The “survivor” did not tell the police that Alston had walked in on the four, and this omission is what motivated Alston to speak to the media. ”
“I would never have spoken out on either side unless I felt that a truth I had was not being told. Specifically when I read the police report, I noticed that is not true,” Alston told KATU news.
Local sports columnist for the Register Guard newspaper, Austin Meek, printed misinformation about the the case and pressured UO administrators to suspend the players. Register Guard, ‘Who’s Setting the Message?’ 8 May 2014:
“No, the players in question – Austin, Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis – weren’t charged with a crime. It’s still disturbing to read how they worked in concert, identifying a woman and, according to the police report, pulling her into multiple encounters over the course of a night.”
That is not what the police report says. President Gottfredsen succumbed to ill-formed public pressure instead of telling the newspaper and the public that the students have a right to privacy and that the student code of conduct does not deign to prescribe socially acceptable sexual activity.
Meek continues: “The police report makes it clear: Even if authorities were telling the school not to kick up too much dust, the players should have been suspended.”
Again, that is not what the police report says. Gottfredseen and athletic director Mullens had the responsibility to protect the players from this harassment and they failed to do so. Moreover, their (Gottfredsen’s and Mullens’) comments to the media and suspension of the players encouraged the hysteria that clearly resulted in the players being suspended from the program. These actions by the UO administration constitute a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
UO psychology professor Jennifer Freyd told Oregon Public Radio on 7 May that there would be a rally on campus on 8 May (which did take place; photo above in L.A. Times link).
“First of all, we have a lot of people on campus who are themselves survivors of this sort of crime. And when they hear about this it can be very deeply distressing. But even those who have not experienced this crime, many of them feel very hurt by what they understand to be the situation and the process here. And so part of the rally is to create a community of people who are hurting….”
Dr. Freyd states that a crime had been committed, although she knew before and during this interview that the district attorney declined to file charges. Her efforts to mobilize people on campus who have been victimized by sex crimes amount to a mob-like atmosphere in which the rights of the players to due process were trampled. Making innocent people pay for the crimes of others is a violation multiple civil rights laws as well as the Constitution.
An additional objective, “I guess you could say, is to put some pressure on the the university to conduct a full investigation, to have a very , very open accounting of what happened, of who knew what when…. My question is why does this one [incident] not meet criteria [for Clery Act reporting of threat]?”
Freyd adds that the allegation from Rhode Island against one of the players should have been considered in making the decision whether to issue an email alert to the campus community: “…especially considering that one of the individuals who was allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct did have a history of a prior complaint.”
The complaint against Brandon Austin was brought over an alleged assault in November 2013 in Rhode Island. No criminal charges have been filed. Professor Freyd clearly believes that Austin should be treated as if he is twice guilty…when no charges have been filed in either case.
The Clery Act reporting requirements for timely warning and for emergency notification do not cover the situation occurring off campus between consenting students. Dr. Freyd should know this, and doubtless is very familiar with the Clery Act reporting requirements. She read the police report before speaking publicly and therefore she knew, or should have known, that this was a question of consent, and the evidence presented in the police report readily indicated that the woman making the complaint had engaged consensually in sex acts.
Dr. Freyd’s behavior wanders far from advocacy into fear mongering. She is a credentialed professional with ethical responsibilities to her profession and to students at the University of Oregon. Her activist interest is in expanding the definition of sexual assault to the point that consensual sex no longer exists. This has created a hostile and fearful environment for young men and women who naturally want to engage in sexual activity in their college years.
There are serious consequences to fear mongering, and one of them is erosion of civil liberties and therefore equal access to education. On 7 May, 6:12pm KVAL news posted to its website a video interview of District Attorney Alex Gardner. The interviewer is unnamed in the video and in the accompanying text. He is male and is not in the camera’s view.
The interviewer badgers the District Attorney to re-open the case. After repeatedly explaining that they look at the evidence and refrain from inserting their personal feelings into decisions to press or not press charges, the reporter says something very significant which represents the level of hysteria swirling in the media and initiated by misrepresentations by Dr. Freyd.
At min. 5:30 the reporter/interviewer asks:
“This may come across as stupid….Do you think that the lack of prosecution not only denies the alleged victim possible justice, but also denies the players the right to prove their innocence?”
D.A. Gardner responds: “No. You know what? You’re right. That is a stupid question. I’m sorry. That’s not the way our system works. People don’t prove their innocence except for on Perry Mason episodes. The D.A.’s responsibility and law enforcement’s responsibility is to thoroughly investigate the case….”
The campus based activist group UO Coalition to End Sexual Violence presented to the administration a list of demands on 12 May 2014. Number three demand is:
3) Provide resources for Dr. Jennifer Freyd’s research team so that they can begin conducting their campus climate research survey by Monday, June 2, 2014;
Other professors who would manipulate research findings for ideological purposes would be held to account for dishonest practices. Dr. Freyd is clearly engaging in unethical conduct in order to attain funding. The street term for this is “shake down.” By making inflamatory statements to the press, the administration itself is complicit in this exercise.
The ever expanding definition of sexual assault has created a crisis on university campuses nationwide, and in Canada. It has encroached consensual engagement to the point that males in particular are presumed to be guilty. The climate of prejudice encourages false accusations and disrupts students’ ability to learn.
This case has easily traceable institutions, people, and methods at the University of Oregon. Federal assistance is needed to intervene on behalf of the three basketball players, and the student body at large because vested interests have overtaken normal channels of discourse and information dissemination.
To be sure, it is a dangerous situation when the President of the University of Oregon so fears for his job, and the coach and athletic director too, that they sacrifice the reputations and educations of innocent young men. The need for federal intervention per Title IX is clear and compelling.
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415