Student Files Lawsuit Against UO

Earlier this week, UO rolled out its new brand. According to ABC News, “It was decided before the season started last fall to kick off a four-year overall marketing campaign using football as a welcome mat.” I doubt the power of “if,” as the UO’s campaign puts it (one of my grad students pointed out that the “the power of what if” was an old HP advertising campaign), grounded as it is in a branding campaign rather than reality. But it’s hard to doubt the power of Big Sports on college campuses around the country.

In November, the UO Senate Task Force released its report about sexual violence at UO, which included numerous recommendations for moving forward. In it, we noted,

We must not be reluctant to name sexual violence or to discuss its prevalence, even when doing so entails investigating and addressing problems within organizations that contribute to the social and cultural life of the university. We cannot ignore the fact that, despite the relatively small number of students directly involved in their activities, Athletics and Fraternity and Sorority Life.(FSL) play disproportionately powerful roles in facilitating or tolerating conditions in which sexual violence occurs on campus. This observation is grounded in decades of research on campus sexual violence, review of the training materials made available to the President’s Review Panel by Athletics, the walls of secrecy that surround these cultures, their activities, and their problems, and the number of high-profile cases of sexual violence in athletics programs and Greek life nationwide that exhibit many of the same problems we are experiencing at UO.

Today, the University of Oregon and basketball coach Dana Altman were sued over the sexual assault that occurred at UO last March. It may be that the walls of secrecy will come down yet.

Among the issues to consider from the complaint:

  • What UO knew: “Upon information and belief, Defendant Altman, assistant coach Tony Stubblefield, and other UO personnel thoroughly investigated Austin’s suspension and discussed the issues with Austin, his family and friends, and members of the Providence coaching staff. Upon information and belief, Altman and other UO personnel were fully aware. ln fact, Austin’s mother, when asked about what the UO coaches knew, said, “We told them everything. They knew everyhing.”
  • Despite previous concerns about the Federal Educational Records and Privacy Act( FERPA), “Counsel for Plaintiff told UO officials and attomeys that Plaintiff did not authorize the release of her privileged counseling file and instructed UO that the school administration and attorneys were not permitted to obtain those records from the Counseling and Testing Center. Those records contain much detail about Plaintiffs personal life and family that are not related to any issues sunounding these events. Shortly thereafter, in December 2014, a member of the UO administration contacted the Counseling and Testing Center and required that center to produce Plaintiff s privileged therapy records to the administration without any legal authorization. This directly contravened Plaintiff s clear instruction and violated both the Federal Educational Records and Privacy Act and the Heath Information Portability and Accountabilify Act, as well as state protections for medical records. On information and belief, the privileged records were unlawfully collected for the UO administration and their attorneys to gain advantage in preparing for any future litigation.”

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