Patrick Witt Denies That Sexual Assault Claims Played Any Role In His Rhodes Scholarship WithdrawalS

It was only yesterday we were disabused of the notion that the Yale quarterback passed up on his final Rhodes Scholarship interview in order to play in the big Harvard game. Instead, the Times reported that sexual assault claims from a fellow student caused the Rhodes Trust to ask Yale for a re-endorsement, and Witt pulled out of the program the next day.

Day two of the story bears new fruit. First, a claim that the Yale Daily News was aware of the allegations against Witt as early as November, but chose not to pursue it.

As current Science and Technology editor Eli Markham told me, the News' editor-in-chief, Max de la Bruyere, decided to sit on the story in mid-November. "It's more complicated than that," he told a leader on last year's editorial board, who asked to remain anonymous. Multiple current and past members of the newspaper's managing board, all deeply involved in the day-to-day work of the paper, have confirmed that the News has had the story for over two months. In fact, the Times story that broke last night featured reporting from last year's editor-in-chief, Vivian Yee. She too approached the paper with a tip-off, but its editors chose not to follow the story. The paper even knew that the sexual assault claim had lost Pat an offer to join the Boston Consulting Group after graduation. Even then, they wrote nothing. For reasons personal, social, or political - who can ever tell on a college campus? - the News' management chose to ignore the bombshell, protecting Pat's reputation.

And just minutes ago, we received a statement from Mark Magazu, president of image consulting firm Atlas Strategies, who Witt has apparently retained to represent him. The statement maintains that Witt had already decided to withdraw from the Rhodes program solely because of the interview's conflict with the Harvard-Yale game, and that the sexual assault claims came from a student "with whom he had engaged in an on-again, off-again relationship beginning in the Spring of 2011 and ending about two months before the informal complaint was filed."

The full statement:

Statement on behalf of Patrick Witt in response to New York Times article
On January 27, 2012, The New York Times published a story regarding Patrick Witt, senior quarterback for Yale University, referencing Patrick's decision to forego his pursuit of the Rhodes Scholarship in order to compete against Harvard in his final college football game.

This was a difficult decision for Patrick, as his candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship represented a high honor and an opportunity to explore his personal academic interests in international affairs at Oxford. Patrick respects the academic traditions of both Yale and the Rhodes Trust, and he remains grateful for the opportunities each has afforded him.

The New York Times story incorrectly connects Patrick's decision to forego 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.

To be clear, Patrick's Rhodes candidacy was never "suspended", as the article suggests, and his official record at Yale contains no disciplinary issues.

Patrick formally withdrew his candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship on Sunday, November 13, in an email to both the Regional Secretary and the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust. He withdrew after being informed in an email from the Regional Secretary on November 8 that the Rhodes Committee would not reschedule Patrick's final interview, which would overlap Yale's football game versus Harvard on November 19. Though disappointed, Patrick understood the fairness of this decision and accepted it as conclusive.

As this decision process unfolded, Patrick became aware that an anonymous source had contacted the Rhodes Trust with false information purporting to reference an informal – and confidential – complaint within the University. In light of this, and given the short period of time between this occurrence and the potential final interview, the Rhodes Trust asked for an additional letter of reference for Patrick from Yale. By that time, however, Patrick had already informed Athletic Department officials that he intended to withdraw his candidacy due to the inability to reschedule his final interview, and that he would issue a statement to this effect following the Princeton game on November 12.

Patrick's inclination to forego the Rhodes Scholarship in the event of an irreparable scheduling conflict is a longstanding matter of public record. For example, The New Haven Register article entitled "Patrick Witt Places ‘The Game' Over Rhodes Interview" was published before Patrick was notified of the initiation of any informal complaint process. That article quotes Patrick as follows: "The commitment I made to this team I believe would come first and I would want to honor that. It wouldn't feel right letting them down for not being there for the Harvard/Yale game."

Regarding the informal complaint referenced in the New York Times article, Yale offers students both informal and formal avenues to address certain issues. An "informal" complaint is heard by a committee of university community members, but no fact-finding process occurs and there is no burden of proof required for filing a complaint. In Patrick's case, no formal complaint was filed, no written statement was taken from anyone involved, and his request to the Chairman of the committee for a formal inquiry was denied because, he was told, there was nothing to defend against since no formal complaint was ever filed. Further, while the committee can refer an informal complaint into a formal process if more substantial disciplinary action may be warranted, it did not do so in Patrick's case. At that time, all parties, including the University and Patrick, considered the matter ended.

Regarding the information contained in the informal complaint, neither Patrick nor the other parties are permitted by confidentiality rules to discuss details of the matter, though it is important to note that the committee took no further action after hearing the informal complaint. Patrick is aware that the informal complaint was filed by a person he had known for many months prior and with whom he had engaged in an on-again, off-again relationship beginning in the Spring of 2011 and ending about two months before the informal complaint was filed.

Finally, as to Patrick's academic standing at Yale, he has completed all necessary coursework and will graduate upon submission of his senior essay this spring, as is standard for all students in his major.