The mysterious “student conduct violation” that kept WRs Antonio Callaway and Treon Harris away from the Gators all spring was revealed by ESPN to be an accusation of sexual assault by a female University of Florida student. But that’s just the start of the news today.
The woman is boycotting the university’s Title IX hearing into Callaway’s conduct (Harris has left the school) because the attorney hired by Florida to adjudicate the hearing is a Gators booster and donor.
Florida officials appointed attorney Jake Schickel to serve as a hearing officer. Schickel, a founding partner of a Jacksonville, Florida law firm, has a bachelor’s degree in political science and law degree from Florida. He is also a past trustee of Florida’s Levin College of Law.
A former track and field athlete at Florida, Schickel is a Scholarship Club donor to Florida Football Boosters, which requires annual contributions of $4,800 to $8,599, according to a 2014-15 “Year In Review” program published by the UF athletics department. According to the documents, Schickel is also a 3-Point Club donor to Florida basketball, which requires annual contributions of $2,000 to $4,999.
“To be clear, this letter is not intended to cast any aspersions about Mr. Schickel’s character or his service to his alma mater,” Clune wrote in an Aug. 2 letter to Hass. “However, UF should never have asked him to serve as an objective reviewer and decision-maker on this matter when the claim has been brought against a star member of the very team for which both he and his law partners have provided considerable financial support.
“Quite frankly, short of finding a relative of Mr. Calloway, I’m not sure how UF could have found someone with more conflicts [than] Mr. Schickel.”
ESPN obtained a letter by the accuser’s attorney informing Florida’s deputy general counsel that she and her witnesses will not attend the hearing, which was scheduled for today.
There are no details given of the woman’s complaint, which was filed to Florida’s student conduct and conflict resolution office after an alleged assault in early December. No complaint was made to either Gainesville or UF campus police. Harris and Callaway were suspended in January and barred from campus.
Last month, Harris announced his intention to transfer from Florida, which ESPN reports was a condition of a plea deal he struck in the Title IX case. (Another reported condition: Harris had to apologize to the accuser.)
Callaway regained his eligibility, pending the outcome of the Title IX case (which isn’t expected to be decided before the start of the season) and returned to practice yesterday.
ESPN spoke with Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, who told them that Jake Schickel’s conflict of interest couldn’t be more obvious.
“The obligation for a Title IX investigation is for it to be impartial and completed by somebody whose perspective is objective. All of those associations with the university certainly raise the issue of potential bias,” he said. “How would the alleged victim feel like she’s getting a fair shake?”
“I’m not even sure it’s ethical under the state ethics rules for the attorney to take on this engagement given his donations and other boosting of the athletic program,” he added.