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Sen. Ron Wyden Asks for Meeting on Campus Sexual Assaults with UO President Schill

Sen. Ron Wyden has requested a meeting with University of Oregon President Michael Schill following Schill’s response to the senator’s letter requesting specific practices and university guidelines pertaining to sexual assault on campus.

On Nov. 3, Wyden sent Schill a letter asking five questions about procedures relating to sexual conduct violations and whether the university followed its own policies when it was notified that basketball player Kavell Bigby-Williams was under criminal investigation for alleged forcible rape.

The letter followed an investigative article in Sports Illustrated that delved into the Bigby-Williams case.

 “I love my alma mater and want to get this fixed as soon as possible — a goal that of course means I would meet with President Schill,” Wyden says in an email to Eugene Weekly. “That meeting would benefit immensely from including Brenda Tracy, a nationally recognized Oregon voice on the topic of sexual assault.”

Hank Stern with Wyden’s office tells EW in an email, “Sen. Wyden looks forward to meeting with the university president about the school following its own procedures that balance the achievable need to protect student privacy with the essential goal of keeping campuses safe for all students.”

Stern continues, “It’s clear from the university’s answers to the questions Wyden raised that more work remains to improve campus safety, including establishing and abiding by clear and consistent processes when allegations of sexual misconduct arise.

“Wyden believes it’s critical to engage in a national conversation on these issues and work with colleges, athletic departments, policymakers and nationally respected advocates like Brenda Tracy to further the cause of promoting campus safety.”

Earlier this month, EW asked Wyden what he thinks needs to happen in order to ensure student safety on campus.

“There’s got to be a zero-tolerance policy,” Wyden said.

EW interviewed Tobin Klinger, UO’s Senior Director of Public Affairs Communications, on Nov. 9 about the Sports Illustrated story that called into question the university’s own response to following its policies regarding Title IX.

“The victim or the alleged victim in this situation made it abundantly clear that she did not wish for anything to move forward,” Klinger said. “So the university then, based on its policy and practices, assesses that, and then says, ‘Is there an ongoing threat to campus that we need to take into consideration that would override her ability to assert what she wants to have happen?’”

In this case was there was no ongoing threat “that was perceived in any way, shape or form,” Klinger said. “And the allegation that is out there is that we should have gone further.”

Klinger said the story reflected “Monday morning quarterbacking.”

The author of the SI story is former EW intern and current UO student Kenny Jacoby.

EW asked Klinger if the university considered evidence outside of the university as part of an ongoing threat, specifically the police report from Wyoming.

“No, because the police report from Wyoming set in motion what brought us to the point that it was assessed, and when you’re looking at an ongoing threat, you’re looking at whether or not there is a direct risk to the campus based on the information you have,” Klinger said. “And there was nothing in the police report or brought in external to the police report that would indicate that there was an ongoing threat.”

In Schill’s response to Wyden, he wrote: “Our staff responds to more than 450 disclosures a year and we welcome the opportunity to share information with policy makers. I will not claim that we are perfect, but I think you would be proud of our efforts.”

Schill also says, “In fact, the UO has been a leader in developing prevention programs and student-centric reporting obligations for faculty and staff.”

As the Sports Illustrated story points out, the UO made headlines with the way it handled rape allegations against three basketball players in 2014. The school later settled with the victim for $800,000, four years’ paid tuition and a promise of changes in how the school assesses transfer students. 

In 2015, a sexual violence survey conducted by the UO Department of Psychology found that 27 percent of women on campus reported “any attempted or completed sexual contact without consent.”