I. THIS IS NOT A NON-STORY
Summary: Yale University is again on the brink of scandal, as star quarterback Patrick Witt’s announcement in November that he would play in the Yale-Harvard game and forfeit his chance to interview for the Rhodes is coming under new scrutiny. According to the New York Times, he may have known at that point that his candidacy had been suspended because the Rhodes Trust had learned of sexual assault allegations against him.
Before I proceed: I realize there are a number of “mays” and “seems” in the paragraph above. Yes, Pat Witt is innocent until proven guilty; in reality, his innocence with regard to the allegations is not in question, because the process by which the student filed her complaint does not precipitate a formal investigation by the university or by law enforcement.
NEVERTHELESS, this story is still worthy of consideration. This is not a case of a random college student unfairly thrust into the spotlight due to unproven sexual assault allegations. Patrick Witt willingly exploited the media attention he received for making his “heroic” choice to serve Yale Football instead of his academic career. If it turns out that both he and the university were complicit in hiding (note: I don’t mean lying, I mean obscuring) the real reason for his choice to participate in the game, then that is something the public deserves to know. Furthermore, Yale is unwilling to report whether its endorsement of Witt for the Rhodes came before or after the allegations were made against him; this is also important, especially for a university long accused of dealing inadequately with problems relating to sexual assault. And finally, if this piece by a Yale senior is to be trusted, it appears the Yale Daily News knew about this story for months, and chose not to report it.
All of which is to say that although I do not wish for Witt’s or Yale’s names to be needlessly sullied, they to some extent must be cleared. Witt received highly favorable press in outlets ranging from ESPN and Sports Illustrated to the Washington Post and the New York Times. Yale has had continuing problems with sexual assault that I’m sure it would love to sweep under the rug. And student journalists snuffing out a story? If they have good reasons, let’s hear them.
II. OH, THE NEW YORK TIMES!
If you came here looking for vitriol, you’re in the right place!
To wit: I suspect, quite strongly and for a bunch of reasons, that in yesterday’s New York Times article about Witt, the word “sexual” was left out of the headline and the article itself was unusually constructed on purpose.
1. According to the paper, the guy’s Rhodes eligibility was revoked because he was accused of sexual assault, and yet that’s not worthy of inclusion in the headline? Come on. The Times, like every other news organization in the world, knows that SEO thrives on words like “sexual” in the headline. You’d have to be crazy to think that the accusation of sexual assault was not the overriding point of this article—the very reason for it’s existence. It’s as if they felt obligated to publish the story, but inclined to disguise it as much as possible.
2. The assault allegations themselves are buried halfway into the article! Are you kidding? They make the point of mentioning that it was not a “formal complaint” (an absolutely absurd distinction that Yale should be ashamed of) in the third paragraph but don’t mention that the girl went to the university’s sexual harrassment center and reported the assault until the NINETEENTH FUCKING PARAGRAPH? How many people do you think actually read to the nineteenth paragraph? VERY FEW! Oh, and the Yale administration “very strongly believes in the confidentiality policies [they] have in place?” I BET THEY DO! Gee, wouldn’t it be awkward if Yale was again in the news because of sexual assault?
Now here’s the question: how does something like this happen? Is it just one-off bad reporting and writing? The usual news editor was out sick? Because this is highly suspect. Wouldn’t it be funny if someone in the Yale administration had the phone number for someone on the masthead at the Times? Does that seem outside the realm of possibility? Any chance that there was a little late-night phone call, a little “Do me a solid, brah” that might have gone down? Any chance there are some people at the Times who have some allegiance to Yale?
What’s that? The Executive Editor at the Times, the one who took over in September, she was a professor? Where’d she teach? Oh, really? No way!
She taught there?