PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A student who said she was sexually assaulted by three members of the University of Oregon men’s basketball team sent an open letter to the school newspaper in which she asserts the athletic department prioritizes winning over student safety.
The statement was published Thursday in the Daily Emerald. John Clune, a Colorado-based attorney who also represented the woman who accused Kobe Bryant of rape, confirmed to The Associated Press that he sent the letter to the paper and the student continues to take classes at the university.
The statement marks the unidentified woman’s first public comment on the matter. The woman met the players at a party March 8, the same night the Ducks finished the regular season. The woman’s father soon called police.
The university was informed of the ensuing investigation but allowed two of the players, Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, to compete in the NCAA tournament. The third player, Brandon Austin, could not suit up because of NCAA transfer rules.
Investigators determined in late April there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute the players. Though they were not charged with a crime, the players were kicked off the team last month.
“The past few months have, undeniably, been the hardest and most challenging time in my life,” the woman’s letter states. “This is such an overwhelming experience and one that I hope that no other student on campus ever has to live through.”
The letter criticizes Coach Dana Altman for recruiting Austin as a transfer. A prized recruit for Providence College, Austin was suspended at the beginning of his freshman season in November. Though there were rumors that Austin had been suspended over a sexual incident, Providence officials and coaches declined to disclose the specific reason for Austin’s absence, even to Altman.
The Wall Street Journal eventually broke the news March 18 that Austin had been investigated for an alleged sexual assault while at Providence.
“I know a lot of people are angry. I am angry, too,” the woman wrote. “I am angry with the culture that appears to exist in our athletic department that prioritizes winning over safety of our students. I cannot fathom how our basketball coach recruited someone who was in the middle of a suspension for another sexual assault to come to Eugene.”
Altman said last month that in retrospect, he should have delved more deeply into why Austin never played for Providence.
UO spokeswoman Julie Brown said Thursday that the university is pleased that the woman is continuing her education and that her letter praises the support she received from the dean of students’ office.
“There have been many comments made by individuals not directly involved and affected by the alleged incident until today’s open letter to the Daily Emerald,” she said. “We sympathize with the challenging position that she finds herself in and support her right to express herself.”
Her attorney John Clune released the following statement on her behalf to The Emerald:
An open letter from a fellow Duck:
The past few months have, undeniably, been the hardest and most challenging time in my life. This is such an overwhelming experience and one that I hope that no other student on campus ever has to live through. Given what has transpired on campus recently, I have at times wondered whether I ever should have told anyone about what had happened.
I know a lot of people are angry. I am angry, too. I am angry with the culture that appears to exist in our athletic department that prioritizes winning over safety of our students. I cannot fathom how our basketball coach recruited someone who was in the middle of a suspension for another sexual assault to come to Eugene. I think that students, faculty, and other community members have been asking some very needed questions of our athletic department, and I am not satisfied with the answers they have provided. I think that we all deserve better explanations and real transparency.
Despite my frustration, it is important to me to thank the Dean of Students office. They have been very kind and supportive of me and I can’t thank them enough. I’m not sure I would still be on campus if it weren’t for their help.
I know this has stirred up a lot of issues on campus and some of them are bigger than my incident. My sincere hope, though, is that as a school UO can get through this and come out in a better place at the end. I still love our school and I want it to be the best and safest place anywhere in the country.