Last May, three Oregon basketball players–Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin–were dismissed from the team after a police report detailing multiple gang rape incidents at a party emerged. The DA declined to prosecute the case, but said, “While there is no doubt the incidents occurred, the conflicting statements and actions by the victim make this case unprovable as a criminal case.” (the victim went to the police five days after the incident, after revealing what happened to her father, and even then was reluctant).
That brings us to January, when the victim filed a lawsuit against the University of Oregon for failing to properly investigate under Title IX. The University would have known by the time campus cops investigated on March 13th, 2014, before the Pac-12 Tournament. It also alleges that head coach Dana Altman was aware of prior rape allegations against transfer Brandon Austin from when he was at Providence College. The team did not take action until the police report became public.
And now, Katie Rose Guest Pryal at The Chronicle of Higher Education has a breakdown of a crazy loophole, and some despicable action by the University of Oregon, in defending the lawsuit.
It turns out, the University administration, as part of its defense, accessed counseling records from the campus counseling office, from the victim’s visits with counselors, to use in its defense.
This was from the story a couple of weeks ago on Oregon’s counterclaim (since dismissed after public outcry):
Earlier this month, an employee in the UO Counseling and Testing Center notified state officials that she believed UO administrators had improperly looked at an unnamed student’s clinical files to help prepare for a lawsuit they believed the student was close to filing. A UO spokesman later told the Register-Guard that the lawsuit in question was indeed the Jane Doe civil complaint.
The employee also wrote she was told to provide the student with “nonstandard care” because of the pending suit.
So, just to recap, if you go to a counseling center on campus, thinking you have patient-treatment provider confidentiality, sorry. The same Universities that will stand behind privacy and FERPA when investigated for their roles in looking into campus sexual assaults will use it as a sword and just go look at those treatment records whenever it suits them.
Guest Pryal does a good job breaking down the issues with FERPA, and why, amazingly, that is allowed under the law. Her response after making that discovery.
Students: Don’t go to your college counseling center to seek therapy. Go to an off-site counseling center. If, God forbid, you’ve been sexually assaulted, try to find a rape-crisis center. It will have wonderful people to talk to, free of charge. (I know from personal experience.) You simply do not have adequate privacy protections if you go to a college-provided counselor. Sorry. (Or, in the University of Oregon’s case, sorry not sorry.)
I suggest you read the whole thing, because the issues are much bigger than just Oregon–though their actions are reprehensible.