Not in Our Name: The UO Senate Rejects UO’s Response to the Lawsuit from the Student Survivor of Alleged Rape [SUSPENSION OF RULES, 03/04/15]

Number: 
US14/15-55
Date of Notice: 
Wed, 03/04/2015
Legislation, Resolution, or Policy Adoption: 
Resolution
Current Status: 
Approved on 03/04/15
Motion: 

Section I

1.1    WHEREAS on January 8th 2015 the University of Oregon student survivor of an alleged March 8th-9th 2014 gang rape by three UO basketball players sued the University and Basketball Coach Dana Altman;[i]

1.2    AND WHEREAS on February 9th the University filed a counterclaim against the student, asking the court to order her to pay the fees for the University’s own outside lawyers;[ii]

1.3    AND WHEREAS the University’s counterclaim outraged many in the university community and the public;

1.4    AND WHEREAS, despite withdrawing the counterclaim on February 26th, the University retained language from the counterclaim saying that some of the lawsuit’s allegations (a) amount to “unclean hands,” (b) “threaten to harm … all sexual assault survivors in Oregon's campus community“ and (c) create a “risk that other survivors will wrongly be discouraged from reporting sexual assaults and sexual harassment”;[iii]

1.5    AND WHEREAS the University’s efforts to defend itself in this and similar cases should be limited to disputing facts, instead of using its legal documents to make sweeping, polemical policy statements that themselves can cause harm to survivors;

Section II

2.1   BE IT THEREFORE MOVED that the University of Oregon Senate appreciates Interim President Coltrane’s decision to drop the University’s counterclaim against the student survivor, for UO’s legal fees;

2.2   AND BE IT FURTHERMORE MOVED that the Senate fears that the victim-blaming language that is still in the revised response listed under “unclean hands” will harm victims of sexual assault at the University of Oregon, discourage them from reporting rapes, and have a chilling effect on them defending their civil rights in court;

2.3   AND BE IT MOVED that the Senate requests that the University report to the Senate on how the University originally decided to file this counterclaim and how it later decided to continue the assertions that parts of the alleged victim’s lawsuit are to be blamed for discouraging rape reports;

2.4   AND BE IT FURTHERMORE MOVED that the University of Oregon Senate asks the University President to withdraw the remaining counterclaim language that has been retained as a charge of “unclean hands”;

2.5   AND BE IT FINALLY MOVED that the University of Oregon Senate wants all to know that the University of Oregon administration and Basketball Coach Dana Altman are not acting or speaking in our name.

 

Financial Impact: 
Cost neutral
Sponsor: 
Jennifer Freyd (Psychology), Senator
John Bonine (Law), Professor
Carol Stabile (Journalism & Communication), Professor
Regina Psaki (Romance Languages), Senator
Ibrahim Gassama (Law), Professor
Legislative History: 

Introduced on Senate Floor 03/04/15


[i] Jane Doe claim: http://ia802700.us.archive.org/29/items/gov.uscourts.ord.120035/gov.uscourts.ord.120035.1.0.pdf

[ii] UO and Dana Altman response and counterclaim against Jane Doe, pages 24-27, http://ia902700.us.archive.org/29/items/gov.uscourts.ord.120035/gov.uscourts.ord.120035.7.0.pdf

[iii] UO revised response http://ia802700.us.archive.org/29/items/gov.uscourts.ord.120035/gov.uscourts.ord.120035.14.0.pdf

Background:

From UO’s revised response:

NINETEENTH DEFENSE

(Unclean Hands/Estoppel)

101. Plaintiff's attorney represented plaintiff throughout Oregon's investigation of her allegations and conduct proceeding, and consented to the process about which he now complains. Plaintiff is therefore estopped or barred under the doctrine of unclean hands from complaining about the process.

102. Plaintiff’s attorneys filed a lawsuit with unfounded allegations that damage a good man's reputation7 in an attempt to curry favor and gain traction in the media and create pressure for a public university to pay a hefty sum to plaintiff even though it has done nothing wrong. In this case plaintiff's counsel's false allegations threaten to harm not only Oregon and Altman, but all sexual assault survivors in Oregon's campus community. The publication of false allegations about Oregon's handling of a report of an alleged sexual assault creates a very real risk that other survivors will wrongly be discouraged from reporting sexual assaults and sexual harassment to Oregon, in direct contravention of the goals of both Title IX and the University of Oregon. Conveying the facts about how Oregon properly handled plaintiff’s case is necessary to demonstrate the high priority Oregon gives to honoring the rights guaranteed by Title IX.

7 See, e.g., John Canzano, Every Day Oregon Stands With Dana Altman Is Another Step Into the Muck, Oregonian, Jan. 8, 2014 (accepting as true the false allegations in the complaint that Altman knew about prior allegations of rape against Austin and calling for his termination).