UPDATE: This story was updated Tuesday evening around 9 p.m. with responses from Austin Meek and Jennifer Freyd, who are both criticized in the complaint at the bottom of this post.
Former Eugene City Councilor Kevin Hornbuckle sent a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education against the University of Oregon and the athletic department for Title IX violations Monday afternoon. The injured parties in Hornbuckle’s complaint include three former Oregon men’s basketball players — Dominic Artis, Brandon Austin and Damyean Dotson — who were investigated for an alleged rape and later kicked off the team.
Title IX is a federal law that “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.”
Hornbuckle emailed the Emerald with his full complaint, which he emailed to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Monday afternoon. An OCR spokesperson told the Emerald he could not confirm the receipt for Hornbuckle’s complaint, per OCR policy.
“If after evaluation the Education Department opens an investigation into a complaint, we will inform the institution, the complainant and the public, as appropriate,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
In addition to the three players, Hornbuckle also listed “prospective students” and “students enrolled at University of Oregon, particularly male students” as parties whose Title IX rights have been violated.
Hornbuckle argues that the alleged rape on March 9 was consensual, citing the dismissal of the case by the District Attorney and the Eugene Police Department for lack of evidence.
As such, he believes that the university’s response to the incident was a violation of Title IX.
“The University of Oregon administration participated in generating a climate of hysteria by failing to defend the three male students, and by very publicly impugning their morals and character,” Hornbuckle wrote.
Hornbuckle said UO president Michael Gottfredson, head men’s basketball coach Dana Altman and athletic director Rob Mullens violated Artis, Austin and Dotson’s privacy and “caused a wave of public hostility,” not just against the three players but against the Ducks basketball program and male students in general.
“Rob Mullens, UO athletic director, suspended the three players after reading the police report, which readily illustrates that the players were engaged in private conduct and in compliance with the university’s student code of conduct,” Hornbuckle wrote.
Hornbuckle provided several examples of what he describes as “public hostility,” including Gottfredson’s and Altman’s comments to the media on Friday, reader comments that ensued from newspaper articles and student protests on the UO campus. Hornbuckle believes the university didn’t take into enough account the statements from self-proclaimed witness Kelsy Altson to KATU and KWVA last week that conflict with the police report. Hornbuckle believes that they instead catered to “misinformation” from people such as the Register-Guard columnist Austin Meek.
Hornbuckle cites two paragraphs from Meek’s May 8 column entitled “Who’s Setting the Message?” that he believes aren’t in accordance with the police report.
“No, the players in question – Austin, Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis – weren’t charged with a crime,” Meek wrote in his column. “It’s still disturbing to read how they worked in concert, identifying a woman and, according to the police report, pulling her into multiple encounters over the course of a night.”
The other part of Meek’s story Hornbuckle took issue with:
“The police report makes it clear: Even if authorities were telling the school not to kick up too much dust, the players should have been suspended.”
Hornbuckle said the content in both of Meek’s cited paragraphs aren’t truly what the police report says.
Meek responded to Hornbuckle’s comments in an email to the Emerald Tuesday night.
“As a columnist, part of my job is to interpret information and offer my own opinion,” Meek wrote in his email. “When I wrote that it was clear the players should have been suspended, I wasn’t referencing a literal segment of the police report. It was my own judgment, based on statements from all parties and my understanding of the rules for Oregon athletes.
“The report leaves little doubt that multiple encounters occurred. At one point, the woman describes how ‘all three men again pulled her into the bathroom.’ Regardless of whether those encounters were consensual, the report makes it clear — to me, at least — that the players had a role in facilitating them.”
Hornbuckle also took issue with several statements made by UO psychology professor Jennifer Freyd when she appeared on Oregon Public Radio on May 7.
In his complaint, Hornbuckle cited several of Freyd’s quotes, including this: “First of all, we have a lot of people on campus who are themselves survivors of this sort of crime. And when they hear about this it can be very deeply distressing. But even those who have not experienced this crime, many of them feel very hurt by what they understand to be the situation and the process here. And so part of the rally is to create a community of people who are hurting…”
Hornbuckle took issue with implications he interpreted in Freyd’s statement.
“Dr. Freyd states that a crime had been committed, although she knew before and during this interview that the district attorney declined to file charges,” Hornbuckle wrote.
He felt similarly about Freyd’s treatment of Austin, who is currently under investigation for an alleged sexual assault in November 2013 when he was at Providence College.
“Freyd adds that the allegation from Rhode Island against one of the players should have been considered in making the decision whether to issue an email alert to the campus community, especially considering that one of the individuals who was allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct did have a history of a prior complaint,” Hornbuckle cites in the letter.
According to Hornbuckle, Freyd believes Austin should be treated as if he has been guilty of sexual assault twice, even though Austin hasn’t been charged in either case.
Hornbuckle also mentioned the Clery Act, which requires the reporting of crimes such as sexual assault. The Act’s requirements “do not cover the situation occurring off campus between consenting students,” Hornbuckle wrote.
He believes the evidence in the police report indicated consensual sex. Freyd’s behavior in the aftermath of this story, Hornbuckle wrote, “has created a hostile and fearful environment” for college age people wanting to engage in sexual activity.
“Dr. Freyd is clearly engaging in unethical conduct in order to attain funding,” Hornbuckle wrote. “The street term for this is ‘shake down.’ By making inflamatory statements to the press, the administration itself is complicit in this exercise.”
Freyd responded to Hornbuckle’s comments via email to the Emerald Tuesday evening.
“It is the right of every American to make Title IX complaints in the case of real or perceived discrimination on the basis of sex,” Freyd wrote. “Federal review of the current situation at the UO may be appropriate. Unfortunately we have a systemic problem of sexual violence in our society.
“All too often the response to allegations of sexual assault is to attack the messenger and blame the victim rather than confront the conditions that create violence. It is the responsibility of public universities to protect their students.”
Freyd was asked for her response to Hornbuckle’s comments saying Freyd believes the basketball players committed a crime on March 9 and that Austin “should be treated as if he is twice guilty.”
“I don’t know how to respond to things I didn’t say,” Freyd wrote in an email.
Hornbuckle concluded his complaint saying the “ever expanding definition of sexual assault has created a crisis on university campuses nationwide, and in Canada.”
His complaint to the U.S. Department of Education is a call for federal involvement to restore what he considers “normal channels of discourse and information dissemination.”
“To be sure, it is a dangerous situation when the President of the University of Oregon so fears for his job, and the coach and athletic director too, that they sacrifice the reputations and educations of innocent young men,” Hornbuckle wrote. “The need for federal intervention per Title IX is clear and compelling.”
The Emerald contacted the UO and the athletic department for comment Tuesday afternoon. The athletic department had no comment and the UO has not yet responded to the Emerald’s calls and emails.
Update (9:40 a.m. May 15): UO spokesperson Julie Brown told the Emerald that the university will not comment on Hornbuckle’s complaint.
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415