Further testimony warrants extension

by Sarah McKenzie

Investigators, hired by the University to look into allegations that officials intervened in sexual assault complaints against student-athletes, were granted a five-day extension Thursday to report their findings.
Lead investigator Don Lewis has asked administrators to move the deadline to Tuesday, leaving time for attorneys to include information from recent interviews with witnesses in the final report.
One such witness, Christine Shevchuk, met with investigators Wednesday to offer her account of an abusive relationship with former men’s basketball player Courtney James.
Investigators listened to a taped conversation between Shevchuk, her father and former men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins.
According to the tape, Haskins questioned Shevchuk’s decision to contact the police after James allegedly struck her.
Tonya Moten Brown, chief of staff to University President Mark Yudof and chief coordinator of the academic fraud investigation, said the recent interviews, including Shevchuk’s testimony, are important enough to warrant the extension.
Although the five-week investigation is a speedy process compared to the academic fraud inquiry, Brown said she expects comprehensive findings from the investigators’ report.
“I think it is going to be thorough,” she said. “The investigators have had the opportunity to meet with many of the victims, administrators and others who have been willing to cooperate.”
If a time constraint was impacting the investigators’ ability to complete the report, Brown said the attorneys would have asked for more time weeks ago.
Nonconfidential portions of the final sexual misconduct report will be made public after administrators have time to review the findings, Brown said.
Brown declined to comment on any preliminary findings or the number of witnesses involved in the investigation.
More than two dozen reports of athletes sexually assaulting and harassing women are under investigation, according a report published Sunday.
Allegations under scrutiny include claims Rebecca Fabunmi has made against a football player who allegedly masturbated in front of her in 1994.
The former tutor said McKinley Boston, vice president for student development and athletics, tried to persuade her to change her story after she reported the assault to him.
Yudof broadened the scope of the men’s athletics investigation May 21, after news reports alleged University officials and police covered up sexual assault complaints against men’s basketball and football players.
Julie Sweitzer, director of the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, and Lewis were asked to identify whether systematic flaws exist in the reporting mechanisms available to victims who come forward with sexual assault complaints.
Sweitzer declined to comment Thursday when asked about the investigation. Lewis did not return phone calls.
Nikki Wright, a victim’s advocate with the Program Against Sexual Violence who worked with Sweitzer and Lewis in the first few days of the investigation, said she hopes the report will not stand as the final word on the alleged misconduct.
The relatively short investigation might not have done justice to the victims, some of whom have not even been contacted by Lewis and Sweitzer, she said.
“I think one month was kind of hasty,” Wright said. “Somehow the process must be changed for how things run under student development and athletics.”
Jamie Tiedemann, director of the Program Against Sexual Violence, agreed to sort through files and contact victims with complaints against football and basketball players three weeks ago, Wright said.
She said 26 reports involving athletes were forwarded to a University counselor working with the investigators.
Although advocates initially opposed handing over the confidential documents, she said investigators assured the advocates that the victims’ rights would not be compromised.
Other advocates and students who protested the alleged coverups of abuse and harassment will meet with Yudof on July 8 to discuss ways to avoid similar problems in the future, Wright said.
She added that the arrangement between Boston’s office and the Program Against Sexual Violence appears to be a conflict of interest.
“He was former athletic director,” she said. “I wonder where his loyalty lies.”