Assault inquiry findings reported

Sarah McKenzie

Attorneys reported findings to University administrators Tuesday after conducting a six-week investigation into charges that athletic officials intervened in sexual assault complaints against student-athletes.
University President Mark Yudof asked independent investigators May 21 to look for systemic flaws in the reporting mechanisms available on campus to victims with sexual assault and harassment complaints.
Administrators declined to comment on the final report Tuesday, citing the need to review the findings before making a formal assessment.
Attorney Jim Lord, who represents five witnesses in both the academic fraud and sexual misconduct investigations, said he believes a systemic problem exists at the University in the handling of complaints.
“They seemed to have the routine down,” Lord said. “(Officials) told the women that it’s best to just trust the coach.”
He added that he hoped investigators would have completed their report before the University authorized the buyout of former men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins’ contract for $1.5 million on June 25.
Investigators listened to a taped conversation June 30 between Haskins and Christine Shevchuk, 25, who dated former player Courtney James during the 1995-96 school year.
At the conclusion of the tape, which was made available to investigators last week, Lord said assistant coaches told Shevchuk never to contact the police about the abuse allegedly committed by James.
“They told her to always go to the coach,” Lord said.
Shevchuk filed for a protective court order on Aug. 21, 1996, after James allegedly hit and threatened her. She had the order revoked six days later, according to a published report.
Lord said he informed investigators about Shevchuk’s testimony before Haskins’ resignation.
Besides Shevchuk’s testimony, attorneys investigated more than two dozen reports of athletes sexually assaulting and harassing women.
Lord said his client, Elayne Donahue, former director of the academic counseling unit, testified about two other incidents involving male athletes sexually harassing female tutors.
In one of those incidents, Lord said Donahue told investigators that a woman was ridiculed by coaches when she reported an athlete had partially exposed himself in her presence.
The woman was laughed at by the coaches when she came forward with the complaint, according to Donahue’s testimony.
Donahue told investigators that members of the coaching staff wondered why the athlete did not fully expose himself to the woman, Lord said.
Other allegations under scrutiny include a complaint made by former tutor Rebecca Fabunmi against a football player who she said masturbated in front of her during a tutoring session in 1994.
When she reported the incident to McKinley Boston, vice president of Student Development and Athletics, she said he persuaded her to change her account of the incident.
Boston denied the allegation after it was publicized in news reports May 21.
Julie Sweitzer, director of the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, and Minneapolis attorney Don Lewis headed the investigation. Lewis is also investigating allegations of academic fraud in the men’s basketball program.
Neither Sweitzer or Lewis returned phone calls Tuesday.
Yudof granted Sweitzer and Lewis an extension Thursday to incorporate recent testimony from key witnesses including Shevchuk and her father.
Nina Shepherd, a spokeswoman for the University, said she expects officials will release a statement addressing the investigative findings by the end of the week. Nonconfidential portions of the report will also be made public.