Confidential assault files to be examined

by Sarah McKenzieand

University investigators have solicited the assistance of the University’s Program Against Sexual Violence in looking into allegations that men’s athletics officials intervened in a number of criminal sexual misconduct cases between 1993 to 1997.
Tonya Moten Brown, University President Mark Yudof’s chief of staff, decided Thursday that student-advocates will examine confidential program files. After identifying files pertaining to sexual assaults allegedly committed by student-athletes, student-advocates will then contact victims whose files reflect their willingness to cooperate with investigators.
Investigators requested the confidential files from the program’s office in a morning meeting. Originally, it was decided that investigators would contact the victims; after speaking with student-advocates, Brown said she decided the advocates would first obtain permission from the victims to be contacted by investigators.
Prior to the decision, three student-advocates and Jamie Tiedemann, the program director, met with administrators to discuss the protocols of providing the documents to University attorneys. Officials assured the student-advocates, two of whom said they opposed the original decision, that the files would not be made public.
Women’s rights advocates on campus voiced their opposition to the investigators’ request, calling Yudof’s office, the office of the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and the PASV office. Callers demanded that the documents stay confidential, said College of Liberal Arts senior and student-advocate Nikki Wright.
Eden Torres, an associate professor of women’s studies, sent more than 100 e-mail messages to individuals in the University community expressing outrage over the investigators’ request. The message urged recipients to challenge the document forfeiture and contact Yudof’s office.
In the meantime, Tiedemann removed the files from their usual place, Wright said.
“Jamie (Tiedemann) took it upon herself (Thursday) to put the files away so that the advocates couldn’t have access,” Wright said.
It is unclear whether Tiedemann removed the files; Tiedemann refused to comment.
Brown said investigators listened to the advocates’ concerns about anonymity, but maintained that information will only be used by investigators.
“We assured them that none of the information will be released to the public,” she said.
Brown said more victims have called the Program Against Sexual Violence since the allegations surfaced May 21.
She said investigators are attempting to identify if there are systematic flaws in the process whereby victims report sexual assaults.
“We all have the same goal,” Brown said. “We want to make sure the victims of the assaults are not re-victimized by the system.”
More than 40 students, including a victim and a number of student-advocates, gathered outside Morrill Hall on Monday to protest the alleged coverup of incidences of sexual violence committed by Gophers men’s basketball and football players.
The protest resulted in a series of talks between administrators this past week.
Yudof asked Don Lewis, a Minneapolis attorney investigating academic fraud, and Julie Sweitzer, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, to report their findings by July 1.