Patrick Witt was the starting quarterback at Yale and a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship in 2012 when his ex-girlfriend filed an informal complaint against him with the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. Witt met with the committee, but to this day he’s still not sure about the specific nature of the complaint. As he writes in a Boston Globe editorial, “Under the informal complaint process, specific accusations are not disclosed to the accused, no fact-finding takes place, and no record is taken of the alleged misconduct.” Witt even asked that the informal complaint be changed to a formal one–at least that way he could defend himself against it. But only the accuser, he found out, had the right to change the complaint to formal.
The New York Times wrote a story, later regretted by its public editor, that characterized Witt as a dubious choice for praise. The article brought up the informal complaint and said the Rhodes Trust knew about it, too–attaching an unsubstantiated–even unarticulated–accusation permanently to Witt’s reputation. When this happened Witt was training for a possible NFL career, according to his Globe essay. He expected to be drafted but his name wasn’t called. Even before the Times article, Witt had a job offer withdrawn and heard from the Rhodes people who had received an “anonymous” tip. The results of the accusation, though Witt was never convicted of anything nor given the opportunity to, cost Witt, in his words “my reputation and credibility, the opportunity to become a Rhodes scholar, the full-time job offer I had worked so hard to attain, and the opportunity to achieve my childhood dream of playing in the NFL.” Witt’s story is about his innocence not mattering one bit, as his reputation was walloped in the court of public opinion. He is now a freshman at Harvard Law School and is part of a group protesting its “new and expansive sexual harassment policy.” Throughout his ordeal Patrick Witt has felt isolated, alone. In his current protest he has plenty of company.