[Meta: I thought given the nature of subject it was better to break all this off from Dear Diary.]
Duty Calls (xkcd)
In the wake of news that Brendan Gibbons had been [Michiganese for] expelled for his 2009 rape allegation, there has been precious little more information made available, lots of questions raised, and a whole heck of a lot of judgments from people whose expertise=="I'm on the internet!" I'll admit to personally being one of the latter. However, buried amongst over 2,500 comments in Gibbons-related threads have been a few with actual constructive and helpful experiences to better help us understand what went down and why it took so long. A few suggested they had actual knowledge of the specific events and investigation, or second-hand knowledge speaking to his personality and reputation, but all had credibility concerns. Some were confronted and had their posts deleted when they couldn't back it up; those who named their sources stayed up but none really offer anything definitive.
User Erik_in_Dayton posted and has been updating a rather comprehensive chronology of the things not in debate. They are:
- Nov. 2009-Jan 2010: Alleged rape occurs off-campus, was reported by the Ann Arbor News. Charges not pressed, end of criminal investigation. Another player, encountering the victim's friend, allegedly threatened the victim if she came forth, and this incident was reported to campus police by two other unidentified players. It is unknown what, if any, steps the university or the football team under Rich Rodriguez took at this time. This is the same month Dave Brandon took over as AD.
- 2011: Rodriguez fired, Hoke becomes head coach in early January. White House decrees universities have to investigate all alleged on-campus sexual assault cases and use a standard of "preponderance of evidence." UM instituted an interim policy complying with this.
- 2013: Local gadfly Douglas Smith publishes alleged details of the story on his blog "Washtenaw Watchdog" that purport to include information from the police investigation and information reported to the university, and paint a picture of a clear rape and possible intimidation. University finalizes its policy on
September August 19 (MLive) . Gibbons informed there's a preponderance of evidence against him on Nov. 20 (prior to Iowa game); he plays. He doesn't play in the OSU game (he wasn't in pads but according to Upchurch's photos he stood on the sideline during the game), and meets with OSCR the following week, 12/4. On 12/19 he is expelled and sometime shortly after the AD's office supposedly becomes aware of this for the first time. On 12/23 Hoke says he won't travel w/ the team for the bowl game.
- 2014: Proof of expulsion is leaked to and published by the Michigan Daily. UPDATE: After I posted this Mary Sue Coleman clarified that the university's decision did not involve the AD's office.
[Hit the Jump for best answers to the hard questions]
User Cold War provided a few more bits of speculation after the WTKA show that conveniently serve as a starting point for addressing the known unknowns. I present those restated as questions, with counterpoints from the board:
1) Is Gibbons guilty?
The AAPD did not charge Gibbons, let alone convict him. On the other hand reported rapes are far more likely to be actual rapes than false accusations. You cannot completely discount the possibility that the accusation is false, because that happens. There doesn't seem to be a strong reason in this case, however, to disagree with the university's preponderance of whatever evidence they have. It is possible that evidence only covers part of the allegations and that the university is limited by the extent of its jurisdiction.
Public opinion is not held to the same standards as a court of law, and the fact that the university expelled him is strong enough reason to believe Gibbons may be guilty despite the lack of criminal charges.
2) Why didn't I read about this on MGoBlog before now?
I can answer for myself only. There were several points at which this appeared on the board. The first was in 2009, did not give the player's name, and I just didn't see it before the mods of those days unpublished it. The first I ever heard of it was 2011, when Washtenaw Watchdog pulled his stunt of handing out copies of the police report and his version of events at a Regents Board meeting, and this trickled out to the board. Actually a mod at that point had already unpublished it; I read the thread to double-check that decision and ultimately agreed with it.
At that time, given the well-established nature of the accuser (Smith), and the fact that Gibbons hadn't been removed from the team or apparently punished by the university or the justice system, there was a strong enough reason to doubt his guilt that it would not have been right to help publicize the allegations.
The second was last August when the gadfly published much of the same on his blog. At that time I discussed the matter with Brian and we determined to lock the thread (which had already gotten nasty) but to leave it so readers could find it and judge for themselves.
There are 280,000 unique visitors who come here every month, and publicizing a rape allegation would permanently damage that player's reputation. "Publicizing" includes publishing an FOIA'ed report of a case where no charges were brought, because far too many people will take the police report as fact rather than as a report. The effect on the accused would be akin to passing sentence, which is not the media's job. To do so without proof is incredibly irresponsible, Daulerioist even.
Lacking better knowledge, we'll trust that the proceedings of the various levels of justice—legal, campus, team, etc.—are functional. The downside is when they don't function properly we may fail to inform you in a timely fashion. The upside is we won't ever ruin somebody's life and then have to walk that back.
This goes for other players mentioned.
3) Did Rodriguez/Hoke/Dave Brandon believe Gibbons wasn't guilty?
…until at the latest, December 19, 2013 or sometime soon after, when there couldn't have been much more doubt? Maybe? This is a question we'd like answered but given the university's standing behind FERPA for even acknowledgement of the reason he was expelled, and it's a good guess their lawyers have made it clear they're not to be talking any more than they have to, I'm guessing it's going to be very difficult to pry those recollections out of them.
|With apologies to Keith Stone.
Some readers questioned why Hoke wasn't forthcoming in the latest stages, e.g. did he know before the Iowa game that Gibbons had received his notice but hadn't appealed or spoken to . The university's reported timeline, which notes (at least someone at) the athletic office was informed on 12/19, is quite plausible since the AD's office is purposely kept out of the disciplinary system until a decision is to be announced.
4) Why did it take until 2013 to investigate an incident nearly 4 years old?
It is unclear and maddening, and the subject of the greatest speculation. Apparently, at least on the criminal level, 4 years to prosecute a rape case isn't unusual because of the psychological trauma to the prosecution's lone witness.
The inferral from the university and the Daily is the university's new policy on investigating all sexual misconduct, as an interim policy from 2011-'12 and a policy that went into effect right before the 2013-'14 school year began, created a different standard by which to judge the case and to initiate an investigation.
It is likely that because the initial incident occurred off campus, though it was, according to the police report, reported through university channels, the university didn't investigate it at the time. It seems likely that their first investigation began under the 2013 policy.
The interim policy and the real one are supposedly very similar, so the question remains why wait until September 2013 instead of launching this in November 2011 (when aforementioned gadfly Smith came to the Regents meeting with his letter). We have no lack for lawyers on the board, and many have speculated the university wouldn't take action (on a public case or any case) until it had an established policy, possibly for fear of the legal ramifications of doing so. That is, again, speculation.
The clearest guess to this answer is there was no criminal charges so nothing happened, and if the White House's mandate and the university's subsequent revision of its policy hadn't happened, nothing would have. Hail to better late than never.
5) If the victim wasn't saying anything, how did they proceed anyway?
This was pulled from MLive's timeline today:
"The new policy does not require a victim to report an incident in order for it to be investigated. Instead, the university is required to investigate all reports of sexual assault regardless of who makes the report. The standard of proof needed is also lowered."
A complaint may initiate a review but—this is important—it appears it may have gotten nowhere without the cooperation of the victim. This may have been widely misreported by us because the guy who worked at OSCR who gave us context earlier left out an important part and later tried to rectify that:
Yes, my apologies for not making that clear in the initial post. The rules on "standing" to file a complaint are a little sketchy when it comes to *institutional* complainants (i.e. there were many occasions when Housing or DPS would file a complaint that perhaps *could* have been filed by a wronged individual but was *also* a transgression against general Housing/University policies). But in a case like this, the complainant would almost certainly be the sexual assault survivor herself. No need to worry about some random student/professor/staff member reading these allegations on MGoBlog and taking it on himself to file and pursue the complaint with OSCR. Sorry again for the lack of clarity on that topic in the initial post, was trying to fit a lot of information in and missed that fairly major point.
Takeaway: even if she didn't start it, it seems likely the victim cooperated in the 2013 re-investigation that led to Gibbons's expulsion.
6) Was there a cover-up by the university or the football program?
There is no evidence for one. The only action the university appears to have ever done to keep back information is claiming FERPA when asked to confirm the reason Gibbons was expelled. There is suspicion because we never saw any disciplinary action until he missed the Copper Bowl trip this year. The injury that kept him out of the Ohio State game is of course called to question. These all come back to "did Michigan try to hide this for the month after the university made its determination?" There's nothing to suggest a four-year cover-up spanning multiple coaches and ADs.
That said, specifically regarding Gibbons missing the Copper Bowl trip for "family matters," I co-sign this byMGlobules:
There's some annoyance on the board at Hoke's characterization of Gibbons's absence as owing to family problem. I share that annoyance--it's a mischaracterization and tends to elicit sympathy when some more sterile characterization would have done. But this remains a fairly small thing, and might have been what Hoke was instructed to do.
Which is a nicer way of saying this by Bando Calrissian. Lying to journalists: meh. Playing it like he did nothing wrong: wrong and unnecessary.
Motive too is a giant stretch. In late 2009 Michigan's season was over and Gibbons was redshirting. He'd be a plurality participant in the worst kicking season in school history the following fall. He was a decent kicker in 2011, by which time Wile was on hand. A scenario where they protected Gibbons to another player for sticking up for him in an epically stupid manner is facially ridiculous.
7) How do I explain this to Sparty/Bucky on Facebook?
If you're being trolled by someone looking to make a rivalry mark stretch as far as possible, ignore or un-friend this person. Rooting for your kicker to make field goals against their team is not an act that mean you condone horrible actions later found to have been committed by that player. Rooting for maximum PR damage to your rival to the point where you don't even care what the facts represent is as despicable as it is typical of RCMB.
8) How do I explain this to human beings with souls?
The legal system failed, and so did the university until years later when they finalized a policy the White House (i.e. the Education Department) told them to put in place in 2011, because prior to that universities routinely failed their students in this regard and most probably still do.
There's a lot that's unclear, and plenty you should hold the university and its athletic department and its football coach accountable for, even if answers never come. A conspiracy to cover up a rape isn't one of those things.
Also, and I mention this because my friend who worked in SAPAC said it needs to be repeated as much as possible: getting intoxicated impairs your ability to make decisions; it does not forfeit your right to make decisions. If you do get someone who's drunk to do something, and when sober they say they wouldn't have done it, you have made them do something against their will. People sitting around joking about "having sex with drunk chicks" constitutes a rape culture.
It sickens me too. FWIW the shirts were taken down long before we found them to be creepy.