Friday, January 27, 2012

Another Yale update (and a mea culpa)

Sigh... it serves me right for praising a Yalie, really. I should've known I'd come away from this situation with egg on my face.

Back in November, I discussed the Patrick Witt/Rhodes Scholarship story on two separate occasions (here and here), praising Witt for prioritizing his commitment to his team and school over his personal ambitions for the Rhodes Scholarship. I also had some harsh words for the Rhodes committee, whom I depicted as rigid and detached from the original mission of their foundation's benefactor.

Yesterday, the New York Times revealed that it was Witt who was more deserving of scorn, for being (at best) duplicitous in his dealings with the media. As a result, I (and many others in the assorted national media) have come away scrambling for cover this morning.
On Nov. 13, Patrick J. Witt, Yale University’s star quarterback, announced that he had withdrawn his Rhodes scholarship application and would instead play against Harvard six days later, at the very time of the required Rhodes interview. His apparent choice of team fealty over individual honor capped weeks of admiring national attention on this accomplished student and his quandary. 
But Witt was no longer a contender for the Rhodes, a rare honor reserved for those who excel in academics, activities and character. Several days earlier, according to people involved on both sides of the process, the Rhodes Trust had learned through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault. The Rhodes Trust informed Yale and Witt that his candidacy was suspended unless the university decided to re-endorse it.
Witt’s accuser has not gone to the police, nor filed what Yale considers a formal complaint. The New York Times has not spoken with her and does not know her name.
Witt, who is 22, is no longer enrolled at Yale. He completed his class work last semester, is working on his senior essay and has been training in California in preparation for a possible N.F.L. career, according to the Yale athletics Web site. Witt did not respond to messages left over several days on his cellphone, his Yale e-mail and his Facebook page.
To be clear, I don't mean to imply that Witt is guilty of the sexual assault charge, or that his Rhodes application deserved to be suspended (I've learned my lesson in this case as far as jumping to conclusions is concerned). But suspended it was, and Witt deserves a wag of the finger for allowing the media to praise him for a choice that was ultimately not a choice, after all.

This revelation is just the latest Rhodes-related disaster to come out of New Haven in recent months, following the resignation of Yale's head coach Tom Williams for his own Rhodes Scholarship misrepresentations. I don't know what's going on down at Yale, but it's at the very least a bit odd. What Yale knew and didn't know (and what the Rhodes committee did and didn't know) is difficult to discern at this point, because both institutions are swearing confidentiality on the matters at hand.

But both Witt and Yale could have saved themselves quite a bit of negative attention here if they had just been candid about things from the beginning. Instead, both player and institution are deservedly being portrayed as incompetent and duplicitous, a situation that easily could have been avoided.

As for me, I think I'll just stick with my gut going forward, and criticize Yale and all Yalies by default. It's way more fun that way, anyway. And now I can be happy about Harvard's blowout victory over Witt and the Yalies without reservation--not that I really had any reservations to begin with.

[New York Times]

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