Biggest White Boy Dilemma II

Posted: January 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

It would seem that what Gawker had covered as the “Biggest White Boy Dilemma” in choosing between playing in the Harvard-Yale game and going for a Rhodes interview has become more “interesting” and quite sad.

NEW HAVEN — On Nov. 13, Patrick J. Witt, Yale University’s star quarterback, announced that he had withdrawn his Rhodes scholarship application and would instead play against Harvard six days later, at the very time of the required Rhodes interview.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, and 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.

The quarterback, who is 22, is no longer enrolled at Yale, but he has not graduated. University officials would not explain his status, and Witt did not respond to messages left over several days on his cellphone, his Yale e-mail and his Facebook page.

The revelations about Witt’s Rhodes candidacy being compromised are just the latest to muddy the inspiring picture of a scholar-athlete torn between brain and brawn. Days after Witt’s withdrawal, The Times reported that Yale’s coach, Tom Williams,had invented parts of his résumé, including a supposed Rhodes candidacy that he had dropped two decades earlier in favor of a chance at a professional football career — an experience he said gave him a unique ability to advise Witt on his tough choice. Williams resigned in December.

Even as the coach’s résumé came apart, the spotlight continued to shine on Witt. In an interview last month with a group called the video, Witt discussed his athletic achievements, his happiness at having transferred to Yale, his N.F.L. ambitions and the conflict between the Rhodes interview and the Game.

“With the Rhodes scholarship, you know, I think that’s just kind of the mold that I try to live by as a student-athlete,” Witt said.

“No enmity towards the Rhodes committee,” he added. “It was just one of those things where it was an unfortunate set of circumstances in terms of timing, but I was very humbled and honored to have been selected just in the finalists.”

Acclaim for a Quarterback

During the fall, Witt had been lionized as the hero of a badly needed feel-good sports saga — the “perfect antidote,” one newspaper said, to the allegations of child sexual abuse at Penn State. Bloomberg News described his as a Hamlet-like choice. A glowing NBC Nightly News profile called him “an extraordinary individual.” On ESPN, the quarterback said he would pray on the decision.

“We have become a society tied to numbers,” Jeff Jacobs, a sports columnist, wrote in The Hartford Courant. “Yes, you need a scoreboard to determine a winner. You need a GPA to measure academic achievement. This is no argument against competition, not at all. Rather it is an argument on behalf of something that cannot be measured by numbers. And that’s character.”

This account of the accusation against Witt and how it affected his Rhodes candidacy is based on interviews with a half-dozen people with knowledge of all or part of the story; they all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing matters that the institutions treat as confidential.

Yale refused to confirm or deny the existence of the complaint. “The administration very strongly believes in the confidentiality policies we have in place,” said Thomas Conroy, Yale’s chief spokesman.

Elliot F. Gerson, the American secretary for the Rhodes Trust, said, “Matters relating to Rhodes scholarship selection, deliberations and decision-making have always been considered confidential.”

Many aspects of the situation remain unknown, including some details of the allegation against Witt; how he responded; how it was resolved; and whether Yale officials who handle Rhodes applications — including Richard C. Levin, the university’s president, who signed Witt’s endorsement letter — knew of the complaint.

Conroy said that the dean of Yale College is notified when a complaint is made and told of any punishment that results (along with administrators of the accused student’s residential college). The dean also must write a report accompanying each Rhodes candidate’s application, though in Witt’s case, that may have occurred before the accuser came forward.


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