Friday, April 04, 2014

More exposed in FSU/Jameis Winston case

In December, I expressed some curiosity/skepticism about the timing of the results of the police and DA investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Though they did come out before the national championship and did not seem to negatively affect Winston, who also won the Heisman Trophy, the results were in his favor. At that point it seemed the criminal investigation was over. There was not, we were told, enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between Winston and the accuser was not consensual.
There was no surprise in February when news came of a Title IX case against the university because of its handling of the allegation by a now former FSU student (she left the university) that Winston raped her in December 2012. We had predicted that in December (2013) as well.
And now it is of little surprise that the investigating didn't seem to be as over as we thought it was. Deadspin has broken the news that the university, pursued an investigation into code of conduct violations in relation to the incident in January of this year. Administrators interviewed Winston and two of his teammates.
The findings? That the two teammates who had witnessed the sexual act had violated the code of conduct. There were no findings against Winston who refused to cooperate--on advice of his lawyers--with the team of university officials undertaking the investigation. The team took the tactic of educating Winston about consent and other issues such as alcohol impairment. Code of conduct violations could still be brought against Winston if further information comes to light.
Here is what the investigation and the exposure of its findings suggest:
That FSU felt external pressure to conduct an investigation and, more importantly, to come up with some wrongdoing. So Winston's teammates have become the scapegoats. This is not to say that what they did was right or not in violation of the code of conduct. [Both have been found to engage in "conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for another person" and "acts that invade the privacy of another person." One of the two men also was charged with "recording images without consent" when he filmed Winston and the accuser having sex after being denied the opportunity to participate. The video and the phone have both allegedly been trashed.]
But, at this point, the findings are minor in contrast to the allegations and again largely serve to illustrate the fact that FSU did conduct an investigation.
But if the investigation was an attempt at protecting the university from the pending Title IX lawsuit, it is a failed attempt. Doing an investigation does not mean they complied with Title IX. Again, we have to look at timing. A January 2014 investigation into an event that occurred in the fall of 2012 falls outside the mandated 60-day timeline. FSU is no longer receiving the benefit of my doubt about the timing of investigations and the release of information and more questions than ever have been raised.
Two troubling things remain, in my mind. One, what is FSU going to do about the tight-lipped, lawyered-up Winston? Doesn't failure to comply with a school investigation violate the code of conduct? Again, we see a battle between campus judicial procedures and the legal system. Might some of this been avoided if FSU had complied with Title IX and done this investigation in the legally mandated 60-day time frame?
Finally, the two players with code of conduct violations. Though they are not the center of attention in this case, their fates are of interest and speak to the culture of football and the climate at FSU. Right now they are still listed as members of the team and as students at the university even though it is well within the rights of the university to issue interim sanctions while the men wait for their university hearing on the charges from which punishments ranging from "letter of reprimand" to expulsion could be issued.
So where are these men? Who are they being allowed to interact with? Are they still practicing with the team?
Are they (will they) being kept on because they good? Are they being kept on to ensure--if expulsion occurs--they leave the university in good academic standing at the end of the semester so as not to lower the team's Academic Progress Rate (a measure that can determine post-season play)? If expelled, will another school gladly take them in, history and all? 
If FSU was hoping for an end, this is not it.