Last Autumn, it was widely reported that Yale QB Patrick Witt had chosen to skip a Rhodes scholarship finalist interview in favor of leading the Bulldogs into battle for the annual season-ending rivalry contest against Harvard. Witt’s decision was portrayed as an act of selflessness, though it’s since been reported his failure to interview for the scholarship was actually a matter of the Rhodes Trust learning of sexual assault allegations against him. In November, Witt described his quandry as “ an unfortunate set of circumstances in terms of timing,” a version of events Romenesko.com’s Alex Klein claims Yale’s school paper knew was a lie. “In choosing to ignore this story,” argues Klein, “The Yale News not only perpetuated the deceptive, now-shredded narrative of Pat’s ‘heroic choice.’ The paper and its editor are also complicit in Yale’s culture of secrecy surrounding sexual assault.”
We know few details regarding the sexual assault claim itself. But even in the weeks before the Game, when Yale knew about the charge, the university continued to push the “heroic choice” story on the mainstream media, which gobbled it up all too eagerly. This is disappointing, but not surprising. The Yale administration has persistently stifled the reality of sexual assault on campus: a real and serious problem that prompted last year’s Title IX complaint against the university, alleging a “hostile sexual climate.” But responsibility for the culture of silence does not end at the administration’s door — nor at Patrick Witt’s. I have learned in the past few hours that the editors of the Yale Daily News, the nation’s oldest college daily and a bastion of college journalism, knew about the sexual assault charge as early as November.
As current Science and Technology editor Eli Markham told me, the News’ editor-in-chief, Max de la Bruyere, decided to sit on the story in mid-November. “It’s more complicated than that,” he told a leader on last year’s editorial board, who asked to remain anonymous. Multiple current and past members of the newspaper’s managing board, all deeply involved in the day-to-day work of the paper, have confirmed that the News has had the story for over two months. In fact, the Times story that broke last night featured reporting from last year’s editor-in-chief, Vivian Yee. She too approached the paper with a tip-off, but its editors chose not to follow the story. The paper even knew that the sexual assault claim had lost Pat an offer to join the Boston Consulting Group after graduation. Even then, they wrote nothing. For reasons personal, social, or political — who can ever tell on a college campus? — the News’ management chose to ignore the bombshell, protecting Pat’s reputation.