U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is turning up the heat on the University of Oregon after a report in Sports Illustrated last week that provided a damaging account of the university's response to allegations of rape against Kavell Bigby-Williams, a prize recruit for the men's basketball team.
The Sports Illustrated story, written by Kenny Jacoby, an investigative reporter for the University of Oregon Daily Emerald, lays out a series of non-responses on the part of U of O personnel after they learned from officials in Wyoming that Bigby-Williams was suspected of rape there.
"Last season, Kavell Bigby-Williams, a 6' 11″, 230-pound transfer from Gillette College, averaged 9.8 minutes for an Oregon basketball team that reached the Final Four," Jacoby wrote. "He also played the entire season while under investigation for forcible rape."
Coming on the heels of a 2014 scandal in which three Duck basketball players were accused of gang rape (they were never charged criminally but the university paid the victim an $800,000 settlement), the Bigby-Williams story is remarkable and caught the eye of a highly-placed alum.
"I am deeply troubled about recent news stories related to the University of Oregon's handling of an alleged serious student misconduct violation of a student athlete," Wyden wrote in a Nov. 3 letter to University of Oregon President Michael Schill. "If these reports are accurate, the raise major questions about the university's commitment to creating and maintaining a safe campus environment."
Wyden went on to say that the university's response to allegations against Bigby-Williams raises questions about the sincerity of the university's pledge to more effectively address campus safety and sexual assault.
"Time and again, colleges and universities demonstrate to policymakers, students, the general public and especially to victims that too often they are acting to protect their own self-interests."
Wyden, a graduate of the University of Oregon Law School, concluded his letter by demanding a detailed explanation of the university's actions upon being informed of the allegations against Bigby-Williams, including whether the university had followed its own policies and whether anyone was being held accountable.
Wyden wants the responses no later than Nov. 20.