Letter to the Editor: A full explanation is required

BY CELIA RHOADS

Published January 29, 2014

Dear President Coleman,

I am writing, as a Michigan alum, to express my great disappointment and concern regarding the University’s handling of the 2009 sexual assault investigation of Brendan Gibbons. Even granting the University the most generous benefit of the doubt, its treatment of this matter was incompetent and opaque at best. At worst, the University prioritized its athletic program over community safety, willfully subverted a criminal investigation and contributed to the victimization of one of its students.

I have always been incredibly proud to call myself a Michigan Wolverine and am grateful for the opportunities that a Michigan education has offered me. Today, however, I feel profoundly ashamed and betrayed. Of course, I cannot begin to imagine how the young victim feels. The University failed her when she most needed its support. It also sent a clear message to future victims and perpetrators: sexual assault allegations will not be taken seriously at the University of Michigan, particularly when field goals are at stake.

Mr. Gibbons' “permanent separation” from the University four years after his alleged sexual assault — conveniently as his athletic eligibility ended — is quite clearly an inadequate response. Because the athletic department and administration have proven themselves incapable of handling this matter in an objective and competent manner, an independent investigation is necessary. Absent to a transparent and impartial inquiry, the University will be unable to restore its credibility.

Until this administration offers a full explanation of its actions and takes necessary steps to remedy its plainly defective sexual assault procedures, I plan to withhold financial support from the University and will not return to campus.

Celia Rhoads graduated from the University in 2009.