University of Oregon drops sexual assault counterclaim amid public outcry
The University of Oregon dropped its counterclaim against the lawsuit filed by a student alleging that men’s basketball coach Dana Altman and other administrators acted negligently in recruiting Brandon Austin.
“What we did today was we submitted an amended answer and we took the counterclaims about the attorney’s fees out of the document. The rest of the response to the lawsuit is still the same,” Interim President Scott Coltrane told The Emerald.
Coltrane made the final decision to withdraw the counterclaim, although several members of the administration, campus leaders and general counsel weighed in.
The president’s office published a statement on Thursday afternoon, saying, “By dropping the counterclaims, my hope is that we can leave the legal matters to the court so we can dedicate our attention to the important work of preventing and responding to sexual violence.”
A petition circulated the web earlier in the week calling for the UO to reconsider its counterclaim. It contained more than 1,500 signatures.
“In reflecting on it, we’re really trying to end sexual violence. It’s about who we are and how we relate to each other on campus and how we can get better at stopping sexual violence and helping people who experienced those horrible things,” Coltrane said. “The counterclaims were getting in the way of that so we just got rid of them.”
UO spokesperson Julie Brown, in an email to The Emerald, mentioned then that the university would not seek monetary compensation in its countersuit. Tobin Klinger said the same thing.
“The counterclaim is directed at the Colorado-based attorneys,” he wrote in an email to The Emerald. “The goal is to hold the plaintiff’s attorneys responsible for their actions in bringing forth false allegations to leverage a difficult and unfortunate situation for their own financial gain.”
John Clune, one of the survivor’s lawyers, commented on the retraction.
“We appreciate UO President Scott Coltrane putting an end to this harmful tactic. The message that UO was sending in suing a rape victim was not helpful to anyone. We still hold out hope that someday UO will be open to some self-evaluation on this case and not simply seek to blame others. Regardless, it takes courage to admit mistakes when the media is watching and we are glad to give UO credit for doing the right thing.”