UO denies almost every complaint made in “whistleblower” suit

The University of Oregon denied any wrongdoing in retrieving the counseling records of a student in a Jan. 25 response to a lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in November 2015 by Karen Stokes and Jennifer Morlok, two former UO Counseling and Testing Center employees.

The counseling records belonged to “Jane Doe,” the survivor of an alleged sexual assault by three UO men’s basketball players in 2014. When Doe filed a lawsuit against the university last year, Executive Director of the counseling center, Shelly Kerr, requested a copy of Doe’s records from her counseling visits for university attorneys.

Doe, a UO freshman at the time of the alleged assault, settled for $800,000 and a full-ride for four years.

But situation involving Doe’s records seems far from settlement. The suit Morlok and Stokes filed wants compensation for lost income, lost benefits, lost seniority and emotional distress. They haven’t specified any sums.

Morlok and Stokes’ suit, the university’s response 

  • Suit: Morlok, who was Doe’s therapist, alleges that the university retrieved the student’s records without her consent.
  • Response: The university says in its response that Shelly Kerr told Morlok to warn her patient, Doe, that if she continued counseling at the center, her counseling records could be pulled. In addition, UO also claimed that Doe’s attorney had already provided (with the student’s consent) a copy of the records during an earlier mediation session.
  • Suit: When the university retrieved Doe’s records, Stokes and Morlok spoke out, saying the university was doing the wrong thing in an open letter. They say in the lawsuit that the university retaliated against them for this; Stokes was removed from her position, and Morlok faced such a “hostile working environment,” she claims, that she had to resign.
  • Response: The UO denies there was any contribution to a hostile environment—in fact, the university gave them an “outstanding employee award” for speaking up. Stokes was not removed from her position, the UO says, but still works at the university. This is true, but Stokes no longer works at the counseling center; according to UO Find People, she’s now a Special Projects Coordinator with the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Suit: The university violated Morlok and Stokes’ rights under Title IX, the State Whistleblower Statutes, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Oregon Family Leave Act.
  • Response: The university denies they violated any law or committed any wrong, or that the university should compensate them.

Morlok and Stokes are also suing other staff members at the Counseling and Testing Center and the Division of Student Life, including Shelly Kerr; Robin Holmes, the Vice President for Student Life; Joseph DeWitz, the assistant director of the Counseling and Testing Center; and Kathie Stanley, the associate VP and chief of staff in the Division of Student Life.

More to come.


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Dahlia Bazzaz

Dahlia Bazzaz

Dahlia is the 2015-2016 Editor in Chief of the Emerald. Before becoming EIC, she worked as a crime reporter and columnist. She has also interned with Oregon Public Broadcasting.

When she's not in the Emerald newsroom, she enjoys listening to podcasts and figuring out ways to meet Amy Poehler.

You can contact Dahlia via email: [email protected]