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Former OU Basketball Player Alleged Rape Case Takes New Turn With Lawsuit

Thursday, November 12, 2015

 

The case of University of Oregon and Providence College basketball player Brandon Austin has taken yet another turn. Two former employees of the University of Oregon Counseling and Testing Clinic are suing the University for an undetermined amount of damages. The two former employees Karen Stokes and Jennifer Morlok claim they were threatened and harassed after they blew the whistle on superiors who attempted to seize medical records of Austin’s alleged sexual assault victim.

In their lawsuit, Stokes, a former executive assistant in the testing clinic, and Morlok, a former therapist in the clinic, allege that their superiors “made it difficult” for the pair to do their job, “created a hostile and retaliatory work environment,” treated them “in an unfriendly and punitive manner,” and isolated them. 

The alleged victim accused Austin of participating in a gang rape of unnamed female student in March of 2014. The victim later sued the University, claiming it endangered her by admitting Austin, who had also been accused of sexual assault during his time at Providence College, to the University. Austin was not charged with a crime as the result of either incident.

Stokes claims she received an email from the clinic's Director, Shelly Kerr, asking “that Stokes make a complete copy of the student’s medical file and provide it to the University’s General Counsel without stamping it or documenting that the file was copied, as was the usual procedure in the records. Defendant Kerr told Stokes not to discuss this with anyone besides herself, Defendant DeWitz and Brooks Morse,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims that Stokes did not understand why the request violated normal procedure and noticed that was no consent authorizing the disclosure of medical records to the General Counsel. Stokes consulted with Morlok, the student’s therapist, who confirmed to Stokes that the student had not released the file to be copied and given to University attorneys.

Stokes missed the next two days of work and, upon her return, learned that another employee had copied the file as Kerr requested. Kerr and Morlok then researched the University’s policies about medical disclosures and eventually decided to seek outside counsel. Morlok then used the email Stokes received from Kerr to file a complaint with the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners.

After the complaint was filed, Kerr began taking some of Stokes’ job responsibilities away from her. Stokes went on family leave to attend to her dying father, who passed in February, and when she returned, she found that many her duties were assigned to other employees without explanation. Kerr did not respond to an email from Stokes asking why the duties had been reassigned.

Stokes was then terminated from her position as executive assistant to Kerr, with Kerr saying she could “no longer trust" Stokes. The University claimed that Stokes was “unable to perform the essential functions of her job” but did not seek input from Stokes or her doctor, only considering information from Kerr and other University personnel. She now works on a temporary assignment for the University, and her contract is set to expire in June of 2016.

Morlok eventually wrote the letter after seeking outside counsel and determining that she had a legal and ethical obligation to do so. Morlok was told by Kerr that she was not allowed to seek outside legal counsel and that if she did seek counsel, she could be fired.

Joseph DeWitz, Assistant Clinical Director of the Counseling and Testing Clinic, defended Kerr’s comments. He also gave a negative review to Morlok and when asked if her decision to write the summary letter contributed to the review “he responded that was part of the reason he evaluated her the way he did.”

Along with DeWitz and Kerr, the suit names Robin Holmes, Vice President for Student Life at the University, and Kathie Stanley, Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff of the University. The pair is seeking compensation for lost income, benefits and seniority, as well as emotional distress, but did not specify a sum.

University Responds

Tobin Klinger, a spokesman for the University, said in a written statement  that the University has "worked diligently and in good faith" to foster a workplace "that values trust and ethical conduct."

"The university regrets that Ms. Morlok and Ms. Stokes took this action" the statement reads. "We believe the University has worked diligently and in good faith to balance the complex demands of student privacy, employee rights and fostering a workplace that values trust and ethical conduct.  Ms. Stokes remains an employee of the university. Ms. Morlok quit, despite efforts to create accommodations intended to protect her and her clients.  Ms. Morlok’s decision to leave the University was her’s alone.  The University intends to defend this lawsuit vigorously while maintaining its primary focus on our important work of serving the needs of our students.”

 

Related Slideshow: Slideshow: Sexual Assault Reporting at Oregon Universities

Oregon Universities are failing to report sexual assaults occurring on campuses, a GoLocalPDX analysis of data provided by all the public universities found. 

A comparison of sexual assault cases reported by Oreogn’s three largest campuses as required by the federal Jeanne Clery Act with numbers provided from university affiliated and independent women’s resource and support services centers found a massive disparity between the two. 

The numbers at PSU are of visits by students and not individual cases so the numbers could reflect some duplication, officials said. 

Prev Next

University of Oregon

School population: 24,591

Sexual Assaults reported: 39

Difference from women's center: 46 percent  

Photo credit: Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons

Prev Next

Portland State University

School Population: 28,731

Sexaul Assaults Reported: 15

Difference from women's center: 73 percent 

Photo credit: Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons 

Prev Next

Oregon State University

School Population: 28,731

Sexaul Assaults Reported: 10

Difference from women's center: 900 percent 

Photo Credit: saml123 via Wikimedia Commons 

Prev Next

Sexual Assault Support

The Sexual Assault Support Services of Lane County is a Eugene resource center independent of the University of Oregon. 

Sexual Assaults Cases: 57 

Caveat: The number of student sexual assault cases at SASS could be more given that the agency doesn't require students to identify as such. 

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7 via Compfight CC

Prev Next

Portland State University

Portland State University Women's Resource Center advocates for students. 

Sexual Assaults cases: 26

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: indoloony via Compfight CC

Prev Next

Oregon State University's

Oregon State University's Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Alliance provides resources to students. 

Sexual Assault Cases: 100

Caveat: Officials say the trend of higher numbers is reflective of campuses nationwide.

Photo Credit: Parker Knight via Compfight CC

 
 

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