FSU Defends Its Actions in Title IX Case

Florida State University has been in the news often over the past two years regarding its handling of rape allegations against a star football player there. This response was submitted by Browning Brooks, the school's Assistant Vice President, University Communications.

In the Feb. 11 article 'The Hunting Ground' Gives a Harrowing Look at College Rape, Newsweek misrepresented the actions of Florida State University when it reported that FSU ignored the allegations of sexual assault made by Erica Kinsman against Jameis Winston.

As Kinsman's own legal filing states, soon after the alleged assault, an FSU victim advocate advised her about her right to pursue a student conduct complaint. Nonetheless, despite repeated invitations by the University, Kinsman did not provide a statement to the University until August 2014 — nearly two years after the alleged assault. This was also well after the alleged assault was widely publicized in the media, the State Attorney's Office investigated the matter and declined to bring criminal charges against Winston and her attorneys had threatened FSU with a civil rights suit for taking too long.

After Kinsman finally came forward, the University initiated a Title IX investigative hearing and, out of an abundance of caution, referred the matter to an outside hearing officer as an independent fact-finder. That officer, former Florida State Supreme Court Justice Major Harding, conducted a two-day hearing during which he took testimony from Mr. Winston, Ms. Kinsman and 10 other witnesses, including Ms. Kinsman's father and friends. Justice Harding also reviewed more than 1,000 pages of documents, including lab tests and the results of two criminal investigations — far and away more information than is available in any normal Title IX proceeding. On Dec. 21, he ruled there was no preponderance of evidence supporting Kinsman's claims.

FSU followed its "victim-centered" approach to sexual assault and gave Ms. Kinsman as much control as possible over the Title IX process. FSU's handling of this case was dictated entirely by the informed choices of Ms. Kinsman and her attorneys on how to proceed. For Newsweek to blame the University for ignoring Ms. Kinsman's plight or shrugging off a preponderance of evidence defies the public record.