Mary Jo White’s investigators broke confidentiality promises to witnesses during the rollout of her report on UR’s handling of sexual misconduct.
Members of White’s team told potential witnesses via email their names would be protected if they provided information to the investigation, which was commissioned by the Board of Trustees in the wake of the scandal over sexual misconduct last fall.
But when the investigation materials were first made public, several documents contained witnesses’ real names, according to documents reviewed by the Campus Times.
White and her law firm, Debevoise and Plimpton, declined to comment when contacted. In emails obtained by the Campus Times, however, White confirmed the breach had occurred, called it an “error,” and apologized for it, saying the non-confidential files had been replaced about an hour after they were uploaded on Jan. 11.
That hour was enough time for one of Kris Gorman’s friends to see Gorman’s name in the report materials.
“I’m outraged,” said Gorman, who was a witness for the investigation and agreed to speak on the record. “Redacting names is a basic skill for attorneys, and I would have hoped for more care to be taken towards victims given the genuine concern about professional retaliation expressed to Debevoise by some of these same women and because the report was going to be released publicly.”
Gorman, who was a graduate student in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department from 2007 to 2012, continued: “I think this reflects poorly on the sensitivity with which this investigation approached victims and is consistent with other comments I’ve heard from witnesses who told Debevoise not to release specific identifying details only to find those details in the report.”
The breach has brought out new concerns with this investigation, which has been criticized by some students for favoring the University. There are worries that because of the breach, future witnesses in future cases at UR would be reluctant to cooperate.
The investigation was commissioned in December after protests and outcry among students and others drew national attention. That furor was spurred by allegations that UR had mishandled complaints of sexual misconduct against Professor T. Florian Jaeger. White’s report, released earlier this month, condemned Jaeger’s behavior but found he was not in violation of school policy. The report concluded UR had followed its policies correctly, but with room for improvement.