The captain of Yale University’s basketball team, who was expelled last month for sexual misconduct, responded publicly to the allegations Monday with a statement through his lawyer detailing his sexual encounters with a woman and saying that they were all consensual.
Max Stern, a lawyer who represents Jack Montague, said his client was inappropriately pushed out of the school and plans to sue Yale to vindicate his rights. Montague was expelled from the Ivy League university during one of the school’s most successful basketball runs, and he has not been with the team for weeks.
The expulsion and Montague’s response comes at a tense moment: Yale’s men’s basketball team heads to the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than 50 years this week, with a matchup against Baylor scheduled for Thursday. The team showed its support for the former captain last month by wearing t-shirts with his nickname, Gucci, and number, 4, on them. That sparked a backlash, with posters appearing around the New Haven, Conn. campus, with pictures of the shirts emblazoned with the message: “Stop supporting a rapist.”
Stern argues that Montague was in a consensual sexual relationship with another Yale student — including sleeping together four times. According to Stern’s statement, the woman went to the school’s Title IX coordinator a year after the alleged misconduct and that a school official, not the accuser, filed the complaint that resulted in his expulsion.
“There is no doubt that institutions of higher learning must take the problem of sexual abuse seriously and take effective steps to protect its women students,” Stern wrote in a statement, which was first reported in the Yale Daily News. “But that obligation cannot justify imposing so drastic a punishment on the basis of such flimsy evidence.”
Montague did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Monday. The woman who reported the misconduct to Yale has not been publicly identified.
The dispute mirrors an ongoing, heated national debate about sexual assault on campus. In recent years advocates have been working to change university cultures that they believe make rape all too common and too easy to ignore, and to improve school officials’ response to reported assaults — efforts that have increased scrutiny on universities. As of Feb. 26, federal civil rights investigations related to sexual violence were under way at 167 colleges and universities, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
At the same time, there is also concern from some that all too often an accusation leads to a presumption of guilt, despite situations that may be complicated, and that students who are accused have little recourse in campus hearings.
In New Haven last week, hundreds of students wrote messages in chalk in support of sexual assault survivors. That included some criticism of athletics, according to the Yale Daily News: “’The only team I’m cheering for are survivors @ Yale — dismantle men’s athletic privilege’ and ‘Imagine if Yale men cared as much about ending rape culture as they care about sports. Be an ally.’”
Helen Price, a junior who helped organize the event led by two student groups, told the Post last week that students are upset at the basketball team’s public support of their captain after his expulsion for sexual misconduct.
“This support implicitly dismisses the experiences of survivors and sends the message that they do not care about sexual assault,” Price said. “However, students had felt angry and frustrated at Yale’s sexual climate for a long time, and this event was just a catalyst for those feelings.”
The team apologized with a statement that said, in part, that they support a “healthy, safe and respectful campus climate. … Our recent actions to show our support for one of our former teammates were not intended to suggest otherwise, but we understand that to many students they did. We apologize for the hurt we have caused.”
Montague, a 22-year-old senior, was expelled in February after a panel of the University-Wide Committee determined that he had sex without consent in October 2014 with a woman who is now a junior at Yale, according to Stern’s statement.
He wrote that the posters placed on campus — widely reported in the national media — slandered Montague “as the named culprit and a rapist. He was never accused of rape and Yale took no steps to correct these actions. As a result, Mr. Montague has no choice but to correct the record.”
Thomas Conroy, a spokesman for Yale, said the university does not comment on specific cases of student discipline, out of respect for the privacy and confidentiality of all students involved in the process. He wrote in an e-mail:
“Yale’s procedures for addressing allegations of sexual misconduct are thorough and fair: The allegations are investigated by an impartial fact finder, heard by five trained members of the Yale community, and decided by the accused student’s dean. Throughout the process, all parties have advisors, which can be legal counsel, and they can appeal a decision.
“Where cases involve judgments about the witnesses’ credibility, all of the available corroborating or contradictory information is carefully weighed to determine who is telling the truth.
“One out of five formal sexual misconduct hearings ends without a finding against the accused, and, in two out of five cases, the accused student receives a reprimand or probation. Only about one out of 10 cases ends in expulsion, and the decision to expel a student is made only after the most careful consideration, based on the facts and, when appropriate, disciplinary history.”
Stern wrote that the independent investigator hired by the university reported the following facts were in the female student’s account and are not in dispute:
- The two students developed a relationship that led to them sleeping together in Jack’s room on four occasions in the fall of 2014.
- On the first occasion, the woman joined Jack in bed and stayed the night.
- On the second occasion, she entered his bed voluntarily, removed all of her clothes and, during the night, woke him to perform oral sex.
- On the third occasion, she joined him in bed, voluntarily took off all her clothing, and they had sexual intercourse by consent.
- On the fourth occasion, she joined him in bed, voluntarily removed all of her clothes, and they had sexual intercourse. Then they got up, left the room and went separate ways. Later that same night, she reached out to him to meet up, then returned to his room voluntarily, and spent the rest of the night in his bed with him.
- The sole dispute is as to the sexual intercourse in the fourth episode. She stated that she did not consent to it. He said that she did.
According to Stern’s statement, the student reported the incident a year later to Yale’s Title IX coordinator and an official filed a formal complaint.
“Only two persons could have known what happened on that fourth night,” Stern wrote. “The panel chose to believe the woman, by a ‘preponderance of the evidence.’ We believe that it defies logic and common sense that a woman would seek to re-connect and get back into bed with a man who she says forced her to have unwanted sex just hours earlier.”
He continued that the expulsion destroys both Montague’s academic and his athletic careers.
“We strongly believe that the decision to expel Jack Montague was wrong, unfairly determined, arbitrary, and excessive by any rational measure. Yale has been oblivious to the catastrophic and irreparable damage resulting from these allegations and determinations.”
“We cannot help but think it not coincidental that the decision by Yale officials to seek expulsion of the captain of its basketball team followed by little more than a month the report of the Association of American Universities (AAU) which was highly critical of the incidence of sexual assault on the Yale campus, and the Yale President’s promise, in response, to ‘redouble our efforts.’ From what appears, Jack has been pilloried as a ‘whipping boy’ for a campus problem that has galvanized national attention.”
Conroy, the Yale spokesman, noted that the Association of American Universities survey was not critical of Yale or any other school.
Staff writer Nick Anderson and researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.