Tuesday, May 17, 2011

'Today' allegations put Wake Forest on edge

Wake Forest University is bracing for a national television interview that could cause the issue of violence against women to hit home.

A producer with NBC's "Today" show advised Wake Forest officials that it will air a segment Thursday morning concerning sexual assault on college campuses.

According to Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, who disclosed the details Tuesday in an email to the university community, the "Today" segment will include an interview with a former Wake Forest student discussing an incident that occurred "several" years ago.

Hatch offered few other details on what the "Today" show would air.

On its Facebook page, an advocacy organization known as the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes wrote that in the morning news show's segment. scheduled to air at 7:45 a.m. Thursday, a woman will talk about a sexual assault that she said involved members of the Wake Forest basketball team.

According to a Miami Police Department incident report, a female Wake Forest student accused a Wake Forest basketball player of sexual assault in an incident that occurred shortly before 5a.m. March 21, 2009, hours after the Deacons were eliminated from the NCAA tournament in an opening-round loss to Cleveland State.

She also reported the incident to Wake Forest campus police, according to Miami police.

Miami police reported that they interviewed the woman in May 2009 when they were informed of the incident. According to the incident report, the woman told Miami police that a Wake player requested that she perform a sex act on him in the bathroom of a hotel room; she said she did so, according to the report, because she was afraid not to.

The player told police that he did not force the woman to perform the sex act, according to the Miami police report.

After Miami police reviewed the case with a state attorney, charges were not filed for reasons that included the "one-on-one" nature of the allegation, the delayed report to police and the absence of physical evidence and corroborating witnesses, according to the report.

In his email to the Wake Forest community, Hatch wrote that the university will take appropriate action to respond to the matter. He also wrote that the university takes such issues seriously, has procedures to enforce its code of conduct and supports students in times of need.

"Fostering a positive and respectful living and learning environment is of paramount importance at Wake Forest University," he wrote. "... As part of our Pro Humanitate mission we strive to treat all of our students with integrity and compassion."

-- Ken Tysiac