An Open Letter to Florida State University President Thrasher

From The Huffington Post:

We respectfully but emphatically disagree with your criticisms of our film The Hunting Ground. Instead of making unwarranted and unsubstantiated attacks on the film, we urge you to take a leadership role in addressing the problem of sexual assault that exists on your campus and far too many others.

We are completely accurate in our depiction of Ms. Kinsman’s account, and in our depiction of how her case was handled by Florida State University.

You say there are distortions and glaring omissions, but you are not able to state a single fact error in our film.  That is because there is none.

Your assertion that the film did not mention Jameis Winston’s Title IX investigation, or its outcome, is not true. Both are mentioned in the film.

You say FSU is a “model” when it comes to handling sexual assault. The truth is that your school is being investigated by the Department of Education for its mishandling of sexual assault cases, and many media outlets including The New York Times have detailed how your school covered up sexual assault allegations against its former star quarterback.

In an interview on January 16, 2015, you said FSU has been “aggressively” working on a “scheme” regarding the negative publicity FSU has received about how they mishandled Title IX complaints. Rather than “scheming”, we believe FSU students are better served by efforts to make their campus safe.

You claim FSU “ did everything appropriately” in regard to Erica Kinsman’s Title IX complaint. We believe the facts show otherwise:

  • December 7, 2012 – Kinsman immediately reported her rape to the Florida State University and Tallahassee police within hours of the assault. She was taken to a nearby hospital where a rape kit was administered and bruises were noted in her medical record. FSU police did not report the assault to the FSU Title IX Coordinator as required by federal guidelines.
  • January 22, 2013 – Florida State Head Football Coach Jimbo Fisher learned that Jameis Winston has been accused of sexual assault but did not report the assault to the FSU Title IX Coordinator as required by federal guidelines.
  • For the next eighteen months, FSU did almost nothing to investigate this report of rape even though the FSU school policy and the Department of Education presumes that any accusation of sexual assault will be investigated and resolved with 60 days.
  • November 12, 2013 – Despite being on notice that another woman had reported being sexually assaulted by Winston, FSU stated in an email that no disciplinary proceedings against Winston were going to take place for either of the reported assaults.
  • November 14, 2013 – Kinsman dropped out of school, fearing for her safety because of retaliation over social media from FSU students and fans.
  • December 14, 2013 – Winston was named winner of the 2013 Heisman Trophy.
  • January 6, 2014 – FSU’s football team won the BCS National Championship.
  • January 23, 2014 – More than a year after FSU officials were made aware that Winston was accused of rape, FSU finally called Winston in for an interview regarding the accusation. Winston refused to answer any questions. After the interview, FSU sent a letter to Winston stating they were not going to investigate the case because Winston refused to talk to them.
  • In the spring of 2014 – FSU, in violation of the victim advocate privilege, gave a copy of Kinsman’s privileged victim advocate file to its outside legal counsel.
  • December 5, 2014 – Nearly two years after the report of rape, FSU finally held a hearing about the accusation. The FSU hearing officer found Winston not responsible despite the fact he refused to answer every question put to him by the hearing officer except three while Kinsman answered all 156 questions asked of her.
  • January 7, 2015 – Six days after his final football game, Winston withdrew from FSU and made himself eligible for the 2015 NFL Football Draft.

I would strongly encourage you to respond to the crisis on our campuses in the spirit that Harvard President Drew Faust did. In a letter dated September 21 to the Harvard community, she said: “The prevalence of sexual assault represents a deeply troubling problem for Harvard…but the difficulty and severity of the problem make it all the more important that we come together to address it.”

FSU students are best served by an administration that acknowledges past mistakes and focuses on the very real problem of sexual assault on its campus.

Best Regards,

Kirby Dick, Director

Amy Ziering, Producer

The Hunting Ground

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