We want to make you aware that “The Hunting Ground,” a film about campus sexual assaults that debuted in Los Angeles and New York City Thursday, is seriously lacking in credibility and presents a one-sided view of Florida State’s actions in the Jameis Winston case.
The filmmakers interviewed Erica Kinsman, but no one representing Florida State. This provides the viewing public with an incomplete and erroneous view of what the University did to investigate Ms. Kinsman’s allegations. This distorted presentation is all the more egregious in light of the fact Ms. Kinsman has filed a lawsuit against the University over the case.
The first time the University was contacted by the filmmakers was December 18 — nearly three months after they had submitted the film to the Sundance Film Festival and it was scheduled for its artistic premiere. They sent a generic email asking for comment about sexual assault but failed to disclose that FSU would be a target of criticism and withheld the fact that Ms. Kinsman would be going public with her version of the story.
Had FSU been given the opportunity to reply, we would have made it clear the University went to extraordinary lengths to support Ms. Kinsman and to initiate an impartial, independent Title IX investigation of her allegations against Mr. Winston. Our efforts included arranging an independent investigation by a former Florida Supreme Court justice. He reviewed more than 1,000 pages of documents and took testimony from Mr. Winston, Ms. Kinsman and 10 witnesses before ruling there was not a preponderance of evidence to support her allegations. This was not mentioned in the film, although it received ample press coverage.
Alerted to these serious omissions, FSU this week lodged a formal protest with the film’s production company, Radius-TWC, which declined to make the film available although it had already been screened in January at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and just last week at a student film festival.
Florida State advocates shining a bright light on the subject of sexual assault on college campuses. We want to reassure you that FSU takes all allegations of sexual assault seriously — as it did in this case — and works tirelessly through the Victim Advocate Program to support victims and help them recover. This includes informing victims about all of their options in deciding whether to initiate criminal or student conduct charges under Title IX. We remain serious about our commitment to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students, particularly victims of sexual assault.
We also take seriously the need for journalists to observe basic ethics and standards. “The Hunting Ground” fails to meet those standards and, as a result, fails to present balanced and responsible coverage of this very important issue.