The University of Connecticut (UConn) will pay $1.28 million in settlement fees for a sexual assault lawsuit brought against the university by five sexual assault survivors.
The federal lawsuit was brought by five women after four of the women had filed complaints with the Department of Education (ED) alleging that UConn had mishandled rape cases and failed to take action on reports of harassment, in violation of Title IX. As part of the settlement, the women have agreed to request suspension of their ED complaints and not to make any disparaging statements against the university. UConn has not admitted any wrongdoing, and is not obligated to make any institutional policy changes as part of the settlement. The university has, however, created a new Special Victims Unit within the campus police department as well as an assistant dean of students for victim support services since the litigation was filed.
Despite the settlement, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will continue its UConn investigation, as three other current or former students – who were not plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit – had signed onto the original ED complaint. OCR is currently investigating 66 other colleges and universities to review their handling of sexual assault cases.
This case doesn’t even come close to being the first campus sexual assault case that has gotten media attention. Earlier this year, Michigan State University, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley and Penn State all went under investigation after student sexual-assault survivors filed charges.
In response to growing concerns about the handling of sexual assault on campuses, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was formed. Its first report was filed in April of this year. The report states that one in five women is sexually assaulted during their time in college, and calls for steps to be taken to prevent sexual assault: conducting surveys to assess the problem, engaging men in the fight against sexual violence, responding effectively when a student says they were assaulted, and making enforcement efforts more transparent.
Media Resources: Hartford Courant 7/18/14; The Huffington Post 7/18/14; Associated Press 7/3/2014; Feminist Newswire 4/18/14, 3/6/14, 3/4/14, 1/29/14, 12/11/13; WhiteHouse.gov 4/14
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