Two women who allege they were sexually assaulted by University of Colorado (CU) football players in 2001 are asking the federal Court of Appeals to revive their lawsuit against the school for fostering a climate conducive to sexual assault by men athletes. Lawyers for both sides presented arguments in court yesterday.
Former CU student Lisa Simpson — who agreed to be named publicly — and two other women alleged that they were sexually assaulted at an off-campus party for football players and recruits in 2001. While no criminal sexual assault charges were ever filed, Simpson and one of the other women sued the university for violating Title IX provisions for equal access to education by ignoring sexual misconduct against women students by athletes. In 2005, however, US District Judge Robert Blackburn dismissed the suit on the grounds that the women had not proven school officials were aware of or deliberately indifferent to any sexual harassment. In their appeal, the women argue that the administration knew of and concealed prior incidents.
In the past five years, CU has come under intense scrutiny after a series of harassment and rape accusations against athletes; in 2004 Katie Hnida, a placekicker on CU’s football team, told Sports Illustrated that she was sexually harassed by teammates and raped by one of them in 2001. Head Coach Gary Barnett was subsequently suspended from the program after making disparaging remarks about Hnida to the media. Since 2001, six rape accusations have been made against CU players and the school has also come under fire for allegedly using sex as a tool to recruit new players and hiring escorts at off-campus “sex parties” for recruits, according to CNN.com.