The University of Connecticut said it will pay a group of students almost $1.3 million to settle a sex discrimination suit filed last year that led to a hearing in the state legislature. The five current and former female students said that the college violated Title IX, the U.S. law that bars gender discrimination in education, in how it responded to sexual assaults on campus, according to a settlement document released by the school and the students’ attorney, Gloria Allred. Students across the U.S. have filed federal complaints and lawsuits, alleging that their colleges and universities have responded improperly to campus rapes and sexual assaults. UConn admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, saying it entered the agreement to avoid expenses and the inconvenience of litigation. “I hope this resolution will help the students find closure on this issue,” UConn Board Chairman Larry McHugh said in a statement on the school website. “We have the utmost compassion for all victims of sexual assault, and above all, it’s important that all our students, their families and the state of Connecticut know that UConn is absolutely committed to fighting sexual violence on its campuses.” The women said that UConn President Susan Herbst questioned their motives for speaking out about the issue. One of the women said she was kicked off the hockey team after she said she was raped by a member of the men’s hockey team.
In November, women who filed the lawsuit testified before state lawmakers on campus sexual assault. UConn acknowledged that the women played a role in “inspiring” campus discussion and new measures aimed at addressing sexual assault. The school has created a position to coordinate support services for crime victims, formed a Special Victims Unit in the campus police department and increased education for students and employees, including managers. The suit, originally filed by four plaintiffs and later joined by a fifth, demanded that UConn revise its policies to conform to Title IX, and asked for compensatory damages for emotional distress. The plaintiffs received varying amounts ranging from $25,000 to $900,000. Allred, an attorney with Allred Maroko & Goldberg in Los Angeles, has represented numerous women who have filed lawsuits against their colleges over sexual assault policies and practices. (Bloomberg)