The University of Connecticut will pay nearly $1.3 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by five women who claimed the school responded to their sexual assault complaints with indifference, the two sides announced July 18.
The bulk of the settlement, $900,000, will go to a former UConn hockey player who joined the Title IX lawsuit last December, a month after it was originally filed by four other women. She alleged she was kicked off the team after reporting she had been raped by a male hockey player in August 2011.
The other four women will receive payments ranging from $25,000 to $125,000.
The school, which has repeatedly defended its policies for responding to sexual assault complaints, did not admit any wrongdoing.
“It was clear to all parties that no good would have come from dragging this out for years as it consumed the time, attention and resources—both financial and emotional—of everyone involved,” said Larry McHugh, the chairman of the school’s board of trustees. “In order to do this, compromise was required on both sides, which is reflected in the settlement. I hope this resolution will help the students find closure on this issue.”
The lawsuit alleged discrimination based on gender and retaliation in violation of Title IX, which guarantees equal educational opportunities to students at schools that receive federal funds. It sought unspecified monetary damages and changes in university policies.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights began an investigation in December based on complaints filed by four of the plaintiffs and three other women. That investigation, which could result in the loss of federal funds for the school, continues even though these four women also have withdrawn their complaint to the DOE.
School officials said they would continue to cooperate with that investigation.
The women were represented by Gloria Allred, the California-based attorney who has earned national recognition by representing women in high-profile cases. Her co-counsel was Nina Pirrotti of Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Richardson, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti in New Haven.
UConn and Allred issued a joint statement, which includes an acknowledgment by the plaintiffs that “certain UConn employees provided compassionate care and assistance to them” while contending the response of the school as a whole showed deliberate indifference.
One plaintiff, Kylie Angell, said she was told by a police officer that, “Women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep happening until the cows come home.”
Angell receives $115,000 in the settlement. Carolyn Luby will get $25,000; Rosemary Richi receives $60,000 and Erica Daniels receives $125,000. The Associated Press normally does not release the names of victims in sexual assault cases, but those four have made their names public at news conferences. The hockey player has not.
None of the men involved in the complaints ever faced criminal charges. The attacks allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2013, while the women were students at the school.
UConn officials have detailed numerous steps the school has taken to ensure women can report sexual assaults to police or schools and receive proper guidance and counseling. The joint statement said: “UConn and the plaintiffs share the same goals: to eliminate sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, to prevent its recurrence, to address its impact on individuals and the UConn community, to make UConn the safest campus possible, and, when incidents do occur, to support survivors and to hold perpetrators accountable.”
The school reported that it has expelled 27 students since 2005 who have been the subject of sexual misconduct allegations, including 15 in the past five years. The school could not say how many complaints had been filed during that time.
“This lawsuit may have been settled, but the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has not been,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “Our hearts go out to all victims of sexual violence. The university has taken many positive, important steps in the battle against sexual assault in recent years … but there is still more to be done.”•