U. of Tennessee Settles Sexual-Assault Case

     (CN) — The University of Tennessee agreed to pay $2.4 million to settle a lawsuit brought by six women who claimed the school turned a blind eye to reports of sexual assault involving male athletes.
     Jane Does 1-6 sued the university in February, alleging violations of equal protection and Title IX of the Education Amendments.
     They said UT-Knoxville has not fixed a “severely hostile sexual environment of rape by male athletes” and has shown a “lack of promptness” in investigating reports.
     The lawsuit mentioned a number of previously reported incidents, including the arrests of former football players on charges of assault, theft, underage drinking and driving under the influence.
     The six women alleged that the university’s administrative hearing procedure is “one-sided” and “denies victims the rights to a hearing and to the same equal protection, hearing and process rights as given to perpetrators of rape and sexual assault.”
     UT said Tuesday that it agreed to settle the case for $2.48 million, without admitting to any wrongdoing.
     UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a statement, “We’ve come a long way in recent years, and we are working every day to be even better.”
     “Like many institutions we are not perfect, but our goal is to continue to be the best we can be at creating awareness, educating and preventing discrimination and abuse in any form, and to continue to be equally prepared when it does happen and to deal with it promptly, sensitively, fairly and effectively,” Cheek said.
     David Randolph Smith, attorney for the six women, said his clients are satisfied that UT is making progress addressing the issues in their lawsuit.
     “My clients and I are also convinced that the university’s leadership is truly committed to continue its exemplary efforts to create a model as it relates to sexual misconduct,” Smith said in a statement.
     Cheek said the university will hire six more people to work in Title IX compliance positions.
     The settlement was approved by top UT administrators, the Tennessee attorney general, state comptroller and Gov. Bill Haslam, according to local news reports.

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