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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Women Say University Mishandled Rape Reports

NASHVILLE (CN) - Six women claim that the University of Tennessee - Knoxville turned a blind eye to reports of sexual assault involving male athletes, while the university says the claims are "simply not true."

Jane Does 1-6 are former UT students, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Nashville Federal Court. They claim that the university 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 alleges violations of equal protection and Title IX of the Education Amendments.

"UT intentionally acted by an official policy of deliberate indifference to known sexual assaults so as to create a hostile sexual environment," the 64-page complaint states. "UT had actual notice (and itself created) a long-standing, severely hostile sexual environment of rape by male athletes (particularly football players) that was condoned and completely unaddressed by UT officials, including Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, Athletic Department Director and Vice-Chancellor David Hart, and head football coach Butch Jones." (Parentheses in original.)

The women also claim that the university delayed investigations of sexual assault reports involving athletes.

Former UT Vice-Chancellor Tim Rogers resigned in March 2013 "in protest over the violations of Title IX and the UT administration's and athletic department's deliberate indifference to the clear and present danger of sexual assaults by UT athletes," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit mentions 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.

It also names five athletes and accuses them of sexual assault: former football players A.J. Johnson, Riyahd Jones and Mike Williams, former basketball player Yemi Makanjuola, and a John Doe, who they say is currently on the UT football team.

The six women also allege 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."

"Chancellor Cheek appoints administrative judges and hearing officers favorable to athletes and then also decides any appeals from [the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act] hearings in a clear conflict of interest," the complaint states.

However, university attorney Bill Ramsey said in a statement that UT "acted lawfully and in good faith, and we expect a court to agree."

"Like the many other college campuses facing the challenges of sexual assault, the University of Tennessee - Knoxville has devoted significant time and energy to provide a safe environment for our students, to educate and raise awareness about sexual assault, and to encourage students to come forward and report sexual assault," Ramsey said.

Ramsey added, "Any assertion that we do not take sexual assault seriously enough is simply not true."

Update: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who played college football at UT, was mentioned in the lawsuit, which cited a USA Today article from 2003.

According to the complaint, a female associate trainer allegedly reported that Manning "sat on her face" while she was assessing an injury. The lawsuit claims the incident was settled in 1997 for an undisclosed amount of money.

The cited USA Today article says Manning described the incident as a "mooning incident."

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