(Updated 2:55 p.m.)The University of Connecticut has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle the federal Title IX lawsuit filed last year by five female students who claimed that the school ignored their rape and sexual harassment complaints, according to a joint statement Friday from the university and the students.
The lawsuit was filed in November 2013 by four of the seven students who had already filed a Title IX complaint in October with the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. A fifth plaintiff from the original group of seven later joined the lawsuit.
As part of the joint settlement agreement, both the lawsuit and the complaint to the U.S. Education Department will be dropped on behalf of the five women, who are represented by attorney Gloria Allred.
The Education Department complaint — which is confidential — is still pending on behalf of the two remaining students. The university, according to its spokeswoman, is complying with the investigation.
Based on the agreement, Kylie Angell will receive $115,000, Erica Daniels will receive $125,000, Carolyn Luby will receive $25,000, Silvana Moccia will receive $900,000, and Rosemary Richi will receive $60,000.
According to the amended federal complaint, Moccia, a UConn hockey player, was raped by a male hockey player and after she informed the university of the incident she was removed from the team and reimbursed her medical expenses related to the rape. Moccia was added to the complaint last December.
Moccia did not attend a Hartford press conference Friday with the four other plaintiffs, but Allred said she felt the settlements reached were fair and her clients were happy with the outcome.
“We are exceedingly happy with the result in this case,” Allred said.
Moccia’s settlement is higher than the others because the law had to be applied to the facts in each case and the damages each was able to show.
Allred said the settlements her law firm has previously reached with private colleges are confidential so it’s tough to compare those with this latest from UConn.
She said the university worked hard to protect its interests, but both sides realized they have quite a bit in common in terms of their goals.
In a joint statement, the women who filed the lawsuit said they “do not claim that the university was in any way responsible for any assault or for harassment directed at them. Instead, plaintiffs allege UConn’s response was in violation of Title IX.”
The statement goes on to state that “a trial would have burdened both UConn and the plaintiffs for years, fight over the past rather than working on the future. Accordingly, UConn and the plaintiffs have agreed to put to rest their factual disputes, settle litigation, and move forward.”
In a separate statement, UConn President Susan Herbst said even though the lawsuit was settled, the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has not been settled.
“UConn, like all colleges and universities, must do all it can to prevent sexual violence on our campuses, hold perpetrators accountable, and provide victims with the resources and compassion they desperately need during a time of intense personal trauma,” Herbst said.
Both sides acknowledged that a lawsuit would have been difficult.
“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,” UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh said Friday. “In order to do this, compromise was required on both sides, which is reflected in the settlement.”
As part of the settlement, the women “acknowledge that certain UConn employees provided compassionate care and assistance to them but allege that the overall response showed deliberate indifference,” according to a statement. “Plaintiffs also acknowledge that, had the case gone to trial, UConn would have introduced evidence of its support to the plaintiffs, contested the factual allegations of the complaint, and would have introduced evidence to dispute the claim that it showed deliberate indifference to the plaintiffs.”
Following the lawsuit, the General Assembly passed legislation that clarifies the sexual assault reporting process on college campuses. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this summer.
The law includes a number of new reporting requirements that instruct public and private colleges to provide victims with clear, written information on their rights and options when they report an assault. It also requires schools to maintain trained Sexual Assault Response Teams and offers anonymous reporting options.
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, who chaired the Higher Education Committee when the lawsuit was filed, said she’s glad it has been settled.
“I’m pleased that this lawsuit has been resolved, and I’m pleased that the plaintiffs were part of a process that has made lasting, systemic changes to the way that campus sexual assaults are handled in Connecticut,” Bye said Friday.
Richi, the only student who will be returning to UConn in the fall, said she is optimistic about the changes that have been made. She said she is furthering her work at the Women’s Center and will do what she can to make sure the changes are implemented.