UConn files formal denial of sexual assault suit
Published: Monday, February 3, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 01:02
The University of Connecticut formally responded to allegations lodged by five students that the school failed to protect them after being sexually assaulted. The response is a firm denial and was filed Monday with the U.S. District Court that is hearing the case.
The plaintiffs allege UConn violated the federal Title IX law by inadequately responding to reports of sexual assaults.
The response from the defense is the next step of the civil lawsuit, which was filed by five students in the fall last year, led by famed attorney Gloria Allred. The document is a standard part of legal procedures and formalizes the stance the university has already verbalized regarding the suit, refuting claims that the administration acted with “indifference” to sexual assault and harassment complaints.
The plaintiffs’ “claims are barred whole or in part by her failure to sufficiently exhaust her administrative remedies,” the response reads.
The complaint, which was filed last fall, includes a list of damages the plaintiffs stated they sustained due to the university’s inaction — including anxiety, fear, inability to attend classes or work and the necessity to seek out counseling or therapy. In response to those claims, the university denies it deprived any of the women of their “educational opportunities” and denies that the instances occurred “in a context that was subject to UConn’s control and where UConn could have taken remedial action.”
UConn's general counsel, Robert Orr, released a statement Monday reiterating what UConn President Susan Herbst has already said: the plaintiffs' complaints are unfounded.
"The University strongly denies that it acted with deliberate indifference to any of the plaintiffs," Orr said. "That is the basic legal claim underlying each plaintiff's allegation, and the University vigorously disputes that claim."
Orr added that factual evidence was withheld from the document because some information in student records is protected by federal privacy laws.
In complaints made by the plaintiff Kylie Angell, a former UConn student whose rapist was “found responsible” in a 2010 community standards case, UConn’s statement confirmed it sanctioned her assailant by expulsion. However, the document denies that it represented to Angell that she would no longer have to see him again on campus.
Angell alleged she saw her assailant again on campus two weeks after his expulsion on Nov. 1, 2010. The student’s expulsion had been reversed on an appeal, and the complaint states the university failed to inform Angell of the reversal and saw the man in Northwest Dining Hall where he sat next to her.
The university admitted it failed to inform Angell of the appeal, but the response states that the student was on campus impermissibly because he had not yet met with the Office of Community Standards to accept probation conditions.
The university also denied Angell’s allegation that when she reported the incident — and the expelled student’s presence on campus — to the police, she was told by Officer Linda Lougee that “women have to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter,” or else rape is going to “keep on happening ‘til the cows come home.” The university also denies Lougee advised Angell not to report the rape with police because the process is “emotionally and psychologically exhausting for a survivor.” (Angell ultimately chose not to press charges.)
The university also denied several allegations made by Carolyn Luby that claimed the university had an apathetic response when she was threatened after issuing an open letter she wrote to UConn President Susan Herbst.
Luby’s letter criticized the university for rebranding athletic teams with new gear and a new logo while failing to address criminal behavior among its male athletes. The letter elicited violent threats on Barstool.com from anonymous commenters and — according to Luby — some male UConn students.
The university denied the allegation that the university “made no [...] official announcement following Ms. Luby’s ordeal, however, refusing to make clear to the UConn community that the threats, stalking, and harassment Ms. Luby experienced in retaliation for speaking out would not be tolerated.”