STUDENTS SAY UNIVERSITY FAILED TO PROTECT WOMEN
A nationally-known lawyer steps in to aid student lawsuit
Attorney Gloria Allred, right, hugs University of Connecticut student Rose Richi, left, at a news conference in Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, in Hartford, Conn. Four women who say they were victims of sexual assaults while students at the UConn have announced they are filing a federal discrimination lawsuit against the school. AP
Seven University of Connecticut students and former students filed a formal discriminatory complaint Monday that alleged negligence on the part of the university in handling sexual assault and harassment crime reports.
The students held a press conference Monday afternoon in Hartford, where they were flanked by nationally recognized attorney Gloria Allred, who filed the charges on their behalf. They claimed the university showed "deliberate indifference" toward their cases.
UConn senior Carolyn Luby, a self-proclaimed feminist and "revolutionary," organized the complaint. Her action was in response to the alleged rape threats and other forms of sexual harassment she received following the publication of an open letter to President Susan Herbst saying the university's new husky logo would only serve to promote violence.
One the alleged victims, Kylie Angell, said in the press conference that her alleged sexual assailant was expelled from UConn in 2010, only to be reinstated to the university two weeks later. Angell was not informed of his reinstatement and the individual approached her while she was in a dining hall, resulting in significant emotional trauma.
Angell also said one police officer told her during the investigation, "women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep on happening 'til the cows come home."
Allred believes the university's handling of these cases is in violation of Title IX requirements following the report of sexual harassment or assault, which is why the complaint has been filed.
"These are not potted plants - these are young women," Allred said. "They have a right to be treated with respect and dignity."
Allred made clear that this is not a lawsuit, just a Title IX complaint, which brings attention to any possible sexual discrimination at a federally funded institution.
The complaint could result in a full investigation by the U.S. Department of Education of the seven students' cases and how the university handled each of them. If Title IX violations are found, then a lawsuit could be brought against the university.
The university could potentially lose federal funding or face "serious fines" if violations of Title IX or the Clery Act are found, according to Allred.
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said in a press release that the university believes the cases "were handled thoroughly, swiftly and appropriately."
Details of the university's handling of each case cannot be released unless the victims waive their privacy protection under FERPA, according to Reitz.
"Our students should reasonably expect protection and due process," Reitz said. "They deserve the best response in the nation, and we're committed to ensuring that right."
Monday's press conference comes just two weeks after two sexual assaults were reported on Oct. 11 at a party hosted by college students in Mansfield near UConn's Storrs campus.
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