UConn Faces Title IX Lawsuit for Sex Assaults on Storrs Campus

by Alex Anastasio

The University of Connecticut at Storrs faces a federal Title IX complaint by seven current and former students, filed in late October. The students allege that UConn failed to protect them from assault or to assist them afterwards.

Several of the students testified before the Connecticut legislature. They described the University as uninterested in or incapable of processing complaints of sexual assault. For example, one student said that the University gave her no guidance and that it actively discouraged her from going to the police with her story.

Famed civil and womens’ rights attorney Gloria Allred has agreed to represent the student plaintiffs in the case, earning it high-profile media attention.

In the complaint and hearings, students have described a number of sexual assaults. One student described how the University expelled a man after it found that he had sexually assaulted her, only to later allow the back onto campus. Several students argued that the University showed particular favoritism towards athletes. In one example, a student told about how she’d reported a potentially violent encounter between a football player and his girlfriend. The player was charged with a misdemeanor in connection with the incident, but his punishment on the football team was a mere 15 minutes on the bench.

There are also stories of University administrators who did not take sexual assault complaints seriously and who sometimes responded to allegations by questioning the victim’s mental state. Students expressed frustration at how the University police system would not take complaints seriously. One victim recounted how a campus police officer responded to her report of a sexual assault by telling her that female students needed “[to] stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep on happening ‘til the cows come home.”

University President Susan Herbst has been the subject of criticism for comments she made after the complaint was filed. Herbst made several comments strongly opposing the idea that UConn was insensitive to sexual assault victims. Herbst recently issued a statement expressing compassion for sexual assault victims and promising to prevent sexual assault and to help victims. The University is also apparently making efforts to make its sexual assault reporting system easier for students to navigate.