The University of Connecticut has agreed to nearly $1.3 million in total to settle a lawsuit filed by five current and former students over the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations.
The agreement, released through a joint statement by UConn and the plaintiffs, also stipulates that UConn admits no wrongdoing and denies the allegations against it.
In the joint statement, UConn “acknowledges the role of the named plaintiffs in inspiring important public discussion regarding issues of sexual violence.” The plaintiffs also agreed that since the matter arose in October 2013, the university has planned or undertaken several steps to address the issue. The statement was signed by UConn General Counsel Richard F. Orr and by attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the plaintiffs.
“The university and the plaintiffs both agreed that settling the case out of court was in all of their best interests,” Larry McHugh, chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees, wrote in a separate statement. “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. In order to do this, compromise was required on both sides, which is reflected in the settlement.
“I hope this resolution will help students find closure on this issue.”
Under the agreement, the university agreed to compensate all five plaintiffs, including:
- Silvana Moccia, who received $900,000.
- Erica Daniels, $125,000.
- Kylie Angell, $115,000.
- Rosemary Richi, $60,000.
- Carolyn Luby, $25,000.
The university also agreed to pay $60,000 to cover a portion of the plaintiff’s litigation costs.
Four of the women had filed a discrimination lawsuit last fall in federal court charging that the university’s handling of sexual assault complaints did not meet the standards set forth in Title IX of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. Moccia joined the lawsuit in December.
The women said UConn officials had knowledge of several incidents of assault, did little in response to them and, at times, had questioned the victims’ motivations for reporting to the authorities.
According to the settlement, steps taken by UConn — both before and after the lawsuit was filed — to enhance its policies regarding sexual violence include:
- January 2012: UConn adopts a comprehensive response policy requiring nearly all employees to report allegations of sexual assault to UConn officials.
- May 2013: UConn President Susan Herbst commissioned a civility task force after Luby received “hateful comments” in response to an online letter she published regarding sexual violence at UConn.
- August 2013: UConn adopted an enhanced policy against discrimination, harassment and inappropriate romantic relationships.
- February 2014: Herbst implemented several of the recommendations of the civility task force.
“Our hearts go out to all victims of sexual violence,” Herbst wrote in a separate statement. “The university has taken many positive, important steps in the battle against sexual assault in recent years, … but there is still more to be done.”
Rep. Robert Willis, D-Salisbury, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, called the settlement “fair and reasonable” and said she was glad the plaintiffs would not face the emotional strain of a trial.
Willis also praised the plaintiffs, calling them “courageous young women who have contributed to this significant change by bringing this out in the open, shining light on the problem. That was a pretty amazing thing to do.”