Four current and former students on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Connecticut, accusing the institution of violating their rights by inadequately responding to their reports of sexual assault, The Courant, a newspaper in Hartford, Conn., reported.
The lawsuit seeks damages for emotional distress and asks the court to order the university to revise its policies.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are among the group of seven women who have also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that the institution did not do enough to protect them from sexual assault, thereby violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal gender-equity law that bars sex discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds. The office is evaluating the complaint to determine whether to investigate it, according to the newspaper.
After the students filed the Title IX complaint, UConn’s president, Susan Herbst, responded by saying at a meeting of the university’s Board of Trustees that suggestions that the university was indifferent to reports of sexual assault were “demonstrably untrue.”
The four plaintiffs criticized Ms. Herbst’s comments at a news conference on Friday. A UConn spokeswoman told The Chronicle and other news outlets that Ms. Herbst had challenged the broad accusation that the university was indifferent to sexual assault, and was not discussing the students’ specific allegations.
The UConn spokeswoman also said that the university would “carefully assess” the lawsuit’s allegations but would not discuss specifics, citing federal privacy laws and the pending litigation. She added that UConn was “committed to a campus community free from all forms of sexual violence,” saying that it “does all in its power to appropriately investigate and handle such claims in a manner that is fully compliant with the law and grounded in both sensitivity and fairness.”
State lawmakers are expected to hold a hearing this month to consider how the state’s public and private colleges respond to reports of sexual assault.