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  • 15 Jul
    导出博客文章KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee is paying $2.48 million to settle a lawsuit filed
    by eight unidentified women who said the school had violated Title IX
    regulations and created a hostile sexual environment through a policy of
    indifference toward assaults by athletes.Lawyers for the school and the
    plaintiffs issued a joint press release Tuesday announcing the settlement.We are
    satisfied that, while universities everywhere struggle with these issues, the
    University of Tennessee has made significant progress in the way they educate
    and respond to sexual assault cases, said David Randolph Smith, the lawyer
    representing the plaintiffs. My clients and I are also convinced that the
    Universitys leadership is truly committed to continue its exemplary efforts to
    create a model as it relates to sexual misconduct.Tennessees athletic department
    and the schools central administration will split the cost of the settlement.
    According to the release announcing the settlement, no taxpayer dollars, student
    fees or donor funds would be used to fund the settlement, and the funding
    instead will come from other income-generating activities within the
    university.Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek said he will soon announce a new
    series of initiatives on campus to improve its Title IX efforts, including
    additional support and budgeting specifically in areas related to sexual
    assault, student conduct, education programming and student well-being. UT
    president Joe DiPietro said he would appoint an independent commission to review
    existing programs make recommendations addressing the issues of sexual assault
    and misconduct.No university will be able to prevent every incident of students,
    faculty or staff making bad judgments, Cheek said in a statement. Like many
    institutions we are not perfect, but our goal is to continue to be the best we
    can be at creating awareness, educating, and preventing discrimination and abuse
    in any form, and to continue to be equally prepared when it does happen and to
    deal with it promptly, sensitively, fairly and effectively.Weve come a long way
    in recent years, and we are working every day to be even better. Our first
    priority is the safety and well-being of every member of our University
    community.The announcement of the settlement comes two weeks after Cheek
    announced he would step down as chancellor to return to teaching. Cheeks move
    wont become effective until a successor is appointed. When he announced the move
    last month, Cheek said it was a personal decision unrelated to the Title IX
    suit.According to the release, negotiations toward a settlement began in earnest
    in April. The case wasnt scheduled to go to trial until 2018, and the release
    noted that the cost to litigate the case all the way to trial could have cost as
    much as $5.5 million. As of June 8, the state had paid over $220,000 in legal
    fees associated with the lawsuit.The release also noted that the school is not
    admitting guilt, negligence or unlawful acts as part of the settlement.Six women
    filed the suit in federal court in Nashville on Feb. 9. Two more plaintiffs
    added their names to an amended complaint two weeks later. The original
    complaint referenced incidents dating back to 1995 to show how the school has
    historically handled reports of player misconduct, and one paragraph mentioned a
    sexual harassment complaint made by a Tennessee trainer in 1996 that included an
    incident involving recently retired quarterback Peyton Manning, who was playing
    for Tennessee at the time.The amended complaint included a statement from former
    Tennessee football player Drae Bowles in which he said he assisted a woman who
    said she had been raped by two other players and that he later was attacked by
    teammates and told by football coach Butch Jones that he had betrayed the team.
    When the document was filed, Jones responded by saying the assertion that I ever
    attempted to belittle or demean a young man for taking action to help another
    person is absolutely false.Tennessee reacted to the lawsuit by bringing all its
    head coaches together for a February press conference in which they defended the
    culture of the athletic department. Athletic director Dave Hart made similar
    remarks at a separate press conference two days later.No athletic officials
    commented Tuesday night, but the release announcing the settlement included
    statements from Cheek, DiPietro and Tennessee Board of Trustees vice chair Raja
    Jubran.Settling this case was the right thing to do from a compassionate
    perspective for the young women involved and from a reputation perspective for
    the institution, regardless of the merits of the case, Jubran said. One side
    ultimately would have won in court several years from now, and we felt confident
    about our legal position, but I truly believe that both sides would have
    lost.The intangible costs of emotional stress to those involved and the
    distraction to all of our positive progress at UT, over and above actual legal
    costs, would have been exorbitant.Title IX is a federal statute that bans
    discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The U.S. Department of
    Education in 2011 warned schools of their legal responsibilities to immediately
    investigate allegations of sexual assault, even if the criminal investigation
    has not concluded.
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