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DOJ, Utah State announce settlement to revise sexual harassment policies

DOJ, Utah State announce settlement to revise sexual harassment policies


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SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly four years after the U.S. opened an investigation into Utah State University’s Title IX office, a settlement to address sexual harassment of students was announced on Wednesday.

In a news release, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced it had found the university “did not comply with Title IX.”

The department investigated the school’s “policies, procedures, and responses to sexual harassment complaints,” from 2013-2017, according to DOJ officials.

The investigation was announced in September 2017.

“The review found that, during this three-year time period there were university-wide failures in addressing sexual misconduct,” said USU President Noelle Cockett in a statement. “We’ve made sweeping changes since 2016, and this agreement further lays out a series of steps we will take to prevent sexual misconduct and respond to it appropriately when it does occur.”

Utah State has been the center of several sexual harassment and assault scandals in the last few years.

In 2016, several women came forward and accused USU football player Torrey Green of rape. Green was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to serve at least 26 years to life in Utah State Prison.

In 2018, the university reorganized its Title IX office following an investigation that found the school’s piano program had mishandled claims of sexual harassment and discrimination against women.

As part of the settlement, the university will revise relevant sexual harassment policies, train students and employees on said policies and sexual harassment federal laws and conduct surveys to gauge student’s understanding of Utah State’s policies.

“Utah schools should be free of discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual assault. When such misconduct occurs, schools must know how to respond appropriately,” John W. Huber, U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, in a statement. “We are pleased that USU has joined with us as a partner in these efforts.”

The terms of the agreement will go into effect through the 2022-23 academic school year, according to the department.

The department will monitor the school’s compliance with the agreement as well.

“Sexual harassment and violence have no place on college campuses, and too often deny students their right to an equal education. No student should feel unsafe because of a school’s failure to address sexual violence and its devastating impacts,” Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with USU to implement this agreement and to ensure that students can learn in a safe and healthy environment.”

Utah State has made several changes addressing these issues since fall of 2016, according to a news release

Among other things, the school hired four new positions in its equity office, reorganized fraternity and sorority communities and hired a coordinator to oversee the groups, trained student-athletes in sexual assault prevention, created a task force to coordinate and implement Title IX oversight and conducted the school’s first campus climate survey on sexual misconduct.

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Lauren Bennett is a reporter with who covers Utah’s religious community and the growing tech sector in the Beehive State.


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