Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Univ. of Tennessee Settles Title IX Lawsuit, but Admits No Wrongdoing

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Univ. of Tennessee Settles Title IX Lawsuit, but Admits No Wrongdoing

Article excerpt

The University of Tennessee is paying $2.48 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the school violated Title IX regulations and created a "hostile sexual environment" on campus by not properly investigating and punishing student athletes accused of sexual assault.

The lawsuit, filed by eight unidentified women in February, referenced cases of player misconduct going back as far as 1995, including a sexual harassment complaint made in 1996 involving retired National Football League quarterback Peyton Manning, who played for Tennessee at the time.

The complaint also included a statement from former Tennessee football player Drae Bowles, who claimed he was attacked by teammates and told by football coach Lyle Allen "Butch" Jones that he had "betrayed the team" after assisting a woman who said she'd been raped by two of his fellow players. Coach Jones denied this allegation.

The settlement comes at a time when many universities have begun to take steps to combat sexual assault on campus, especially as many have come under scrutiny for their handling of such cases. On Sunday, White House officials announced that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will not visit institutions whose leaders are not serious about pursuing sexual assault allegations.

In a press release Tuesday, David Randolph Smith, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said that the University of Tennessee has "made significant progress in the way they educate and respond to sexual assault cases."

"My clients and I are also convinced that the University's leadership is truly committed to continue its exemplary efforts to create a model as it relates to sexual misconduct," Mr. Smith said.

Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a statement that he will soon announce a new series of Title IX-related initiatives on campus, including additional support and budgeting specifically in areas related to sexual assault, student conduct, education programming, and student well-being.

At the same time, university President Joe DiPietro said an independent commission would be appointed to review existing programs and make recommendations for improvement.

"No university will be able to prevent every incident of students, faculty or staff making bad judgments," Mr. …

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