Saturday, May 10, 2014

Colorado pays settlement to sexual assault victim

The University of Colorado Boulder will be paying out a $32,500 settlement to a student who was sexually assaulted by another student last year. The victim reported the assault but the perpetrator was allowed to stay on campus for four weeks,  received a $75 fine, and an 8-month suspension.
The settlement includes no admittance of guilt or liability by the university. It should be noted, however, that the complaint filed by the victim is still under investigation.
Also, the university is still in the process of hiring a Title IX coordinator--a recommendation from a recent external review.
This is all a little bit troubling given that this is not the first time Colorado has had very public issues with campus sexual assault that was improperly handled. In fact, I would argue that the Lisa Simpson case from 2007 earned the university far more publicity and cost a lot more--$2.5 million.
Given that the ultimate sanction for Title IX violations--loss of federal monies--has yet to be enacted, I have repeatedly said that the negative publicity is itself a deterrent. But Colorado has had plenty of that in addition to paying out millions of dollars and yet it cannot seem to even hire a Title IX administrator and clean up its policies and procedures. Part of the problem could be the attitude of administrators and staff about sexual assault. If it is all represented by the statements of the university's chief legal counsel, there will continue to be trouble. Patrick O'Rourke  said that the university needs to make "intelligent and prudent business decisions" to best serve its mission without being involved in litigation.
Perhaps the university community would be better served if the handling of sexual assault was not based on a business model.