Utah State University agrees to improve response to campus sexual misconduct complaints

Local News

University settles with the Department of Justice following three-year investigation

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement with Utah State University over how the school handles student complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division began investigating Utah State for possible Title IX violations in 2017 based on allegations that the university “failed to respond to numerous reports of serious student-on-student sexual assault.”

Title IX (of the Education Amendments of 1972) prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities by institutions that receive federal funding.  

The DOJ reviewed Utah State’s policies, procedures, and responses to sexual harassment complaints over a more than a four-year period and concluded the university did not comply with Title IX.

Additionally, USU conducted its own review of its procedures and found “system-wide failures” in the university’s processes to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “We look forward to working with USU to implement this agreement and to ensure that students can learn in a safe and healthy environment.

In accordance with the settlement announced Wednesday, Utah State agrees to take specific steps to “improve its investigation and resolution of sexual harassment complaints, help students, faculty and staff understand their reporting options, duties, and obligations with respect to harassment, and ensure that members of the campus community know where they can go for resources and support.”

USU President Noelle Cockett released a video statement reaffirming a commitment to making Utah State a safe campus. “We will not tolerate sexual misconduct in any form,” said Cockett.

Under the agreement, USU will:

  • Revise its notice of nondiscrimination and all other relevant sexual harassment policies, procedures, and practices
  • Respond promptly, equitably, and adequately to known sexual harassment that has created a hostile environment
  • Train students and employees on University policies and federal laws pertaining to sexual harassment, how and to whom they can report allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation, details on the resources available and how to access them, and the University’s Title IX grievance procedures and potential outcomes
  • Conduct climate surveys to collect information on students’ understanding of USU’s reporting procedures, the effectiveness of the University’s outreach, education, and prevention efforts, and the incidence of sexual harassment and related retaliation; and
  • Ensure the individuals designated to administer and coordinate Title IX efforts receive adequate training, resources, and support necessary to coordinate these efforts effectively.

Read more about the DOJ resolution at https://bit.ly/2w5E00i

The Department of Justice will monitor compliance with the terms of the agreement, which will be in effect through the 2022-2023 academic year.

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