The Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah and Utah State University announced a settlement agreement on Wednesday.
Resulting from a review of the university’s Title IX compliance from 2013 to 2017, the agreement is intended to “ensure the University responds adequately to sexual harassment, including sexual assault, of students in its education programs and activities,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
“The review found that, during this three-year time period, there were university-wide failures in addressing sexual misconduct,” stated USU President Noelle Cockett in a press release. “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.”
The 25 page settlement agreement sets forth specific steps that, when fully implemented, will resolve USU’s Title IX compliance review. The agreement will be in effect through the 2022-2023 academic year and won’t terminate for at least 60 days after the relevant reports and information has been received by the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for that school year.
“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,” stated Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband in a press release. “We look forward to working with USU to implement this agreement and to ensure that students can learn in a safe and healthy environment.”
USU will require all undergraduate and graduate students to complete annual, online sexual misconduct prevention training in addition to in-person training for all incoming students attending a residential campus, according to the school’s statement. The university will also revise and update its sexual misconduct policies and procedures for investigation and disciplinary actions. “Responsible employees” will receive annual in-person training, as well as employees receiving confidential disclosures, USU police officers and employees involved in the Title IX process.
According to the settlement agreement, several deadlines have been set from the date of the signed agreement. USU has 120 days to submit a detailed description of the in-person training for the students, student groups and reporting employees.
USU has 90 days to submit a copy of online training for students and in-person training for multiple classifications of employees among others.
A DOJ press release states the university will also “respond promptly, equitably, and adequately to known sexual harassment that has created a hostile environment.” The university will also perform climate surveys to gauge student understanding of procedures and “the effectiveness of the University’s outreach, education, and prevention efforts, and the incidence of sexual harassment and related retaliation.”
“Utah schools should be free of discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual assault. When such misconduct occurs, schools must know how to respond appropriately,” stated John W. Huber, U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, in a press release. “We are pleased that USU has joined with us as a partner in these efforts.”
Semiannual reports regarding sexual misconduct at the university will be submitted to the DOJ, according to USU’s statement.
The DOJ compliance review followed several high-profile rape and sexual harassment stories at USU coinciding with the MeToo movement. Multiple of the women raped by former USU football player Torrey Green brought suit against the university last year, alleging the school violated their rights under Title IX.
In 2018, former student Victoria Hewlett and USU settled a lawsuit alleging that her rape case was inadequately investigated; in return for dropping the suit, the school did not admit to wrongdoing but increased oversight of fraternities and sororities, among other actions.
That same year, the university hired a law firm to look into its music department and piano program after multiple students alleged harassment and sexual misconduct there several years earlier. That investigation found evidence of sexual misconduct. Shortly after the university released the full report, then-piano program head Gary Amano retired and USU Title IX Coordinator Stacy Sturgeon retired.